The Horror Of Parenting

Categories Analysis, Horror

It’s Alan here, the half of AOF that is definitely NOT a parent. We’ve mentioned on the show several times that parenting has proven to be a trending theme in our horror movies lately, but I was not expecting that it would pop up in all three films I saw this weekend. (This will be a mostly spoiler-free commentary, btw.)

The first film was Brightburn, the story that presents a dark version of the Superman origin story. Ok, this one was pretty obviously going to be about parenting. Its take on the matter was fairly superficial, and not much attention is given to all the alien stuff. What I did find very fascinating, though, is the examination of how our very sensitive culture might theoretically deal with such a monster, and how it might even have played a defining role in creating this monster.

There are many moments when characters are afraid to say something or do anything at all, even in the face of utter cruelty and evil. This is why Brightburn is a very conservative film, with conservative sentiments regarding parenting. It is about a child that believes he is special, has never had so much as a scratch on him, and is being given a whole range of questionable guidance. It shows how people actually react when presented with tell-tale signs that someone — even a child — is a danger to others. It doesn’t really answer the question of what someone SHOULD do, because it’s not really that kind of movie, sadly.

Then there was Ma, about a strange and lonely woman that invites teenagers to drink booze and smoke week in her basement. I really enjoyed the film and I found that, like everyone else, Octavia Spencer’s performance was a breath of fresh air in the world of horror movies. But leaving aside the film’s achievements, it does seem to present today’s youth in a peculiar situation. If the movie was serving as a metaphor regarding the generational gap between parents and their kids, it is clearly to remind us that our kids will be paying for our mistakes one day.

Every time Allison Janney pops her head in to say “get back to work,” it can be read as the film saying the same of anyone willing to spend time pining over decades-old feuds that are only putting kids in harms way. Sure, this idea is as old as Shakespear, but Shakespear never had Octavia Spencer! And the fact that the source of this feud is a genuinely traumatic moment makes it all the harder to contemplate this question.

The film doesn’t make much space for the kids to feel comfortable going to the adults in their lives with problems, which is always an issue. And you could say the film wouldn’t exist if at least one of them knew how to use the phone as an actual phone. But hey, kids gonna be kids!

And then there was Godzilla. It thought for sure this movie would be devoid of ideas. That’s why we go to movies like Godzilla, right? To see the big lizard monster break things and make things go boom! But they found a way to slip into the movie the notion that parents love to put their kids in harm’s way, so long as it’s a cause they believe in. And if you are a child whose parents are separated, you have to pick one of them, and one of them wants to kick-start the apocalypse while the other says nah — go with the second one!

Most of these movies about parenting are not sympathetic, like Babadook was. They are scathing indictments of parents that are basically leaving their kids to fend for themselves, and often times having to fight villains they themselves helped to create. It certainly suggests that adults need to be more responsible, whether we are parents or not. But for those of us who aren’t, it’s one more reason to never have kids!



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