Last updated on December 13th, 2023 at 05:02 pm
When I was growing up, my parents handed my brother a dollar each weekend as they dropped us off in front of the Four-Star movie theater. We watched the double bill twice and walked home to an empty flat in the dark.
That was our normal.
I could have grown up to hate the movies, hate theaters, hate the sight of Milk Duds or the smell of popcorn, but I love everything about the movies.
We have a tradition of going to the movies on Christmas Day with friends. On New Year’s Eve, my Mister and I went to the movies again to see The Fighter, Mark Wahlberg’s tour de force on boxing and family. The film tells the story of welterweight champ Micky Ward’s hardscrabble life growing up in Lowell, Mass, the youngest son in a family of nine.
Not only did he grow up in the shadow of his older brother, boxer Dickie Eklund (played by actor Christian Bale), whose main claim to fame was one fight with Sugar Ray Robinson, who either fell or slipped during the fight. As his boxing career ended, Eklund experienced a long decline in crack addiction. Add to that family dynamic, seven–count’em–seven sisters that fly around the film like a cloud of foul-mouthed harpies.
And then there is Ward’s toxic mom and manager, Alice.
Not since Mommy Dearest has a movie mother given me such a fright. She keeps all her adult children close, especially most of her adult daughters, who never left the house where they grew up. She is so amazingly selfish and manipulative that even when a mismatch threatens her son’s career, she wheedles him into the ring because if he doesn’t fight, “nobody gets paid,” meaning she doesn’t get paid.
For Alice, it’s about control, money, and being the mother of a famous boxer. Of course, the older son, who has drug problems, gets the lion’s share of her attention. Though in his thirties, the younger, more thoughtful son is treated like a child and told what to do.
What was most excruciating to watch was Micky Ward’s slow realization that just maybe his mother and his family are toxic. When he gets an offer to train year-round and get paid for that time, the family is flabbergasted that he’d even entertain the notion. This film does a great job of stretching out the painful process Ward goes through when he suspects he could do better making his own decisions.
When he falls in love with a rational, reasonable girl, he finally sees his toxic family through her eyes.
It’s hard to watch another human being see that their family is fueled by selfishness, ruthlessness, greed, and a twisted need to control past the point of mutual benefit. It reminded me how those of us who grow up with toxic mothers reach that point when we realize if we want to pursue our dreams, we’ll probably have to fight our own mothers first.
Sometimes, it’s just a verbal fight when we declare our independence and lay out our boundaries with them.
Other times, it’s a fight to get out and pursue our dreams. When we stake our claim on our dreams, there’s that rough period when we fear our toxic mothers can ruin everything for us. But what we daughters of toxic mothers know is that bracing for the fight is usually enough to make a manipulative mother chicken out.
Sometimes, toxic mothers make us fight for our dreams, and the older I get, the better I understand that it’s not really a bad thing. Well, maybe bad for them. Good for us.
Rayne Wolfe is a versatile and accomplished writer, author, writing coach, and freelancer. Her notable work includes ‘Toxic Mom Toolkit,’ a memoir that not only shares her personal journey but also features mini-stories from women around the globe who, despite facing the challenges of a toxic mother, have grown into resilient adults. As a seasoned journalist, Rayne has served as a former business columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle/Examiner Sunday and the Seattle Times, showcasing her ability to distill complex topics into engaging narratives that resonate with diverse audiences.
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