The last few decades have delivered some knock-out performances of narcissist mothers on screen, both film and television. From absurdly funny, to chillingly selfish, to arrogantly grandiose, to diabolically scheming, to viciously cruel, to terrifyingly violent, or a toxic mix of all of the above, you’ve got to hand it to the brilliant actors who bring their tragic villains to larger-than-life life on screen.
Whether drawing from personal experience or the warped world of Hollywood, these awesome “biches” have the narcissist mother down cold. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order.
Narcissist Mothers on Screen
In The Devil Wears Prada, it’s almost too fun to watch Meryl Streep play a grandiose, diabolically self-serving fashion magazine editor who is too busy for her own family and loves to torment her personal assistants.
Mad Men suburban mom Betty Draper, played by January Jones, is one cold cucumber who specializes in ignoring her kids. Here she takes aim at the neighbor’s pigeons.
Arrested Development‘s matriarch Lucille Bluth, played by TV veteran Jessica Walter, is hilarious as an alcoholic bitch extraordinaire who infantilizes her youngest son, shames her oldest son, and scapegoats her daughter.
Arrested Development is full of comically narcissistic characters, and like mother like daughter, Lucille Bluth’s scapegoated daughter Lindsay Bluth Fünke, played by Portia de Rossi, is so self-involved she barely remembers she has her own daughter.
Nancy Marchand, The Sopranos malevolent matriarch Livia Soprano, is impeccable in her portrayal of the passive-aggressive murderous mother of Tony. As a woman in a man’s world, she is denied her fitting role as mob boss and resorts to diabolical hijinks from the sidelines. Marchand’s untimely death nearly derailed the series, which was originally written to focus on Tony’s relationship with his narcissist mother.
Spoiler Alert: In Ordinary People, the 1980 Best Picture Oscar winner, Mary Tyler Moore leaves behind her image as America’s sweetheart with her chilling portrayal of Beth Jarrett, the upper crusty mother who cannot forgive her scapegoated younger son for surviving a tragic boating accident in which her golden child older son died. (Read my full article about Ordinary People‘s spot-on portrait of a narcissistic family.)
In Precious, based on the devastating novel Push by Sapphire, Mo’Nique plays teenaged Precious’s terrifyingly sadistic mother. Mo’Nique, who rightfully won an Academy Award for the role, as well as a standing ovation at the Oscars, managed to humanize her monster of a mother character with an almost pitiable view into her deranged rationale for the mental, physical, and sexual abuse she subjects her daughter to.
Spoiler Alert: In the 2008 Jonathan Demme film Rachel Getting Married, Anne Hathaway plays an emotionally unstable addict just out of rehab who makes everything about herself during her sister’s wedding weekend. But the real subterranean narcissist in the movie is the sisters’ mother, played deftly by Debra Winger.
Julie L. Hall’s articles on narcissism regularly appear in The Huffington Post and PsychCentral. She is the author of a forthcoming memoir about life, and a few near deaths, in a narcissistic family (read excerpts).
Related Articles by Julie L. Hall
- It’s You and Me Baby: Narcissist Head Games
- 7 Things a Narcissist Will Never Do
- The Narcissist as Human Parasite: Are You a Host?
- 4 Insidious Ways That Narcissistic Abuse Isolates the Victim
- Ready to End Your Dead-End Relationship with a Narcissist?
- Behind the Narcissist Mask: The Bully, Coward, Liar and Fraud
- How to Protect Your Child from Your Narcissist Spouse
- When the Narcissist Is Nice: What It May or May Not Mean and How to Handle It
- Five Things You Did Not Know About Narcissists
- The Challenge of Setting Boundaries with Narcissist Parents
- Understanding Narcissistic Rage and Why It Is Not Your Fault
- Adult Children of Narcissists Face Trauma-Induced Health Risks
- Why You Should Not Feel Sorry for the Narcissist
- Seven Sure Ways to Spot a Narcissist
- Narcissist Crimes and Misdemeanors: Real-Life Examples
- The Strength of the Scapegoat in the Narcissist Family
- What Raging Narcissists Break: A Damage List
- Remembering Mary Tyler Moore as the Chilling Narcissist Mother in ‘Ordinary People’
- More Horrid and Shocking Things Narcissists Say and Do
- The Dos and Don’ts of CoParenting with a Narcissist
- What the Narcissist Fears Most
- The Question of Forgiveness for My Narcissist Father
- Narcissists Are Hurt Machines to Their Children
- The Narcissist Family: Its Cast of Characters and Glossary of Terms
- Horrid and Shocking Things Narcissists Say and Do
- The ‘Overt’ Versus ‘Covert’ Narcissist: Both Suck
- On Being a Narcissist Magnet and Developing a Fine-Tuned ‘Nar-dar’
- The Dangerous Nihilism of President Narcissist and His ‘PostTruth’ America
- Caretaking My Narcissistic Mother Through Cancer
- Child of Narcissists Goes from ‘Death Dealer’ to Healer
- A Golden Child’s Story of Guilt in the Narcissistic Family
- The Terrible Dilemma of the Golden Child in the Narcissistic Family
- Raised by Narcissists? Why You Can’t Afford the Wrong Therapist
- Tolstoy Was Wrong: Narcissistic Unhappy Families Are Kind of All Alike
- Why I Hate the Word ‘Narcissist’
- A Daughter’s Story of One Hell of a Narcissist Mother