YMMV / Mommie Dearest

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Was Christina actually abused? Or was she just a bitter young woman trying to make money off her dead mother? Some in Hollywood think that the answer is somewhere in the middle. On one hand, Joan was widely known for having a temper that the public rarely saw due to her being self-aware of how it would hurt her career. On the other hand, Joan cutting her daughter out of her will pushed her over the edge towards writing the book and amplifying the severity of the abuse to epic levels.
      • Several of Joan Crawford's friends, such as Myrna Loy, and biographers, such as Donald Spoto, David Bret and Charlotte Chandler, have argued that Joan's strictness toward her children was grossly overblown by Christina, who had real discipline issues throughout her childhood and adolescence and a poor relationship with her mother thereafter (as did her brother Christopher; the twins had a much better relationship with Joan), and who wrote the book as a Take That! out of resentment, justified or not. (The sources who argue in favor of this interpretation often acknowledge that Joan had personality issues that made her not particularly well-suited to be a mother, despite her intense desire for children.) They also point out that although Joan was, by all accounts, a stern disciplinarian with her children, this was in keeping with the standards of the era, which placed a premium on discipline, filial respect and similar values. Other friends of Joan Crawford and Christina including Helen Hayes, June Allyson, Rex Reed, James McArthur, Betty Hutton, Eve Arden and Lana Turner's daughter Cheryl Crane (who attended the same school as Christina at some point) have come forward to say they did witness some abuse. As usual in these matters, the truth likely lies somewhere in between the two poles, and even her sympathizers agree that Joan did occasionally take very harsh actions in dealing with her children's misbehavior; for instance, Bret confirms that Joan did once cut Christina's curls off when she caught the girl impersonating her in front of her dressing-room mirror.
    • Joan also counts: Was she an abusive bitch? Or was Joan just mentally disturbed/in desperate need of anti-psychotic medication?
      • John Waters opines that, besides being a prime candidate for medication for her various mental disorders, Joan suffered greatly from the sudden rise from poverty to super-stardom, causing her to project all of her issues with being poor into her obsessive cleaning and going postal on Christina when she used poor people clothing hangers or got into Joan's ultra-expensive make-up.
      • The camp that argues that Christina's account was either greatly exaggerated or outright fabricated admits that Joan did place an overemphasis on discipline with Christina and Christopher, though she corrected this when raising the twins, and agree that she had issues with having grown up poor and in a dysfunctional family environment.
    • For one example, Joan really did strap Christopher down to his bed to prevent him from masturbating. On the one hand, that's incredibly abusive by moderns standards. On the other hand, this was at a time when masturbation was still widely seen as perverted and even physically and psychologically dangerous.
  • Audience-Alienating Premise: In the opinion of Roger Ebert: "In scene after scene, we are invited to watch as Joan Crawford screams at Christina, chops her hair with scissors, beats her with a wire coat hanger and, on an especially bad day, tackles her across an end table, hurls her to the carpet, bangs her head against the floor, and tries to choke her to death. Who wants to watch this?"
  • Critical Dissonance: The film made a lot of money, despite critics slamming it for being campy.
    • Deconstructed in that the studio realized that the film was getting positive reaction for all of the wrong reasons, and they changed the format of marketing trying to capitalize on it.
  • Cult Classic
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Everything that involves Joan abusing Christina from start to finish. Also see Audience-Alienating Premise above.
  • Memetic Mutation: Three words: "NO WIRE HANGERS!"
  • Narm: A lot, but especially the infamous wire hanger scene.
  • Nightmare Fuel: While Faye Dunaway's hammy performance earns some unintentional laughs, it can be pretty terrifying when it needs to (AFI even included Dunaway as Crawford on a list of the best movie villains).
  • So Bad, It's Good: The movie version.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously:
    • Faye Dunaway genuinely believed she would win an Oscar for her portrayal of Crawford, only to get humiliated for her performance following its release. She later said that she was horrified and ashamed of the end result, often saying that the director just didn't care to tone down her performance.
    • John Waters did this with his DVD Commentary. He opens effectively telling listeners that he's going to approach the film as the serious bio-film that it was supposed to be. He also condemns the attempt to turn it into a cult classic by the studio by way of retooled marketing, pointing out how forced it was trying to do it without letting it naturally occur.
    • The Cinema Snob also gave a positive review of the movie, going so far as to break character to praise Dunaway's performance and slam the Razzies for "awarding" the film Worst Picture of that year. He also raises some really good points about pop culture's perception of scenes of movies without the overall context (namely, the fact that the infamous "wire hangers" scene is followed by Joan beating up Christina with said wire hanger).
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Goes both ways. Many of those close to Crawford claim that the abuse described in the book is anything from severe exaggeration to complete fabrication. Still others claims that the book actually tones down the abuse and that in reality, Joan was much, much more volatile and disturbed.
  • Values Dissonance: Spanking children was not unheard of in Joan's generation. Related to the Alternate Character Interpretation at the top of the page however, it's up to the reader/viewer how much or how little that excuses her behavior toward her children. In particular she would tie her son to the bed with his arms at his sides to make sure he wouldn't masturbate (even when he was a lot younger than a lot of boys who would start that behavior), which took place at a time when masturbation was seen as medically and psychologically dangerous. Naturally, such a step would never be tolerated today.
  • Vindicated by History: Has been getting this reputation in some circles lately, with audiences feeling that it's not as bad as everyone says it is. In his review, The Cinema Snob not only gave it a glowing, non-ironic review, going as far as to praise the infamous "No wire hangers!" scene for such a raw performance, but furiously blamed its bad reputation on negative word-of-mouth more than the quality of the movie itself.
    Snob: Personally, in my book, [removes his glasses] Faye Dunaway gives the single greatest movie performance of all time!note 
  • The Woobie: Christina and Christopher.