Saturday, January 21, 2012
"Mommie Dearest" 1981
I have read this book and seen the movie.
In my opinion Joan Crawford was not an abusive parent. I'll give you a minute and then explain myself.
The real Joan and Christina Crawford
Joan Crawford had tried for years to have children, suffering from multiple miscarriages. At the age of 34 she decided to adopt. In 1939 she basically bought her daughter as no one would approve an adoption of a divorced woman.
Growing up with Joan and later her siblings, in the forties and fifties, Christina Crawford was raised in a fairly traditional household. Joan was what we would now call obsessive/compulsive and probably a germophobe. She liked a clean house and would even scrub floors herself to ensure they were clean.
She preferred showers to baths as she didn't like soaking in her own filth. I feel the same way about baths.
But lets look at some of the ways she was an "abusive" parent.
She made her children finish their dinner. I think most children of a certain age have gone through this. Joan was stubborn, but so was Christina. They played a game of chicken over a piece of steak.
Fans from around the world send the children gifts. Joan has a rule that they can keep two gifts and the rest go to charity. What a horrible mother to not let her keep hundreds of presents!! How dare she teach her children to be grateful for what they have and share with those that don't!!
She goes to her children's room to check on them in the night. There are clothes on the floor. She is tired, the kids didn't pick up after themselves. She gets a little worked up.
Joan Crawford: No... wire... hangers. What's wire hangers doing in this closet when I told you: no wire hangers EVER? I work and work 'till I'm half-dead, and I hear people saying, "She's getting old." And what do I get? A daughter... who cares as much about the beautiful dresses I give her... as she cares about me. What's wire hangers doing in this closet? Answer me. I buy you beautiful dresses, and you treat them like they were some dishrag. You do. Three hundred dollar dress on a wire hanger. We'll see how many you've got if they're hidden somewhere. We'll see... we'll see. Get out of that bed. All of this is coming out. Out. Out. Out. Out. Out. Out. You've got any more? We're gonna see how many wire hangers you've got in your closet. Wire hangers, why? Why? Christina, get out of that bed. Get out of that bed. You live in the most beautiful house in Brentwood and you don't care if your clothes are stretched out from wire hangers. And your room looks like some two-dollar-a-week furnished room in some two-bit back street town in Oklahoma. Get up. Get up. Clean up this mess.
She made her children part of the publicity. In those days the studios owned their stars and controlled every aspect of their lives. It was in their contracts. Brad and Angelina sold pictures of their babies. No one accused them of abuse.
She exercised with her child and didn't let her win in a race.
She smacked her child who was screaming at here while she was trying to work. Not great parenting, but most parents have felt like doing it. In those days capitol punishment was not unusual.
Then she pulled her daughter out of school when she was caught alone with a boy and put her in a convent. I don't have a daughter, but understand the instinct.
And finally, she didn't leave her kids any money. Who says parents owe their children anything. By all accounts, Joan was trying to teach her children to be responsible people. And what does that kid do. Write a tell all book.
One scene from the book that wasn't in the movie is where Christina is grounded. She is in her room and starts picking at the wallpaper, eventually peeling off giant chunks of it. Then she tried to paste if back on. Joan came in to find this.
Here is a woman that lived above her means. She struggled to get parts so she'd get paid. When a child does something so destructive, who wouldn't be a little upset.
I don't think Joan was a great mother, but abusive? I don't think so.