Not that this hasn't crossed my mind before, but our recent movie marathon really got me thinking. Have you ever really thought about all the kids movies that seem to have this underlying dysfunctional-family format that does not include a Mother? Just sit and think a moment about all the movies in which the Mom is dead or out of the picture or dies in the first 5 minutes of the movie... Bambi, Finding Nemo, Little Mermaid, Harry Potter, Astro Boy, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Chicken Little, Kung Fu Panda, Barnyard, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Dumbo just to name a few.
Now there are occasions when a mother figure is interjected after the apparent demise of the original loving mother... but that does not always work out well as in the case of Cinderella and Snow White for example. Occasionally you will see a picture of "Mom" on the wall or in a book or a dream or there may be a brief mention that alludes to the fact that the main character's current problem would have been alleviated or the blow somewhat softened or even avoided all together if only "Mom were here"... "she would know what to do...".
Sometimes mom makes a brief cameo appearance in the beginning of the film but then is absent as a result of a horrible illness, forest fire, or maybe she sacrificed herself to save her family and sometimes she is not mentioned at all. In any case Dad is left to carry on raising a small soul on his own. And in most cases Dad rises to the occasion (as distant or strict as he may be at times before that one defining moment when father and child unite) and in the end the child(ren) tend to end up pretty well and find themselves wed into the royal family, or star of the baseball team, or save the world and ultimately live happily ever after... just what every parent wants for their child. Kudos to Dad.
There are few films in which mom survives. The Incredibles, for instance, keeps both parents alive throughout the film. But I can remember watching it for the first time just waiting for them to off Elasti-Girl (AKA Mom) and then being surprised that she "made it". It just seems more common for the hero (or heroine) to loose one or both parents than it is for them to grow up in a "perfect" family. Maybe this makes the main character more relatable or "real" or builds compassion for his plight??? Perhaps the element of the missing parent is meant to punctuate the perseverance and ability to overcome great obstacles and succeed against all odds or just a poorly dealt hand in life???
But why the need for the single parent family? Is it too much work for the writers to spare Moms life? Did it take the death of the person closest to the hero to catapult them to a higher level of greatness? Really, how significant to the plot is the fact that the Mother is dead and gone? Could the hero of the story not succeed in a two parent household? And how do we find entertainment in the loss of others and subject our children to such themes at such an early age... death, sadness and loss are present in all these films. We laugh, we cry we by the action figures but do we ever really address these life issues with our children? Granted there is usually a good moral to the story and everything turns out fine in the end but the road the heros and heroines travel is dark and difficult and full of pot holes and we seem to conveniently glaze over that part. I was an adult before I realized just how gruesome fairytales really are and perhaps more true to life than we care to acknowledge. I for one hope that my children continue to blindly enjoy their movies and are also well into adulthood before they fully grasp the underlying evils of their favorite classics. Fairytale heros, it would appear, are not spared from difficult families, loss and death, evil and misfortune... but perhaps that is the real moral of the story... What doesn't kill you makes you stronger... and then (if you are lucky) you marry the prince and live happily ever after.
Sometimes I want to think of Mom as a raving bitch that just ran off in a fit of drunken rage or as just a horrible person instead of someone who selflessly gave up their life to save that of her child... that way at least I am glad to see her gone and I don't feel so sad for this poor beautiful motherless child who must endure years of pain before ultimately full filling their destiny. Even in fairytales life is never easy. Happily Ever After does not come without a price it would appear.