Festival of Fiendishness – MOMMIE DEAREST

For the record, I’m scared of wire hangers after this chick. And I’m a grown ass man. I can’t be the only person taking plastic hangers to the dry cleaners, can I? Really? Just me, huh? So, if you can’t tell (or didn’t read the last post), today’s fantastic fiend is the Mother of Year herself, Joan Crawford AKA Mommie Dearest.

This is the first time one of our fantastic villains has actually been a real person. But Joan Crawford ain’t no slouch. She signed a contract with MGM in the 1920s and then punked them into making her a star. Your girl was headlining movies in the 30s. She was an Academy Award-winning actress with a career spanning more than 50 years. And she was a PepsiCo board member. Homegirl wasn’t no joke.

But it ain’t these accomplishments we’re interested in, is it? Oh no! That ain’t how it works over here. We get to poke fun at the portrayal of Joan Crawford from Mommie Dearest, the motion picture based on her daughter’s autobiography.

In the glorious 80s there was little more on TV than Afterschool Specials, Farrah Fawcett burning up her abusive husband in The Burning Bed, and the Dukes of Hazzard. And the freaking Schmoo—do you remember this thing? Could change shape, was on a cartoon with Fred and Barney…Anyway, in the 80s, TV was still a family sport. And it was in this spirit that, as a group, we watched CBS’ premiere of Mommie Dearest.

We should have known this chick wasn’t all together: the movie opens with Joan Crawford—the consummate film star of her day—on her hands and knees with a bottle of Comet scrubbing the floor while her TWO MAIDS look on. What? I don’t know about you, but I’m not paying somebody to stand there and watch me do the job I just paid them for. That’s where the nonsense starts.

Your girl is a little obsessed with her image so she adopts two kids, Christina and Christopher. But things don’t do so well. Joan loves Christina (who she adopts first) and showers her with fantastic parties and gifts. In one scene, while Christina is opening all her wonderful gifts, Joan tells her to choose the best one and then gives the rest away. As a kid, I was like “Wait, what?” You know giving a child’s gift away is like child abuse, right?

But then the abuse actually starts. Joan is a bit of a drinker, right? She also has a couple control issues. And a touch of the competitive spirit. This makes Ol’ Joanie not necessarily the best candidate for parenting—in fact the adoption agency turned her down. So when she tries to have a friendly competition with Christina in the form a pool race, she dusts the child (horribly), tells her to pull herself up by her bootstraps, and then locks Christina in the pool house when the little girl gets mad. Then Christina decides she wants to be glamorous like her mother, right? Sneaks in a puts on her mother’s makeup. Most of us would laugh it off, maybe take a couple pictures and post it on Facebook, right? Not Joan the Softie. Joan snaps, goes ballistic and cuts off the kid’s hair.

Normal shit, right?

And you know about the wire hangers, don’t you? Joan strolls in Christina’s room and finds a dress hanging in the closet on the wrong brand of hanger and LOSES IT! Snatches the child out the bed while her brother looks on. Did I mention they strap my man to the bed? How far is the bed from the floor that they gotta strap your ass to it? Anyway, it’s like 2 in the morning, Joan beats Christina with the wire hangers, fucks up her bathroom and tells the kid to clean it up. Throws some Comet all over the tile and says, “Figure it out.”

Joan Crawford—Mommie Dearest—is awesome for a number of reasons: she didn’t give a shit about anybody, man, woman or child long as she got what she wanted; truth be told, Joan made her own way in a world that tried to put her in a box based her gender and her physical beauty; and, in the day and age when people try to compare the parenting styles of mamas of different racial and ethnic groups (which is my nice way of comparing and contrasting black and white mamas), Joan Crawford beat that child’s ass with a wire hanger. That’s some shit.

OK folks and folksettes, that’s my word. Up next in the Festival, the scariest fan a writer could have: Anne Wilkes, or the chick with the sledgehammer in Misery.