Motherhood Representations

By Victoria Tea


Through the semester, we have explored a various amount of representations of motherhood through media examples. In addition, we have explored the many different types of motherhood figures, such as primary caregivers and protectors. In this Smore is a brief explanation of motherhood portrayals through different media examples, as well as the type of motherhood representation you may expect to see within each method of representation.


The Goodbye Quilt (2011)

Novels have the power to represent motherhood through being the narrator or through the eyes of another. In the novel, The Goodbye Quit, Susan Wiggs is able to put a mother-daughter relationship into two characters that reflect her own personal life. In this novel, a mother learns not only how difficult it is to watcher her daughter grow up, but she learns about herself as well. In addition, this novel is narrated through the mother, so we are able to interpret her true emotions and her experience as a mother who is letting her daughter go off to college. Through this novel, audiences can see that the emotional battles she faces are a reflection of her character as a mother - one whom is the primary caretaker, protector, and pained all at the same time.


Matilda (1996)

Through this film, Matilda has two mother-like figures, Mrs. Wormwood (her adoptive mother) and Miss Honey (who really fulfills the nurturing mother-like characteristics). This film does a great job at portraying the mother figure in a bad and good light. Mrs. Wormwood who is played by Rhea Perlman portrays this very villain-like mother. She is one who values her looks more than she does Matilda, her daughter. In one scene, she tells Miss Honey, “I said you chose books and I chose looks. And who finished up better off? Me of course. I’m sitting pretty in a nice house with successful businessman and you’re left slaving away teaching a lot of nasty little children the ABC” (9.43-4). Through this excerpt, you can see that Mrs. Wormwood has more value for materialistic materials than she does individuals.

On the other hand, the relationship between Matilda and Miss Honey helps justify Miss Honey as a good mother figure as Matilda has grown an appreciation for Miss Honey being so loving and nurturing to her, that Matilda does whatever she can to help Miss Honey deal with her own personal issues.


Mothers in television are projected in various ways. The great thing about watching mother characters in television shows is that you are able to witness mothers at different stages in their lives and how the evolve as mothers.

Lorelei from Gilmore Girls

While being a single “mother” to Rory, she encourages a healthy, open, and communicative mother-daughter relationship.

"Kitty" from That 70's Show

Her role is the caretaker, but at the same time, very in touch with the kids in the neighborhood.

Lois from Malcolm in the Middle

She is the type of mother who seems completely stressed and all over the place, but obviously cares for her kids through her ability to tolerate their ridiculous behavior.

Marge from The Simpsons

While dealing with the craziness, she manages to be extremely patient, and serves as the stereotypical television mother – cooking, cleaning, disciplining her children, and being the grounding voice of reason.

Charlotte from Sex and the City

Charlotte gets to play the traditional role of housewife and mother. She is the typical traditional mother who wanted to live the ideal typical life – get an education, get married, have kids, settle down.

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In my opinion, mothers are projected as either "very bad" or "very good". When we watch the news, we are either giving individuals a bunch of praise or are shocked by how somebody could do such a thing. Through the classes "Moms in the News" presentations, this is just a common theme I found.

This is a link to a letter from a daughter's biological mother to the new step-mom. This is a representation of a "very good" mother.

A Florida woman gives birth to a fourteen pound baby.

Heartfelt Commercial: My Dad's A Liar! (A Child's Future Is Worth Every Sacrifice)
Sometimes in the news, when sharing stories about individuals as parent, we forget to give the dad credit where credit is due.


Advertisements are short snippets that are suppose to be direct and straight to the point, yet have a significant purpose. With each of these examples, I have learned the power of advertisements and how - if presented the proper way - advertisements can project a clear and vivid image of motherhood in just a few minutes.
Emotional Thai Commercial - A Mother, A Daughter and A Pineapple

Thai Commercial

Briefly, this is a commercial about how a Thai mother and daughter who live in poverty, are able to be creative, supporting and loving of one another, even at their hardest times.
Love Letter to Mom, by Diadermine

Love Letter to Mom by Diadermine

Briefly, this commercial for Diadermine – a skin line – sums up the special relationship between mothers and daughters, from the most precious moments to the toughest moments.

Women's Health Magazine

This magazine cover features Eva Mendes, a new mother. This media representation focuses on how being a mother has shaped who Eva Mendes is today, as well as how women are projected in general.

Magazines tend to focus more on appearance (beauty) more than the qualities of a “traditional” or “ideal” mother, as exemplified through my advertising project and my survey findings.


Harper's Bazaar (60's)

In the December 1966 issue of Harper's Bazaar, the cover articles included titles such as "A Loving Kind of Christmas" and "The Season's Most Glowing Fashions". However, the cover projects a very serious and glamorous picture of a mother and her son that are not realistic of an "ideal" mother. With that in mind, magazines from the 60's project some overall qualities as a mother: marriage and family, the efficient homemaker, personal health, and beauty & fashion. In addition, magazines during this time tend to include individuals who are popular during the time, such as "Twiggy", individuals who are beautiful & slim, and individuals to project specific gender roles.

The Feminine Mystique

"The problem that has no name".

Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique is a great introduction to this course. It really sets a good foundation for what to expect out of this course. Reason why I believe so is because The Feminine Mystique focuses on women of the 1950's and 1960's who had this "housewife" idea attached with their role as a women. Friedan does a great job at analyzing women of this time and criticizing their true happiness during this time. Thus, when taking this course, it was important to see how women are portrayed through different representations and the types of mothers we are exposed to.

Disney Films

Studying Disney films throughout this semester was very interesting considering there was an absence of mother(s) throughout a lot of the films. I had not realized this before taking this course, but it gave me insight to a mother's contribution to a child's development. It was interesting to find that Bruno Bettelheim argues that a child's personality can develop when the mother is missing or how killing the mother preserves this good image of the mother. However, it did allow me to see how these ideas created a story line for the main characters of these films.


Projection to Children and Teens

To conclude, motherhood is visible in many forms and represented many different ways. Through this course, I have learned that individuals view motherhood many different ways and carry motherhood with different values. One of the most interesting findings I found through this course is that different races/ethnicities have different styles in the way they raise their children.