Mother! is a Problematic Film

**Spoilers Ahead**

The film, “Mother!,” is directed by Darren Aronofsky (Noah, Requiem for a Dream, etc.) and stars Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence as Mother (Silver Linings Playbook, The Hunger Games, etc.). “Mother!” is a film which uses a biblical allegory to explain that humans are destroying the Earth. Mother and Him (Javier Bardem), a stand-in for God, live in a re-constructed house which is soon overtaken and destroyed by the people who are worshipping His words. As His following gets larger, so does the destruction.

However, what is most disturbing about this narrative is not the destruction of the house. It is the destruction of Lawrence’s body as a function of the allegory. Mother is meant to represent Mother Nature or Mother Earth. Therefore, as the house is destroyed, she is broken down as well.

The narrative is effective, but at what cost? “Mother!” is simply an extension of male violence against women. This is a film directed by a man and, therefore, it is the beating and complete annihilation of a woman through a male lens. Aronofsky fetishizes and plays off the audience’s expectations of violence against women in order to make his allegory successful.

This is exploitation.

Initially, Lawrence’s character is abused emotionally. All of the visitors to her home either ignore her presence, or outrightly insult her. Her body is hyper-visible and sexualized. In one scene, she is told to cover up because her nipples could be seen through her dress. The camera then pans down and shows her body through the sheer fabric. This is a shot that was created for the pleasure of men. Mother is shamed for something that the men watching the film were just given a chance to enjoy.

When more people enter the home, Mother begins to be physically beaten, even though she is pregnant. The audience watches as she moves from room to room, being pushed and thrown to the ground.

In one room, Mother finds a group of naked women locked in a cage. They seem to have been trafficked for sex. Mother tries to free them and is overtaken by a man who pins her against a wall. Aronofsky decides to callously play off of society’s expectations. There is clearly the implication here that Mother will be raped. When she is saved, the audience sighs in relief. Only a male lens would use the expectation of rape, the most extreme violation of a female body, just for the sake of furthering a narrative.

After giving birth, Mother’s child is taken from her and given to the people. The audience sees close-ups of Lawrence’s face, in absolute anguish, as she attempts to get her child back. Not only does her child die, but Aronofsky decides to include the snap of the infant’s neck. Again, this man is using the loss of autonomy and pain of the feminine experience to create shock value.

In the end, Lawrence kills herself and all of the humans. However, He is not done with her. Even as her body lays there, beaten and essentially ashes, he extracts the last bits of life from her in order to build a new house. This is when we learn that this narrative is cyclical and restarts whenever Mother dies. We also discover that, each time a Mother dies, she is replaced with a new Mother.

“Mother!” portrays the pains of feminine experience as something that can simply be used to get a point across. Therefore, downplaying the plight of women who feel beaten and abused by men on a daily basis. It plays off of all women’s fears and uses that to create suspense and “enhance” Aronofsky’s chosen narrative. In the end, the woman is disposable; this only furthers what women are told about themselves everyday. They cannot survive without a man. I think that this film was reckless and dangerous in its execution. It perpetuated the idea that men, like Aronofsky, can use the female body whenever they please and for whatever they see fit.