Has there ever been a movie so rooted in gay culture than Mommie Dearest? Depicting the private life of movie legend Joan Crawford, through the eyes of her daughter, the campy movie has gained a cult following as a movie every gay man must experience.
Adapted from the autobiography of Christina Crawford, Mommie Dearest recounts the alleged child abuse she received from her adoptive mother, Hollywood legend Joan Crawford. The actress was a gay icon long before the movie, as the lgbt viewers sympathised with her struggles, as week as her intense megalomania.
The story presented the abuse through snapshots of Christina’s life from childhood into adolescence and then adulthood, highlighting the strained relationship between mother and daughter due to the effects of her failed relationships, career and insecurities.
From the opening scenes the movie is already iconic. Waking up at 4:00am to carry out an elaborate, OCD-like morning beauty ritual, before shauntaying into her boutique closet. You already grasp a feeling of old Hollywood as she memorises her lines before showing up at MGM before dawn.
The psychological abuse inflicted upon Christina is in parts horrifying, yet strangely hilarious. While family abuse is by no means a laughing matter, the extent to how Joan implemented the torture leads to kitschy humour. Lopping off her daughters hair, forcing her to give away mountains of gifts on her birthday, striking her with cleaning cans when she believes her room is dirty all make for theatrical hilarities.
While she has been named one of the greatest on screen villains of all time, the character, while unobjectively skewed as a malefactor is never entirely evil. There are reasonings behind her eccentric behaviour and uncontrollable outbursts that gain, no matter how fleeting, a sense of pity for the woman.
We have to talk about Faye Dunaway, poor, poor Faye Dunaway. She truly believed this role would be the making of her. Portraying such an established figure, with grand, note-worthy scenes she thought she was in for the running for an Oscar, or at the very least a Globe. Following the harshly negative criticism, Dunaway retreated entirely, refusing to speak on the film throughout the following of her career.
The movie is instantly quotable “Don’t fuck with me fellas. This ain’t my first time at the rodeo”, “Tina, bring me the axe!”, and “I’d rather you go bald to school than looking like a tramp” are all classics but one, more than any other, is synonymous with this movie. “No wire hangers…EVER!” The scene is now infamous in gay culture, the entire five minute rant sums up the entire tone of the movie and the impact onto its audience.
You’ll be amiss to find a drag queen who has not included the wire-hanger scene in their set at least once, or a gay bar that hasn’t aired a taping of the movie to audiences screaming “Choke her! Get her!”. The establishment as a cult gay film comes mostly from the elaborate gestures, Golden Age hollywood establishment and of course, the so bad its good campuses that dawns in many of the communities faves.
Our Verdict Is: If you want to gain your official gay badges, you have to sit through this one. While on the whole the movie reads as bad soap opera material, there are iconic moments to be sure. Just keep your unintentionally hilarious hat on through the viewing. For camposity we give it three out of five wire hangers.