Classic Movie Review: Mommie Dearest (1981)

I’ve decided to start watching some of the older, classic movies that I’ve never watched.  I started off with a real doozie: “Mommie Dearest”.  This movie, starring Faye Dunaway is about the life of actress, Joan Crawford and displays narcissism at its finest and encompasses alcoholism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and parental abuse; while being able to receive respect and a positive reputation in the public eye.

The wire hanger, hair chopping, and the meal scenes, where her first adopted daughter Christina is abused, are despicable.  It’s amazing how Joan Crawford could put on such great acts and fake fronts for her friends and colleagues, but be a complete demonic monster to her oldest daughter behind closed doors and over the craziest, minor things.  The movie never mentions that Joan also had adopted a set of twins; only a younger brother that briefly suggests that he is abused by being strapped to his bed at night.

As I went on to further read about the book written by Christina Crawford, I am disappointed to learn that her twin, younger siblings, Cindy and Cathy didn’t believe her recollection of events and that she was even sued by one of them for defamation of character to their mother.  Apparently, not all of Joan’s children were treated in the same way.  Perhaps Joan mellowed as she aged?  Or was there something about Christina in particular that she simply didn’t like?  Her strong will perhaps?

It makes me wonder why/how a parent could mistreat or even dislike a particular child, yet not feel that chronic anger or behave that way towards the others?  In the end, Christina and her brother were also disinherited; while the twins were not.  Yet another way Joan showed favoritism and immense dislike for her oldest two children and made sure that they felt it for a lifetime.

The division of the siblings over this disagreement of what went on during childhood is disheartening.  This is where “family” fails to behave like a family. In that era, this kind of treatment wasn’t labeled as “abuse”, it was merely called “discipline” and it brushed under the rug as a normal part of raising well-mannered children; hence what led to their disagreements.

Does it make it right because it wasn’t labeled as “abuse” back then? Absolutely not.  Carrying on like a stark-raving lunatic, screaming, and hitting over minor things and spewing that “you don’t appreciate anything that I do for you” is not normal behavior, is not effective parenting, nor does it create a healthy parent/child bond.  In adulthood, that damage lingers and affects how we conduct our own lives because we look up to our parents and have a forced respect for them, so subconsciously, we may feel that it’s acceptable. Most people are too embarrassed or proud to speak the truth or they fear disbelief by others, as shown in this story.  Joan had a mental illness that was well concealed from those on the outside.  I guess that is why Joan Crawford was such a good “actress”.

Up next; something a bit happier:  Born Free (1966)

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