Alternate Take: mother! (2017) by Darren Aronofsky
Alternate Take by Courtney Anderson
(THIS HAS ALL THE SPOILERS IN IT!)
The moral of mother! is that men are trash.
Okay, yeah, I know — that’s not the actual moral of mother. As a matter of fact, one could successfully argue that mother! has no moral, but is an allegory to which many meanings can be applied. For instance, mother! can just as easily be about the environment as it could be about religion. man’s hacking, bloody cough and woman’s almost immediate arrival thereafter can symbolize the removal of Adam’s rib to make Eve. The story of the bickering, murderous brothers can be the story of Cain and Abel. The invasion of rabid humans that rip the home (and end the life) mother built and left open for them are probably metaphors for how humanity has plowed through and burned up all of the Earth’s resources, driving ourselves mad in the process.
(Note: Aronofsky writes all of the character names in lowercase--except one.)
Darren Aronofsky’s film is like a gumbo: it’s just got everything in it. Don’t ask for a specific recipe. It’s got everything in it, damn it. That’s probably why I am able to look this film in the face and say that the moral of the story is that men are trash.
I should probably explain the statement “Men are trash.”
“Men are trash” is a phrase that has gotten underneath the skin of many a man (and woman) on Twitter. For some, it’s a dangerous generalization of half of the population. For the rest of us, it’s a purposeful generalization that works to point out the inherent toxicity and violence present in the hyper masculinity forced onto men in our society.
Men, individually, are not trash. The societal concept of “being a man” — a concept that often demands that men be emotionally stunted, aggressive, needlessly stoic, and be unable to relate to the women in their lives while also using said women as a means of “self-improvement” — is trash. We don’t have enough characters in a tweet to express all of this, and a lot of y’all don’t like to read threads, so we just say “Men are trash” as a shorthand. I admit that it could use some work.
When I look at mother! all I can think of is that phrase. Because Him is trash. Serious trash. Trash that’s been left out on the curb in the middle of a Memphis July. He’s bad.
Look at the plot of mother! -- mother (Jennifer Lawrence) is married to Him (Javier Bardem.) They live in a creepy ass house that they (mostly mother) is renovating so that it looks less creepy. Him is a writer who seems to be suffering a little bit of writer’s block and needs inspiration. Mother was the inspiration for his last big hit, and she works hard to make sure that she creates a world that Him can find new inspiration in. Mother is giving — too giving. Like, way too giving.
For me, man and woman are the first bright red signs that Him is going to end up sucking the life out of mother. Man gets to waltz into mother’s house after stroking Him’s ego. Woman strolls in like she owns the damn place and basically tells Mother how to do even more for Him. mother is cleaning up after these creepy ass intruders while Him is having a grand ole time. And then shit gets worse and weirder and worse and weirder. And then it gets violent and scary, and hostages are getting shot, and a baby gets murdered and eaten, and people get burned alive. It’s a lot. So, so much.
Throughout all this weirdness and violence, mother is the one who is abused the most. She’s cursed at, beaten, and her newborn baby is destroyed. She eventually has to burn down the house she labored to create — and her burn herself alive with it. And it was all for Him. Because Him is the one that started letting people in, anyway. Him is the one with the idea that everything can be taken and “shared.” Him is the one that somehow walks out of that burning house alive. Him needed so much adoration and worship — and was so tangled up in his own craft — that he took all of mother. Including her heart. And I don’t mean her heart as in her love. I mean her physical fucking heart that he snatches out of her chest.
That shouldn’t really be a surprise if you saw that initial poster of Lawrence holding her bloody heart in her hand with a dead-eyed look of “love” on her face. mother literally turns into dust at the end. And what remains of her heart turns into a weird little crystal thing, which looks just like the weird little crystal thing that was in Him’s study. And what does Him do after that? Why, he finds a new mother. The house is magically restored and this Mother does the same thing Lawrence does in the beginning of the film. Him pretty much did what men are expected to do in our society: disregard the woman who loves you and take what you need. Because, ultimately, you are the important one, here. She’s just...setting.
The other thing that disturbs me about mother! is mother, herself. She’s the embodiment of what we expect women to do. Women are to give all of themselves, even if it is to our detriment. We are to live for the men around us. And if we happen to get hurt, get abused or die, oh well. That’s on us. Maybe we shouldn’t have lashed out and start stabbing the people who ate our baby. Maybe we should’ve just been nice and quiet and kept on working.
mother! is one of those films I don’t like to think about too much. Because the more I think about it, the more irritated I get. And, like I said, this isn’t the one interpretation to be taken from this film: it’s just my interpretation of it. I could be wrong. But it’s how I feel. And that’s ultimately what mother! seems to be made for — to make us feel something.
So, in conclusion, Him was trash ass man, mother wore too much white, and man should really go see a doctor about that cough. Also, CGI baby death is still really fucking terrible to see.