Motherhood Misconceived

Representing the Maternal in U.S. Films

Edited by Heather Addison, Mary Kate Goodwin-Kelly, and Elaine Roth

Subjects: Women's Studies, Film Studies, Family Studies
Paperback : 9781438428123, 277 pages, October 2009
Hardcover : 9781438428116, 277 pages, October 2009

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Heather Addison, Mary Kate Goodwin-Kelly, and Elaine Roth
I. The Celluloid Stork: Picturing Pregnancy
1. Pregnant Body and/as Smoking Gun: Reviewing the Evidence of Fargo
Mary Kate Goodwin-Kelly
2. Mother’s Day: Taking the Mother Out of Motherhood in The Thrill of It All
Tamar Jeffers McDonald
3. Not Exactly According to the Rules: Pregnancy and Motherhood in Sugar & Spice
Madonne M. Miner
II. Constructions of Motherhood: Mothers, Daughters, and Sex
4. Modernizing Mother: The Maternal Figure in Early Hollywood
Heather Addison
5. “Whose Baby Are You?”: Mother/Daughter Discourse in the Star Images of Mary Pickford and Joan Crawford
Gaylyn Studlar
6. “You Just Hate Men!”: Maternal Sexuality and the Nuclear Family in Gas, Food, Lodging
Elaine Roth
III. Horriffic Mothers and the Mothers of Horror
7. Hollywood’s “Moms” and Postwar America
Mike Chopra-Gant
8. Alfred Hitchcock and the Phobic Maternal Body
Mun-Hou Lo
9. Paranoia, Cold Surveillance, and the Maternal Gaze: Reconsidering the “Absent Mother” in Ordinary People
Mark Harper
10. Scream, Popular Culture, and Feminism’s Third Wave: “I’m Not My Mother”
Kathleen Rowe Karlyn
IV. Maternal Anxieties of Class, Race, and Gender
11. Great Ladies and Guttersnipes: Class and the Representation of Southern Mothers in Hollywood Films
Aimee Berger
12. “Don’t Say Mammy”: Camille Billops’s Meditations on Black Motherhood
Janet K. Cutler
13. From Dad to Mom: Transgendered Motherhood in Transamerica
Mary M. Dalton
List of Contributors

First collection of essays on cinematic motherhood.


As celebrities sporting "baby bumps," politicians, Olympic athletes, and talk show guests, mothers are ubiquitous throughout U. S. media and popular culture. Like lightning rods, these high-profile mothers attract accolades and judgments associated with ideals of female sexuality, gender roles, and constructions of contemporary families. Motherhood Misconceived explores this widespread cultural fascination with motherhood through analyses of mothers in contemporary U. S. film, including both mainstream and independent cinematic representations. The contributors draw on a variety of critical approaches to consider the spectacle of pregnancy; mother-daughter relationships; mothers as predators, narcissists, and absent victims; and the ways in which cultural anxieties are displaced and projected onto marginalized mothers in films such as Fargo; Transamerica; Gas, Food, Lodging; Ordinary People; and Scream. Ideal for women's studies or film studies classes, Motherhood Misconceived will help students contextualize current debates about motherhood as they play out in popular and independent film.

Heather Addison is Associate Professor of Film Studies at Western Michigan University and author of Hollywood and the Rise of Physical Culture. Mary Kate Goodwin-Kelly is an independent scholar living in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Elaine Roth is Associate Professor of Film Studies at Indiana University South Bend.


"This collection has an engaging, lively introduction co-authored by the three editors that manages to address both film studies specialists and non-specialists in its analysis of why representations of the maternal in U. S. films should concern us and precisely what the collection tells us about those representations. " — Femspec

"This intriguing book collects sharp essays, by key scholars in film studies, questioning the 'maternal' image in American cinema from the early 1900s to the present … Illustrated with more than 20 well-chosen images, this book belongs in every serious collection of feminist film criticism. " — CHOICE

"This collection focuses on Hollywood's portrayal of motherhood in a clear, coherent fashion and addresses a variety of subtopics, including the mother-to-be, the single mother, the aging mother, the transsexual mother, and the mother in various genres. " — Lucy Fischer, author of Designing Women: Cinema, Art Deco, and the Female Form