Episode 68. House Proud: Mother! (2017)

Andrea and Alex break down the foundational elements of Darren Aronofsky’s divisive mother! From authorship to ecofeminism to sink instillation, few stones are left unturned or unexamined.


mother! Dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2017.


What is Ecofeminism? An overview of the term that rose to prominence in the 1970s.


The Death of the Author by Roland Barthes. Barthes’ influential piece on the declining importance of God-like authorship.


The Directors Cut Podcast, episode 90. Aronofsky interviewed by William Friedkin about mother!


IndieWire Filmmaker Toolkit podcast, episode 47. Aronofsky on the process and ideology behind mother! 


“The Yellow Wall-Paper.” Charlotte Perkins Stetson’s scandalous novella from 1892.


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15 thoughts on “Episode 68. House Proud: Mother! (2017)

  1. L. Hazelton says:

    I had hoped to hear more about why this is a horror movie. I just can’t see it as such.

  2. Unable to finish this episode says:

    I had a lot of issues with your continued usage of Judeo-Christian when discussing the movie as you never actually viewed this movie through anything but a Christian lens. Judaism and Christianity have fundamental differences that go beyond Jesus and this term does more to erase and remove Judaism then be inclusive.

    • Having studied the Abrahamic religions as a candidate for the priesthood, I felt the faculty very accurately hit the mythological high points represented in the film. Judaism and Christianity can, mythologically, co-exist. Without Judaism, the theology of of Christianity is barely “legs on a snake.” But, once one studies Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Latin, the legs whither and die. Look to the allegories for wisdom.

  3. Sean Kelly says:

    As someone raised Catholic, who still makes an effort to keep practicing, the religious themes in Mother! didn’t bother me in the ways films like THE DEVILS did (I do not kid that literally knelt down and prayed after coming home from a Lightbox screening of that film).

  4. NYC Kristen says:

    Great podcast! I really loved this movie. As a former Catholic it really hit the nail on the head about all of the things that bothered me about the religion, especially the fact that this God is such a narcissist. Also, the song at the end was perfect. I didn’t see a credit for it and was wondering what the song was. Thanks for another great show!

    • Andrea says:

      Thanks for listening, Kristen! The song is “Heart of the House” by Alanis Morissette, off of 1998’s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie.

  5. I felt greatly distressed watching “Mother!” and will need a re-watch but here are some initial feelings/thoughts. I wonder if Aronofsky was aiming to actualize a sort of “Finnegans Wake” with the film medium. Is he drawing on multiple mythologies beyond the Abrahamic?

    I totally agree with the Abrahamic allegories you both have walked us through – totally there. One thing keeps bugging me: the cycle of eternal recurrence is very not Christian or Hebrew. One of the great horror themes in Christianity is its eschatology. No “Mulligans” or “do-overs!”

    The idea of recurrence is much more Eastern. So Vishnu (who is the formless “Brahman”) dreams worlds. In those myths, his feminine consort, Laksmi, massages his feet activating him and she is also the lotus that emerges from his naval when he is activated, upon which worlds emerge and retreat (again the feminine associated with nature). Laksmi is the embodiment of Vishnu’s creative energy.

    I think of all Mother’s work on the house as that feminine, activating principle (as well as caregiving hostess). Equally, the feminine as muse is the feminine as activating the male like Mother activates Him.

    Anyway, these are my initial wonders about whether the film is making points on multiple levels from multiple mythologies. Will re-watch and see what else emerges in me. (or from me; a lotus maybe?)

  6. Glen Hickerson says:

    This is a quite minor comment: The link to the article on the death of the author is just a duplicate link to the one for Eco-feminism. Love the show! [And, yes, I do do the required readings 🙂 ]

  7. Okay! Watched it 4 times and am convinced that this is more “Finnegans Wake” than Abrahamic religions. Mother is “Anna Livia Plurabell” the feminine archetype represented by the River Liffey that flows through Dublin and (of course) supplies the fluid for the Jameson whiskey (waters of life) and the fluid material for the narrative of the house.

    Michele Pfeifer’s character is a sort of pub keeper (Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker – HCE or “Here come Everybody”). She is like the portal through which the brothers and the mourners all pour through in the dream logic of “Mother!’s” nightmare. I will stop here as I know long posts can be annoying but my main experience watching this multiple times is that it is more Joyce than Judeo-Christian mythology. Of course, there are common threads across the world’s mythologies so maybe that is what my brain got snagged on.

    I have seen lots of other connections to Joyce in the film but just wanted to follow up on my original post and see if anyone else could connect to it. Don’t feel bad if you don’t – perhaps I am over-feeling it but I don’t think so. 🙂 Here comes everybody!!

  8. Eric+Rae says:

    Thank you for this very vulnerable and honest episode.

  9. FictionIsntReal says:

    I first heard that The Giving Tree was a metaphor for motherhood from the script of the stage-play version of Cory Finley’s Thoroughbreds (then just titled “Thoroughbred”). I’m glad the references to it were taken out of that film, because it gives the ending an overt explanation that was really unnecessary.

    As Matt Yglesias could tell you, the obstacle is not that politicians are “in the pocket of oil companies” but instead that drastic changes in policy are unpopular with voters. Economists across the political spectrum have endorsed carbon taxes. Even prominent people from the fossil fuel industry have done so… in the full expectation that raising gas prices is so unpopular a proposal that it has basically no chance of getting adopted.

    A “Manic Pixie Dreamgirl” doesn’t lack agency. Her agency is just badly written.

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