The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Your mother may not be what you think she is

with 19 comments

Isn’t it about time that we stop assuming things about people just because they have a certain age?

Why do we always have to bring up our mothers whenever we’re talking about a movie that is the slightest scary or difficult to watch? There seems to be an expectation that once you’ve hit 50, your preferences will change dramatically. You want your movies to be about families and relationships and star Meryl Streep and you’re too squishy to watch anything harsher than an ear slap.

Recently I listened to an episode of LAMBcast, where the theme of the night was “movies that I love but can’t recommend to others”. One of the panellists brought up Black Swan, making a reference to his mother. Apparently this movie would be more than she could stomach.

Of course this guy knows his mother best, so we have to believe that this movie would be a bad fit for her. But what bugs me a little is that this image is used so often that it has become a cliché. Middle-aged mothers can’t cope with action, violence or weird stuff. And this just isn’t true.

First of all I need to point out that I’ve been guilty of doing this myself, over and over again. I’ve dismissed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel since the trailer showed so many older actors. Surely that couldn’t be for me. Speaking of prejudices! Since then I’ve seen quite a few reviewers speaking nicely of it, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to see it. I’m not like “them.” I’m not THAT old.

Earlier this week I talked about my mother-in-law and her love for sandwich cake and The Help. The fact that she liked the movie was off-putting to me. “Because we all know what mothers-in-law are like, right?” I didn’t spell out the last thing, but you could read it between the lines.

I really need to stop doing this. I don’t like when people jump into conclusions about me based on my increasing number of gray hair, so why do I do the same thing to others?

Rock concerts
The other night I watched the sci-fi movie In Time. It takes place in a world where people stop aging physically at 25. This means that there’s no way to tell whether you’re looking at the 25 year old girl, her mother who is 60 or her grand-grand mother who is 100 years plus. They all look gorgeous. In real life we’re not there quite yet, though in a hundred years medical science and plastic surgery might have brought us closer to it. However as of the personal preferences of music, film and arts, we’re not that far off. And people seem to forget that all the time.

The last two summers I’ve I attended the same rock festival as my teenage daughter. My main reason to be there was to be around for her, knowing from experiences how messed up festivals can be. But this didn’t prevent me from enjoying the concerts and when it was time for one of my favourite bands to play, I made sure to get a spot close to the scene, where I’m used to be – dancing and losing myself in the music. There were times when I was about double as old as the guys around me, but I didn’t give a crap and neither did my daughter. She’s wise enough to see that there are advantages in sharing the taste for music, movies and clothes with your mother, if nothing else financial.

The walls are falling
Just because someone turns 40 it doesn’t mean that we automatically ditch our taste for heavy metal, punk music or wherever your heart is for Frank Sinatra. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Sinatra, I just use him for stereotyping purposes.) And if we ever reach the point in our lives when we need to move into a home for elderly people, there’s nothing that says that we want to replace our computer games with bridge playing.

The walls between the generations have already tumbled down. The world isn’t what it used to be. Everything is fluid – age, national identity, gender. So why not embrace it?

Perhaps you still want to keep your mother in the little box where you think mothers belong because it gives you a sense of security. But your mother may not be what you think she is.

The British critic Mark Kermode is the biggest fan of horror movies that I know of. But do you know who’s on the second place?

My mother. She’s turning 68 this year.

Written by Jessica

April 20, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

19 Responses

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  1. Great post! When I was growing up, I remember my mother used to always watch True-Stories released by a company called ‘Odyssey’. They were cheap below average tv movies and I thought that was extent of my her taste. I was wrong. She has been getting right into lots of different genres now and yes, she enjoys a good horror too. I hope never to see another Odyssey film again though. The introduction tune is still ingrained in my psyche.

    Mark Walker

    April 20, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    • Thanks! Those Odyssey storyes sound horrendous. But it’s nice to hear that she was able to expand beyond that. You should never give up on your mum. She might have surprises for you in the future.


      April 20, 2012 at 7:23 pm

  2. It depends on the mother for sure. Also, I think in the LAMBcast you eluded to, it was more about movies that would probably be uncomfortable to see with your mother because of the subject matter. And I agree that in most cases, I think a lot of people wouldn’t want to watch those films with their mothers. I certainly wouldn’t watch Black Swan or Oldboy with my mother, not so much because of the content but because the ideas would be awkward to have in your head while you’re next to your mother.

    Are there hip old people? Sure. It’s cool to talk to them about the latest movies. I’ve taken my mom to a number of films like Atonement and Juno that I doubt most people would take their mother to and it was good to talk to her about those films, but we also have a much different relationship with each other than I think most people have with their mothers.

    James Blake Ewing

    April 20, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    • That sounds like a wonderful relationship!

      I definitely agree that you don’t want to watch too explicit movies in company with your parents. It’s embarrassing regardless of how old you are and I think I’ve written about this before. But if I remember it correctly the barrier in this case wasn’t about watching it in company; it was about her watching it at all.
      I might have misunderstood though. I just reacted when I heard it and I remember someone more reacted the same way as I did, not understanding why a mother wouldn’t like to watch Black Swan.


      April 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm

  3. Well, I’m excited to see Exotic Marigold…and I’m probably taking my parents because it seems like something they’d like too. I don’t know that I stereotype my parents when I assume they wouldn’t like x, y and z because I’ve watched enough film and television to get their tastes. They like a lot of the films I would deride as sentimentalist schlock. But it’s not just them for whom I couldn’t recommend some of my favorite films like Shortbus and Irreversible. There are cinephiles for whom those two films would be beyond the pale.


    April 21, 2012 at 6:16 am

    • Yeah, we all know our parents best. I just think we shouldn’t bunch up everyone in the age of our parents, assuming they’re into a certain kind of movies due to age reasons. It won’t be long before we’re in that age too and then I think we’d rather not be bunched up, but considered as individuals who might share the tast with 25 year olds.


      April 22, 2012 at 8:55 am

  4. On the topic of Margold Hotel — I bet you wouldn’t have the same feelings about a trailer showing a bunch of people in their early 20s, now would you 😉

    My father turned 70 last week and I have to admit that I love the fact that all he wished for was an iPhone (which we got him and then he was lost to us for a veeeery long time). I would not recommend certain movies to my mother because she’s simply not that kind of person, not because she’s of a certain age.

    Also, I have to speak up in defence of Frank Sinatra. If you want to bash pensioners music, pick “Kalle Jularbo” instead 😉 I sincerely hope that they have abandoned the mandatory accordion at the old folks home by the time I get there.


    April 21, 2012 at 9:45 am

    • No, that’s exactly my point. I have no problems thinking a movie starring 20 year old actresses is for me, but if it’s all about older people, I’ll dismiss it. It’s silly and a sign of ageism and I need to stop doing that.

      I thought of Kalle Jularbo too, the iconic “this is what retired people like” artist as well as accordion music. But then I thought that he as well as our musical tradition probably is unknown to an international audience, so I took Sinatra, hoping it might work. Again: I really like Sinatra myself. Perhaps it’s a sign of that I’m getting older…. 😉


      April 22, 2012 at 8:58 am

      • No, it simply can’t be, because I really like Sinatra too 😀


        April 22, 2012 at 9:50 am

  5. Hmm. i think my mother would expunge me from the family were I to rock up home with a copy of Saw IV in my hands for her to watch.

    But I get your point, Jess. We shoudn’t just assume the older generations don’t appreciate what we do.


    April 22, 2012 at 3:20 am

    • The strange thing is that it’s mainly older women that we have all those assumptions about. I rarely hear anyone saying that they couldn’t show X movie for their father…


      April 22, 2012 at 8:59 am

  6. “There were times when I was about double as old as the guys around me, but I didn’t give a crap and neither did my daughter.”

    One of my favorite and most cathartic activities in life is losing myself in music and seems as if the older you get the more frowned upon it is by “society” (whatever that means) to lose yourself in music. So it’s always nice to hear or read or know someone who tells you that no, whatever your age, it’s still ok. So your post happily reassures me. I think I’ll go lose myself to some music right now.


    April 22, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    • It’s wonderful. I watched the Norwegian movie Sons of Norway the other day, which is about a guy who goes into punk rock in the 1970s. I had to hold back a bit not to sing along in Anarchy in the UK. Those songs still affect me so strongly. The energy is timeless and deep inside, even if you can’t see it, I still have spiky hair. 🙂


      April 22, 2012 at 7:02 pm

  7. I did not listen to the podcast you referenced, but perhaps the person was referring to WATCHING the film with his/her parent? Some people are uncomfortable with the subject of sex in combination with their parents. Watching a film with sexual content, while sitting beside their mother or father, makes them squirm. On the other hand, they wouldn’t have a problem recommending these films to their parents. (I’ve never had the problem because my mother pretty much never watches a movie.)

    No matter how old people are, or how young their parents are, it will never be an “adults who are equals” relationship; it will always be a parent/child relationship.


    April 22, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    • I may have misunderstood it, but I don’t think it was a “watching the movie in company with your parent” issue. I’ve brought up that topic before on my blog and I agree that there’s a barrier there you just feel awkward about trespassing.


      April 22, 2012 at 10:45 pm

  8. Very interesting post Jessica. I think it’s maybe because mothers are often the ones who forbid us from watching those films when we are young, leading to us growing up thinking that they don’t like to watch them at all.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    April 24, 2012 at 12:12 am

    • I’ve never experienced this thing with my mother since I basically was allowed to watch whatever I wanted to. But my access was very limited back in the days, so it wasn’t a big issue. It’s an interesting idea though leading to the question: Where are the fathers in this?


      April 24, 2012 at 2:32 pm

  9. It’s something I often wondered about. What will the homes of the elderly look like in the future? Will you hear gangster rap and dubstep blasting from the rooms and people playing video games? What will the youth think of that? I see myself not changing when it comes to watching the type of movies I do. As for music I do notice that mostly of what I listen to is music from when I was growing up.

    I try to to educate the kids when it comes to movies, as two of them are now slowly moving into their teens it is a great time to start that. They know I love my movies, so it’s a great thing to share.


    April 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    • I think we’ll carry on with the music and films and games we’re used to. The homes of the elderly will look radically different to what they were like when I grew up!

      My children are 17 and 19 and we share a lot, which is just great. Even if one has moved away from home, we still have family projects such as watching boxes with Mad Men. Very enjoyable.


      April 25, 2012 at 8:55 pm

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