A Multitude of Books

September 15, 2009

Pt I of The Evil Woman: Bad Mothers

Filed under: Romance — Tags: — multitudeofm @ 1:17 am

I am very close to my mother in ways that most of my peers just don’t understand. I miss my mother more when I’m at university than my friends when I’m at university.

(I don’t have a bio up yet, and may simply skip writing one, but in any case, I’m 21, and heading back for my final year of undergrad in a few days.)

I’m inclined to say that it’s because most of them have yet to come to terms with their mothers, and also because most of them have less in common with their mothers than I do.

Like my mother, I like to cook, sew and bake — just so you know, I learnt so that I can train my future house-husband to my standards. *g*

I honestly think that if I didn’t have those things in common with her that our relationship might never have gotten over my terrible teenage years. They were so bad that I seriously contemplate not having kids just to avoid all that.

So I do, to some extent, understand why they write about it. As Jenny Crusie says:

If the Heroine Overcomes the Bad Mother story gives you a vicarious victory, you’re going to like it, and I don’t think you need to have had a Bad Mother in real life to want that catharsis because I think it goes back to basic human outrage over injustice: a mother should be loving and protective and the protagonist’s isn’t so the story rights that injustice by providing her with the love she’s missed before. That sense of outrage in general is crucial to reader satisfaction, that reaction that this situation is just wrong and must be remedied, and so the reader reads on to see it fixed. If this is not a trigger for your outrage reflex, if reading this as it plays out does not give you that catharsis, then it’s not going to work for you. No catharsis. That doesn’t means that the Bad Mother isn’t a valuable trope.

Valuable trope or not, it’s an Overused Trope. It’s a cliche.

I can still live with it, but the thing that really bugs me is that I’ve never seen any romance writer delve into why their heroines (I hate this term but female protagonist?) and their mothers feel this way.

Their mothers are just Evil and Nasty and Mean. True, some mothers are all that, but wouldn’t you say that it is highly unrealistic that so many of them are like that?

What about the generational divide? What about the different experiences? These are the kinds of things that’s driven the differences between yourself and your mother. Therefore they apply to your character and her mother too.

I can’t say I agree with Robin, who wrote the excellent, original post on RTB, here:

So there is a lot of precedent. But still, is it a bit odd how many bad mothers there are in a genre that so strongly validates and celebrates domesticity and fertility? Or is that exactly the point?

I’m disinclined to think that romance validates and celebrates domesticity and fertility. But I have to say, it does make for an excellent contrast vs your heroine who’s strong enough to get over her maternal issues, and have lots of kids who adore her blah blah blah.

This is the first part of a series that will focus Evil Woman types in Romance. If you have any suggestions, you can email me.

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