Evil Stepmoms and missing parents

06Feb10

Claire Gordon et al at http://www.doublex.com/blog/xxfactor asked why step-mothers are always evil, and in the course of the discussion, Rachael Larimore mentioned the dearth of two parent families in Disney movies. The second comment really is less complex than the first, but both are fascinating.

My two cents:

As a writer, any story interesting to me and to a kid reading or watching it has to have the kid as an independent agent, and the kid has to get into some kind of trouble. First you get your kid up a tree, then you throw rocks at him. It’s a lot harder to get a teen or a late preteen into trouble if he has two involved parents running flack for him. I don’t know if it still exists, but there used to be a group of children’s writers (all women, as I recall) called “Kill the Moms.” The other issue is that to create a layered, meaningful story the trouble the kid gets into is going to help him grow in some way and probably help his parent(s)/family grow in some way . . . and that is a lot easier to do when you have a single parent to start the movie or book. You can end up with two.

The evil-stepmom issue is also at play in the missing dad/mom trope, but let’s pretend they’re separate.

Young kids love their mothers. Their worlds revolve around their caretakers. At first, we are totally dependent, but eventually, we start to want things and to want to do things. Eventually, mom has to say, “NO.” When that happens, we feel anger. But we don’t know that mom isn’t feeling the same thing! And we don’t know our anger can’t hurt the mother we love so much, so anger is dangerous, even overwhelming.

If we’re really orphans, though, that would explain a lot. Our real parents wouldn’t treat us this way. And we can be mad at our mother-who-says-no if she’s really an evil step-mother. Our real mom stays beautiful and kind, and our step-mom is washing rags in the basement of a Disney castle

More on Cinderella tomorrow.

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One Response to “Evil Stepmoms and missing parents”

  1. Check out the XX Factor post.
    C.O.F.


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