Please welcome guest Laurie Hollman, PhD, back to my blog. Here she critiques the movie Joy from a maternal perspective. Enjoy!
A Maternal Critique of the Film “Joy”
Joy is the story of the title character, a divorced mother of three children, who rose to become founder and matriarch of a powerful family business. She invented The Miracle Mop and became a success at pursuing her own patent and supporting her large family. The film is a semi-fictional and inspirational portrayal of how Joy overcomes personal and professional challenges to reach the top as a businesswoman.
In the story, only her grandmother and best friend encourage her to pursue her inventions supporting her ambitions to become a strong, successful woman. The film closes with her identifying and helping a young mother develop a new invention. Dressed in a beautiful suit, Joy comments to the youthful woman sitting across Joy’s large desk that she knows how it feels to sit in that seat.
Missing is the Impact on Her Children
Missing from this powerful drama is the impact Joy has on her children, particularly one young little girl whose face is often seen in consternation and potential insecurity, as well as potential feelings for the moments of success of her mother that are acclaimed grandly by those who surround her. Although not at all the intent of the film, this aspect of the emotional drama seems to be forgotten as a deeply important component of Joy’s many ups and downs and ultimately, successful journey. If the film had focused on at least one child whose silent face is seen most prominently in the film, mothers everywhere could reflect upon the impact of their working lives on their children.
What was this child feeling as she grew and watched her passionate hard-driven mother negotiate with people outside her family’s world? Did she feel inspired by her mother, or lost and alone in her mother’s tempest? How complex her emotions must have been.
As single, working mothers strive to make their mark on the world, it behooves us to take into account that they are being watched intently by their children as they grow up in sometimes very heated environments. While emotionally moving and powerfully engaging, the different family members in the film who support and dismiss Joy’s invention must have weighed heavily on the children. How did they understand success and failure? How did they weather their mother’s deep frustrations and disappointments? Where did they fit in? Never was there a deep emotional exchange between this mother and at least this one daughter whose facial expressions responded to the cascades of her mother’s strivings as they impacted this child growing up.
Successful Mothers in the Workforce
In my series for Huffington Post about successful mothers in the workforce, the consensus was that mothering was still their most important job. Nowhere does that come across directly in this film. It is so inspirational to watch Joy create her invention, market it, deal with myriad legalities, and financial crises.
Given that a film can’t do everything, it still feels disturbing that the mother-daughter relationship isn’t prized sufficiently.
The children become one dimensional which is a serious flaw in the film for the mothers who seek to learn from Joy’s voyage.
Laurie Hollman, is a psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior. She has authored an acclaimed series on the Huffington Post entitled “Motherhood and Career.” We welcome your comments below!
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