Missing Mothers

A moment of silence for all of the fictional mothers that had to die in the name of tragic back story and character development.

@Snape on Mother's Day 2015

This is something my daughters have noticed. It seems like every movie we show them: the mother is dead, sick or missing.

  • Frozen. The mum's dead.
  • Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. The mum's dead.
  • Finding Nemo. Mum's killed.
  • Despicable Me. Mum's dead.
  • Lilo & Stitch. Dead mum.
  • Big Hero 6. No Mum.
  • My Neighbor Totoro. Mum's sick.
  • Epic. No mum.
  • How to train your dragon. Mum's dead.
  • Annie. No mum.
  • Harry Potter. Mum's dead.
  • Star Wars (a new hope). Mum's dead.
  • Star Wars (clone wars) Mum dies. Horribly.
  • Bambi. Bye mum.
  • Spider man. No mum.
  • Batman. Mum killed.
  • Superman. Mum exploded.
  • The Little Mermaid. Dead mum.
  • Aladdin. No mum.
  • Beauty and the Beast. Mumless.
  • Cinderella. Evil stepmum.
  • Enchanted. No mum.
  • Ella Enchanted. No mum.
  • Snow White. No mum.

So it's a common device... but why?

  1. Because it's a horrible thing -- and good writing involves making horrible things happen to adorable characters.
  2. Because it removes a safety net from the character: they can never run to their mother for help. (Mums are expected to be awesome)
  3. Because it's improper to show an imperfect mother. The dad can be a bad father (who learns) but women have to be perfect. Better dead than imperfect.
  4. Because writers don't know how to portray a mother. Writers write based on cliché and trope. There's no trove of mother tropes to fall back on, so it's easiest to remove the mother entirely.

A few rare films where there is a mum:

  • Toy Story. There's a mum. (Not for the toys though)
  • Tangled. Mum lives. (Not an active character)
  • Brave. Mum is a bear. A fantastic mum.
  • How to train your dragon 2. <spoiler>Mum was alive all along! (And she is awesome!)</spoiler>