Something Else Besides a Mother

In Williams piece, Something Else Besides a Mother, I was interested in the way she used the concept of motherhood to showcase the way women have been displayed on screen through the role of mothers. In her essay she discusses the cultural contradictions  around women’s roles and psychic conflicts they generate. She also includes psychoanalytic ideas in her essay by expressing that ambivalence in the film portrayals of mother/daughter conflicts and in viewer’s passionate/contradictory responses. In other words, Williams discusses that there are contradictions in the portrayals of mother and daughter conflicts and in the responses from the viewers.

This is seen through her analysis of the film, Stella Dallas, the remake of the Henry King’s 1925 film made by King Vidor in 1937. She uses this film to expose how mothers (Stella) must sacrifice in order to gain some sort of happiness or reach a conclusion. Williams points out on pg.  727, “Mixed messages-of joy in pain, of pleasure in sacrifice-that typically resolve the melodramatic conflicts in “The Woman’s film.” Here she talks about the genre of melodrama, but also the way a resolution is set for a “woman’s film.” This resolution can be seen in motherhood the way a mother sacrifices either parts of her identity, her youth, her career or etc., for the benefits of her daughter. Such that to understand motherhood on camera it is to devalue the other character from her happiness/completeness.

Williams uses the strong example of Stella as a mother and a feminine woman in the film. She is known as always dressed in feathers, jewelry and make up. From these aspects of personality she is seen as someone who likes to cover up the truth from her reality, she likes to overemphasize her feminine look. As discussed in her essay, this can be seen in multiple ways because Stella can be hiding her role as a mother, putting on a good face for her daughter or compensating for the absence of the penis. Overall, her role of motherhood is very contradictory because she can’t be a mother and have it all. I thought it was a great example to discuss what Williams is trying to portray in her article.

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