Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mommie Dearest

I watched Mommie Dearest for the first time in my life recently. My main question was,

Why would Faye Dunaway do this?

All the Hollywood Babylon types despise Christina Crawford and reject she and her book as lies, but in the interest of fairness, I decided to research (Google for 10 min) this matter.  There are quite a few people, all as credible as the deniers, who agree that the kids did seem to be receiving some kind of abuse, and that Joan was, at the very least, unusually strict.  Her drinking was also completely out of control while her children were young.  Christopher Crawford always backed his sister up, while the younger two (four adopted children in total), twins Cindy and Cathy, have staunchly denied all allegations of abuse, even in the decades following JC's death.

I think the youngest two not only benefited from not being the first drafts of Joan's motherhood, but they also saw the frightening dynamic between Joan and X-tina and probably learned how better to deal with their mother.

Even if she wasn't really waking them up in the night to beat them with cans of Comet or, you know, strangling them, Joan's mothering skills still seem to have failed.  All of her children grew up to be unhappy underachievers with emotional problems, and they all seem to have reverted right back to poverty after her death.  Her estate was pretty small, at only $2m, and even the "good kids" only received inheritances of <$80k.

The movie is a camp classic now, but it wasn't really intended to be, which is why I wonder why they picked such creepy actresses to play Christina.  Both the child and teenaged actresses are strange, dead-eyed white blond things that make me think of those Fortean Times stories of black-eyed zombie children who kill people.  Even though her character is clearly being mistreated, the kid's creepy expressions and staring eyes don't stir a ton of pity. 

But seriously, even to non-fans of Joan's (I'm still not sure), this movie's bullshit is visible to the naked eye, and it lies by omission all over the place.  In the movie, it's implied that Christina wrote the nasty old book because her bitch mother left her with nothing at her death, but in reality, she was already writing the book, and it's reasonably likely that Joan knew, hence the expulsion.  Oh what she and BD Hyman couldn't talk about.

Just two regular gals

I used to think of my stepmother as a Mommie Dearest type.  No one had ever given me rules before my dad married her, and all of a sudden, I had this grown woman following me around, commenting on my behavior, and forcing me to adjust it.  I was horrified.  Looking back, I wonder how different I would be now if she had not been around.  I suspect I'd be messier, and I probably wouldn't notice the dog-like eating habits of other people.  In short, life would be easier.

She made me eat all meals at a fully set dining room table instead of on the floor in front of the tv.  Additionally, I had to eat all of the food I was served, something that felt like abuse when the meal was a giant bowl of navy beans and ham, like we were some wartime military regiment eating for energy and sustenance only.  I tried everything not to eat that (generalized anger about legumes continues into adulthood), and there were times when I was forced to sit alone at the table staring at the food I couldn't eat, but unlike Joan, she didn't make me sleep with the food in my room or eat it the next morning.  I had to keep arms off the table, chew with my mouth closed, never drag my fork on my teeth and keep the sound of silverware clinking against plates and bowls to a minimum.  Next, I had to shower.  I was seven years old and despised bathing.  As children are wont to do, I would take much more time in trying to deceive her than just taking the shower would have.  Eventually I gave in and got used to being clean.  I also had to dust all the wood furniture on the weekends, which she would check afterwards, usually ordering me to re-do it for unacceptable work quality.

My stepmother was irritable and prone to moods, like Joan.  Like Joan, she was vain, and her young prettiness had changed into a sort of severe, angular handsomeness with age, all heavy eyebrows and long acrylic nails.  She really was a sort of middle class Mommie Dearest, sans violence.

Oh, and.  She went to therapy to deal with childhood feelings of abandonment, as her parents had pretty much left them to themselves at a young age.  The therapist's recommendation was for her to engage in the activities that a child would, to nurture her inner child.  She also had to call the child by name, to differentiate from her adult self.  Thus "Little Nancy" came into our house, and she bought toys, crayons and coloring books for "her," all of which I was strictly forbidden to use.  Although I was still very young, I thought this was bullshit and couldn't believe I was not allowed to play with those things despite being the only person in the house, Little Nancy included, who wanted to.

I'd write a tell-all about her, but I guess I just did.

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