If you follow national news at all, odds are you’ve heard of Amy Chua by now. She’s a Yale professor who wrote a memoir about how she raised her two daughters the “Chinese way.” Because the “Chinese way” basically boils down to “don’t screw around,” a lot of other parents were puzzled and outraged at her methods, some even calling her the “worst mother ever.”
What most people don’t realize, however, is that coddling kids and boosting their self-esteem no matter what—the more American way—really doesn’t help them in the long run. You can either raise your kids more like Chua did and end up with a daughter who maybe debuts at Carnegie Hall at age 14, or spend all your time validating their feelings and maybe end up with A.J. Soprano for a son. In short, we really don’t think Chua is so bad, and has been unfairly demonized.
In her honor, we compiled this list of six other famous moms who aren’t as bad as you remember.
Mama Boucher (The Waterboy)
Bad Mom: As the story goes, little Bobby Boucher didn’t have what they call, *ahem*, the “social skills.” Most of this is attributed to the fact that his redneck mom kept him isolated on a bayou compound during his formative years when he should’ve been playing doctor and lighting ants on fire like a normal growing boy.
Instead, he learned that little girls were the devil. If that’s not being psychotically overprotective, we don’t want to know what is.
Good Mom: Without his mom keeping him insulated and unwittingly contributing to his dangerously-suppressed rage, Bobby would’ve never been able to elicit the deep-seeded anger necessary if you want to start drop-kicking dudes in the end zone and take The Fonz all the way to the Bourbon Bowl. We think they call that a blessing in disguise.
Sarah Connor (Terminator II)
Bad Mom: Right away in T:2, we find out that the future savior of mankind is a little prick who likes to boost ATMs and gets away with riding a crotch-rocket despite the fact that he’s ten years old. It stands to reason that not having a father around was part of the reason.
Literally, he got sent back to the past and died before he was born, so…he technically never existed in the first place, right? Right? Yeah, we have no idea, either. Add to that a mom more interested in teaching him how to blow stuff up than taking him to the park or telling him to go play doctor, and you got a recipe for disaster.
Good Mom: Speaking of disasters, roughly 99.9999999% of the population has no idea that a robot apocalypse is coming, except Sarah Connor. We say a little arrested development is worth not leaving the fate of mankind in Keanu Reeves’ hands.
Queen Alien (Aliens)
Bad Mom: The queen mother from Aliens is probably the reason you’re glad you’re not smart enough to be an astronaut, and therefore not privy to exotic space travel. She’s big, black, scary and lethal beyond imagination because she rips apart androids like gingerbread cookies and breeds like a gall wasp. Technically, she’s a bad mother because she spends more time reversing the order of nature, i.e. killing pretty much anything, than tending to her young.
Good Mom: Can’t really blame a mom for defending her offspring and being a little pissed off when somebody incinerates them, right? Because that’s exactly what Ripley did before she nuked the whole planet—killed all the Queen’s children. This is the same Ripley who—as revealed in a deleted scene—lost her own daughter while she was in hyper-sleep for 57 years, and should have some kind of sympathy for a mom looking out for her own, even if that mom is literally filled with acid.
Mrs. Robinson (The Graduate)
Bad Mom: Not only did Mrs. Robinson cheat on her husband, she did it with a guy half her age who happens to be the son of one of her friends. When that same guy happens to fall in love with her daughter, and vice-versa, her maternal instincts are called into question. Out of jealousy, she more or less forces her daughter to marry some other rich dude in spite of her true feelings.
Or maybe she just didn’t like the idea of how insanely awkward all future Christmas & Thanksgiving get-togethers would be. Either way.
Good Mom: Mrs. Robinson may very well have invented cougarism. Before her, middle-aged broads seducing guys half their age was tragically looked upon with scorn and intolerance. Somebody had to step up to the plate and make the world safe for other moms with no conceivable way to deal with a midlife crisis. On behalf of all twentysomething males, we salute you, Mrs. Robinson.
Bad Mom: Madonna almost tops the list of most pretentious, holier-than-thou pop stars, so there’s already a pretty healthy dislike working against her. As a mother, she didn’t exactly garner a ton of goodwill when she kept up with the trend of celebrities hoarding black babies from shitty African countries when she adopted two orphans from Malawi.
In a nationalistic sense, she touched a raw nerve among Malawians who didn’t take kindly to the idea of one of their own being airlifted to greener pastures. In a social sense, she touched a raw nerve with everybody else who doesn’t see parenthood as a pet project for the ultra-rich.
Good Mom: Before her adopted son David could even speak, he’d survived tuberculosis and malaria, and his mother and three siblings had died of HIV. For him, it was either take his chances in an overcrowded, dilapidated orphanage, or live with the wealthiest female singer in the world. So…yeah, talk to him when his trust fund matures, and see if he’s complaining.
Bad Mom: By all historical indication, the mother of Alexander the Great was the kind of mother little league coaches pray they never have to deal with – manipulative, overbearing and with a fetish for snake orgies and murder. She wanted Alexander to be king…badly. Some mothers would’ve been content with just making him do his homework, drink his milk, say his prayers and hope he’d make something of himself. Not Olympias.
She went the extra mile by allegedly having Alexander’s father assassinated, and (not so allegedly) making his second wife kill herself and having her two children killed, thereby freeing up the throne for her son. When Alexander did start wearing the crown, she constantly underminded his professional advisors and had him do pretty much whatever she wanted.
Good Mom: It’s worth questioning whether Alexander would’ve been as successful as he was had mommy dearest not been oedipally whispering into his ear all those years. Without mom telling him what to do, just maybe Alexander doesn’t stem the rising tide of the Persian Empire and allow Greek culture—the very seedbed of Western civilization, to flourish.