UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mother feels best : mobilizing negative maternal affect as postfeminist critique in contemporary horror cinema Greer, Amanda


A small child is getting ready for school. His mother dresses him, pulling his jacket over his shoulders. He tries to hug her, emitting a satisfied sigh; she pushes him away. “Don’t do that!” she cries. This sequence occurs at the beginning of Jennifer Kent’s horror film, The Babadook (2014), a film that perfectly embodies contemporary horror’s capacity to critique postfeminist mothering through its use of affect and the Final Mom figure. Although the horror genre’s conventional representations of motherhood portray the institution as monstrous and abject, as in Carrie (1976) and The Brood (1979), a recent spate of horror films has demonstrated a more nuanced approach to mothering. Drawing from Carol Clover’s seminal Final Girl figure, this thesis locates a powerful and critically productive figure in these films: the Final Mom. This figure, though dissatisfied with mothering and domestic life, must defend her family against a threatening force, often with no help from others. These figures exist in a postfeminist world where New Momist parenting is expected and celebrated. This form of parenting demands that all mothers fulfill a contradiction: give yourself over completely to mothering (sacrificing one’s individual identity), while remaining sexually attractive and achieving success at work. This thesis explores how the horror genre’s new Final Mom figure critiques postfeminist mothering’s impossible expectations through mobilizing negative maternal affects. Employing a tripartite model of affect theory, in which affect is seen to travel between narratives, character bodies, and film form itself, this thesis argues that Final Mom horror films use negative maternal affects to critique and denaturalize postfeminist mothering structures. Irritation occupies a critical role in The Babadook, while envy will be discussed in relation to We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011). These under-discussed, unpleasant affects will provide in-depth cultural critiques of contemporary mothering’s unfulfillable expectations, proving their politically productive potentials. What’s more, unpleasant affects like irritation and envy are emphasized as natural components of mothering, rather than shameful. This thesis exposes the Final Mom’s potential to celebrate mothering’s “bad” feelings, to accept these affects as natural to all mothering experiences.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International