Fictional Mothers We Love to Hate

Fictional Mothers We Love to Hate

Mother’s Day is this weekend, and the internet is abuzz with heartwarming stories about the maternal figures in our lives. I thought it might be fun to balance out all that sweetness with a little chat about the fictional mothers we love to hate.

(Don’t worry, I’ll share my favorite, non-horrible fictional mothers later this weekend.)

Who are the fictional mothers that make us gasp aloud and cry No she didn’t just say that!? Here’s my list:

Lucille Bluth, Arrested Development: she babies Buster, pits her own children against each other, drinks vodka for breakfast, and chides Portia de Rossi (!!!) for being fat–and that’s just the beginning. Shockingly inappropriate, all the time.

Madame Thénardier, Les Misérables: Eponine’s crazy mother in Les Mis is a doting mother–when, and only when, people are watching.

Mrs. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice: Socially inept and none too bright, the woman managed to embarrass her daughters at every possible opportunity. (Although, as adroitly pointed out in A Truth Universally Acknowledged, Mrs. Bennet got everything she wanted in the end: her crazy scheme worked, securing her entire family’s happiness and financial prosperity.)

The Dowager Countess, Downton Abbey: Violet makes a marvelous character, because she says exactly what she thinks, while expressing it far better (and more sharply) than we ever could. This is a great quality for the screen, but in a mother? Not so much.

Lianne Mars, Veronica Mars: Lianne abandoned her teenage daughter, leaving only a note of non-explanation–but that’s just the beginning. Lianne later comes back to Neptune to blow Veronica’s college fund on a rehab program she never planned on completing, then steals a huge chunk of change from Veronica’s dad (and her ex).

Who’s your favorite, horrible fictional mother? 

P.S. My favorite fictional mothers.

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  1. Let’s just go ahead and include all wicked mother figures in literature/film: all Disney mother figures, the newest, most disturbing one being Rapunzel’s “mother.” I would also include Jane Eyre’s aunt as well as Harry Potter’s Aunt Petunia. These women are supposed to be in charge of their nieces and nephews, love them as their own, and they stink at it.

  2. What a great list!
    I would add Emily Gilmore from Gilmore Girls! I started watching Bun Heads (also by the creator of GG) and she plays a similar role in that. She’s an easy one to love being annoyed by!

  3. Kelly says:

    I think it’s interesting that Mrs. Bennet it on this list. True, she used to drive me crazy, but after portraying her in a play, I completely understand her obsessions and she seems a lot less obnoxious. To sum it up, as she says to Lizzie in the 2005 film, “When you have five daughters, Lizzie, tell me what else will occupy your thoughts, and then perhaps you will understand”

    • Anne says:

      You played Mrs. Bennet?? How fun! That essay referenced above was really eye-opening for me. So many readers and viewers love to hate on her (right along with Mr. Bennet!) and I’d swallowed that whole without realizing how much credit she deserved for her two daughters’ happiness. And for swelling the family coffers. 🙂

  4. Jaimie says:

    Anyone ever read “Matilda”? I don’t remember her mother’s name, but she was an AWFUL mother (and Matilda’s dad was terrible, too!).

    BTW, not all Disney moms are bad. There aren’t many of them, but the mother-daughter relationship in “Brave” is one of my favorites that Disney has portrayed.

    • Anne says:

      I haven’t seen Brave yet, but it’s good to know there’s a functional mother-daughter relationship in that one. 🙂

      Yep, Matilda’s parents were pretty horrible. 🙂

  5. I’d have to go with Gemma Teller Morrow from Sons of Anarchy. She is as crazy and dangerous as they come, but dear Lord, that woman is loyal to the death. I almost hate to love her, though, because she can be so evil, but man, sometimes I wish I had a mom as fiercely devoted as she is.

  6. Jeannie says:

    Sorry this one’s not fiction (you couldn’t make this one up!) — my book club just read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls; her mom was quite a piece of work. When Jeannette was leaving home to move to New York at age 17 (to escape their horrible home life), her mom said, in effect, “I won’t be getting up to see you off; goodbyes are such a drag and I already know what you look like.” (!!!!)

    • Karlyne says:

      The Glass Castle is a memorable picture of life with parents who may have “loved” their children, but they never, ever, put their children first. They were so involved with themselves that their children just never … mattered.
      So, yes, her mother was a failure as a mother.

      • Jeannie says:

        Yes, and it’s so sad. I think there was something “missing” mentally with her mother: maybe that she had narcissistic disorder or something. Although the father was enslaved to his drinking and it caused him to do terrible things, he did have a conscience and didn’t want to die without knowing his daughter loved him (which she did). But the mother didn’t seem to have that conscience or desire to be loved in that way. Again it’s like there was a piece missing somewhere.

        • Karlyne says:

          You’re right, Jeannie! She was narcissistic (now there’s a hard word to spell!), and since all completely self-involved people are sick, I’ll even give her the grace to say she had a disorder! I think that almost everyone has the chance to change, at least at some point in their lives, but when you keep turning in on yourself, the chances for change get smaller and smaller. And eventually you get what you want — yourself!

    • Leanne Penny says:

      Also I feel as though mama bear from Berenstein bears falls into the OVERLY frumpy mom category! What is she wearing? What’s with that hat? Is it a night cap? Is her bear fur deformed?

      I was going to say Mother Gothel from Tangled as well, she’s evil and back handed and calls her daughter chubby, ditzy and clumsy and then follows it up with “just saying cuz I love you.”

    • Sky Sanchez-Fischer says:

      Oh My Gosh! YAAAAASSSS!!!! I just said this to my husband AND he commented that the mother and father have the same exact bodies with different heads. Bahahahahahaa! It’s so true.

      • Sky Sanchez-Fischer says:

        Sorry, that comment was a follow up to Jillian Kay’s comment about Calliou’s mom! Still laughing.

  7. I’m going to cast my vote for the mother in Ordinary People. Cold to the point that her son ends up in a psychiatric hospital. Interesting that Donald Southerland was married to both her and Mrs. Bennet in movie adaptations of the books.

  8. Molly says:

    Carol Brady grates on me. She’s too perfect! I love mothers who fall and get up and never quit loving their family probably because I am not close to perfect, and I like to see others who have been there and made it through successfully.

  9. Nancy B says:

    I’m coming into this conversation kind of late, but I have to say the mother in The Manchurian Candidate gives me the willies. Angela Landsbury is a great actress–able to play Mrs. Potts, Jessica Fletcher, AND this psycho mother convincingly.

  10. Clémence says:

    I would say Monica’s mom in Friends… She seems to always know what to say to make her feel miserable.

  11. Sarah says:

    Have you watched Once Upon A Time? Regina’s mother, Cora, is an excellent mother to hate! Regina herself is a mother you love to hate, too. Although they both have their reasons for being the way they are. That’s such a great show!

  12. qbananita says:

    Danielle de Barbarac’s stepmother in “Ever After” (A Cinderella story starring Drew Barrymore with a lovely soundtrack), is pretty astoundingly awful (and she’s played perfectly by Anjelica Huston, who also played a mother of questionable merit in “Darjeeling Limited”).

      • qbananita says:

        I watched it with my girls, ages 14 and 7, just recently. Back when I first saw it, I loved the soundtrack so much, I used it as my birth music for all four of my babies!

  13. Birgitta Qvarnström Frykner says:

    The worst of the all for me is the mother in Michelle Magorians ,Good Night mr Tom. Then there are others in War and Peace Leo Tolstoy, the mother of the first wife of Pierre Beluzov Helen, is just awful.

  14. Sky Sanchez-Fischer says:

    I have one! I, for the record, do love her and also loathe her. Marie, Raymond’s mom, from Everybody Loves Raymond. Ummmmm, why don’t they EVER lock their door???!

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