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Feminist Encounters: A Journal of Critical Studies in Culture and Politics

Mothering by the Book: Horror and Maternal Ambivalence in /The Babadook/ (2014)

by Amanda Konkle (2019)

- THE BABADOOK (AU/CA 2014, Jennifer Kent, 1969-).

Abstract:
Attachment parenting strategies underscore the breakdown of the distinction between child and mother, producing an abject horror that is literalised in The Babadook (2014). In this film, a menacing character from a (parenting) book comes to life, and the Babadook threatens the widowed mother, Amelia (Essie Davis) with the darkest part of herself—her desire occasionally to be free from her child’s demands. This article reads The Babadook through neoliberal ideologies of intensive parenting and feminist theories about maternal ambivalence and abjection to ultimately argue that the real monster in the film is the pressure to be the perfect mom that comes from the ideologies of intensive mothering. Amelia eventually expels the Babadook from her body in a pool of black vomit, also expelling her abject reaction to motherhood. However, the Babadook is not entirely defeated—instead, Amelia goes to the basement, alone, daily, to feed it. In the basement, she remembers her desire to exist independently of her child, a desire that the film codes as monstrous.

Keywords:
film, maternal ambivalence, attachment parenting, horror, abject.

(Georgia Southern University, Armstrong Campus, Savannah, GA, USA)

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Konkle, Amanda
Mothering by the Book: Horror and Maternal Ambivalence in /The Babadook/ (2014).
In: Feminist Encounters: A Journal of Critical Studies in Culture and Politics 3,1-2 (Sep 2019), Article 04;
https://doi.org/10.20897/femenc/5910
[Open Access]