Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Character Study: The Sacrificing Mother

One of the most kick-tail hero/heroine types is the sacrificing parent. I'll focus on mothers today. Mothers like, Ellen Ripley (Aliens), Lilly Potter (Harry Potter), Sarah Conner (Terminator). Film and literature are littered with them. I'll mainly discuss two- Ellen Ripley and Lily Potter.
From The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Why do we admire these characters as heroes? What qualities do they exhibit? Bravery, love, fierce loyalty, the ability to focus on somebody other than themselves. All qualities we hope to possess. Qualities we hope we'd find within ourselves when faced with terrifying dangers- be that alien attacks, Voldemort, or the threat of machines taking over the world.
from "Aliens"
Okay, that's fantasy. Let's take it to a realistic level. How about earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, or war? All of these situations can bring out your character's inner heroine.

Or perhaps a more personal tragedy like a car wreck, job loss, illness, or other crisis. Maybe those aren't as glamorous as flicking wands with Deatheaters, but they can be just as taxing.

I think heroes, such as the sacrificial mother, kicking serious booty to protect her child (or another's child, as is in the case in "Aliens") stirs our own inner hero and helps us feel more prepared to take on challenges. I don't know about you, but when I'm thinking about somebody else, I'm less worried about my own tail and can think more about getting the job done.
Let's look at each of these women:

Ripley (Aliens) has fifteen minutes to save a little girl, nickname Newt, before the space station explodes. The thing is, she has no real reason to believe the girl is alive. You see, they just saw the little girl fall down some... thing-- an air shaft I guess it was, and the aliens take her. Ripley goes to the ship and gets weapons to fight the aliens and rescue Newt all by herself.

She risks her own life for whom? A little girl she recently met and who probably already has an alien gestating inside her wee little body. And we love Ripley for it!

Lilly Potter (Harry Potter) is standing in the bedroom at their home in Godric's Hollow. She hears her husband get avada kedavra-ed and then Voldemort bursts into the room. There's no chance she can stand against old Voldipoo, but she'll try. She stands between the dark lord and her baby and pleads for his life.
From "Harry Potter"

Was it worth is?

Ripley lives and, miraculously, the little girl was able to be rescued. Though she dies in the next film. However, knowing that, doesn't make her heroics any less beautiful. We're petrified along with Ripley as she stands there holding Newt amid the alien pod egg things. Not for a heartbeat do we wish she'd left the girl behind. So, yeah, it was worth it.

Lilly Potter dies and Harry survives. Nobody says, "Foolish lady. She should have stepped aside, saved herself, and run off with Snape, living happily ever after." Not even the Snape-Lilly shippers say that! Lilly's lauded as a loving mommy hero. Heck yeah, that sacrifice was worth it.

In both of these stories, we cheer for the sacrificial mommies and fear/hate the bad guy monster types.

I focused on action scenes in science fiction/fantasy, but in some books and movies, the protagonist faces realistic obstacles, such as poverty or domestic abuse. But she's just as much of a hero when she selflessly puts her child first.

P.S. Have you ever noticed how Ripley's line to the alien queen, "Get away from her, you bitch!" is reminiscent of Molly's Weasley's line to Bellatrix, "Not my daughter, you bitch!"?  Just an observation. Sorry about the language. ;-)
Ripley and Molly - as they give their famous lines ;)

1 comment:

DRC said...

I think something clicks inside most women when it comes to children - maternal instinct maybe. I have no children but I have step-son who stays most weekends and I always feel that maternal instinct switching on when he's here.

When he's not, it focuses on my cat ;D

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