Monday, May 15, 2023

The Other Mother: The Main Reason this Kids’ Movie Terrifies People

Coraline (2009) is considered to be somewhere between a kids movie and a horror movie. I found it in my late 20s and became totally enamored with it. The stop motion animation sings with Coraline’s every facial expression. The writing, acting, camera work and editing all work together to create seamless, and compelling storytelling from beginning to end. You may not be a fan of stop motion or of horror movies, but I do recommend Coraline, because it challenges us to find meaning in reality as it is, instead of becoming lost in a dream-world of empty gratification.

Coraline is a young girl who moves with her parents from Michigan to Oregon. As she wanders around her apartment and the surrounding forest, she finds a strange cat, an awkward neighbor boy, an old well, and a tiny locked door, concealed behind wallpaper in the living room of their new apartment. In her boredom and frustration with her parents, she begs her mom to open the tiny door, but finds only a solid brick wall behind. But later, she follows an enchanted mouse back to the door in the middle of the night, and finds instead a tunnel to another world like her own, but somehow perfect. Everything there, including the neighbor boy and even her parents seem to live and breathe for her, and know and capable of giving her just what she wants.

But Coraline discovers this “other” world is too good to be true, and fights to save herself from the evil creature at the center of the Other world. Little hints along the way reveal the sinister intent behind all the perfect veneer on top of the Other Mother's world.

Coraline: “You’re my other mother."

Other Mother: "Your better mother, dear.”

The Other mother not only believes her version of reality is better, she presumes that she is the better mother.

Other Father: “So sharp, you won’t feel a thing."

The other Father lets slip the reality behind the other Mother’s evil intentions in a few key moments. This one happens when the Other Mother present Coraline with a gift box containing a needle, thread, and a pair of black buttons, ready to be sewn in place of her eyes, just like every other person in the Other World.

“He pulled a long face, and mother didn’t like it.”

  • the Other Father

When Coraline asks why the other Neighbor boy, Wybie, doesn’t speak, the Other father explains the Other Mother sewed his lips shut to both keep him silent, and freeze his lips in a grotesque smile.

“They say even the proudest spirit can be broken… with love.”

  • the Other Mother

Russ Harris talks about negative control strategies in his book, “The Happiness Trap.” These strategies are unhealthy methods we tend to believe can eliminate negative thoughts, for example, or force us to be happy. The Other Mother is not only a deceptive manipulator, but she tells Coraline the only way she can be happy is with her, in a world where Coraline does not need to worry about boredom, or parents that can never listen. or pay her enough attention. Coraline fights to escape the Other Mother’s web of traps to stay with her real parents, because it became clear the Other Mother’s offer was a hollow disguise for her desire to swallow Coraline up, as she had three children in the past.

By the end of the movie we have not only seen Coraline escape a horrifying kidnapping, but we have seen her grow from a moping kid to someone capable of quick thinking in life-threatening moments. Rather than accept the Other Mother's invitation to escape the real world, she accepts things as they are, and winds up finding joy in her new home.

She also becomes more responsible and considerate to her parents and neighbors. Her real world family and neighbors are all lovable oddballs who make strange companions for a young girl, but compared to an interdimensional, needle-spider woman capable of fabricating a life-sized replica of a child's dream-world, the oddballs' real-life warmth and authenticity are shockingly refreshing. The Other Mother's hideous transformation at the end reveals that there are much worse things than a boring, mundane life.

But do we still secretly wish for the greener grass? Would we be trapped by the Other Mother’s empty promises? The creepiness of “Coraline” is so powerful because most of us never grow out of at least a little part that wonders if we would take the chance escape to the other world.

Would you be strong enough to avoid getting button eyes sewn in?

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