The Battle of Bad Mothers: The Film Mama as a Commentary on the Judgment of Solomon and on Contemporary Motherhood

Tamar Hager, Omri Herzog


The modern horror film genre has incessantly dealt with questions of parenthood, pregnancy and the status of mothers, particularly with “bad mothers.”From the heart of popular culture, horror films engage in these issues unexpectedly, and sometimes even radically. These films enable us to recognize cultural taboos and to expose secrets that are not expressed in other genres. In this article, we examine the successful horror film, Mama (2013) that centres on two “bad mothers” involved in a fatal conflict over two girls. Through a comparison between Mama and the biblical myth of the judgment of Solomon, with which it dialogues and comments upon, we investigate the cultural hierarchy existing between two types of bad mothers, whom we term the “overfeeding mother” and the “starving mother.” The film disassembles and deconstructs this cultural hierarchy, while clarifying its social motivations. Proposing a radical alternative to Solomon’s judgment, the movie challenges the prevalent conception of bad mothering by exposing both mothers’ human faces, hence acquitting them in the eyes of the viewers.

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We are grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for its ongoing support of the Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement.