Lifetime Movie A Mother’s Nightmare Shows That Even When Women Look Like Villains, They’re Still Victims

Lifetime is never short on female victims. Whether they’re being victimized by men, society, men, the legal system, men, the internet, or men, they’re always victims. In Lifetime‘s latest Saturday night movie, A Mother’s Nightmare, the culprit is mental illness. And some daddy issues, too. Obviously.

The title mother (Annabeth Gish) is a woman who has recently separated from her alcoholic husband (because of course she has) and is raising a depressed teenage son. The title nightmare is what ensues when said son starts dating a new student at school, an insane, manipulative girl who’s responsible for the deaths of at least two previous boyfriends.

The son, Chris (Grant Gustin, whom you might recognize as Sebastian, the mean Warbler, on Glee), does whatever his new girlfriend Vanessa (90210‘s Jessica Lowndes) says, from missing track practice to getting drunk with her in the back of the pet shop where she works (and where she is inexplicably allowed to hang out alone after hours) to ultimately cutting himself.

Vanessa also manages to falsely accuse Chris of rape, convince him that the rape actually happened, and still lure him into her arms for a deadly picnic. There’s also a blood bond and some creepy singing thrown in. Isn’t it romantic?

Thank goodness for Chris’s mom. Where would the world be without Lifetime moms? They’re always there to clean up their kids’ messes and save them from danger that they’ve brought upon themselves. Chris says it best when he tells his mom,  “I’m a jerk. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” His mom ends up rescuing him from bleeding to death, so apparently without her that’s what he’d do.

You might think that Chris and his mom are the only victims in this movie. But you’d be wrong, because it’s impossible for Lifetime to depict a woman who is not a victim (see above description of Chris’s mom). So of course it turns out that Vanessa isn’t just a psychopath who ruins her boyfriends’ lives for no reason. She’s also an orphan who’s been passed from foster home to foster home. Her father abandoned her and her mother, and she found her mom dead from suicide when she was a little girl. Her mother also happened to suffer from mental illness, which she passed on to Vanessa.

Granted, this film was “inspired by true events,” so those could just be the facts, and Lifetime is presenting them exactly as they happened. You know, like they always do. However, did Fatal Honeymoon portray Gabe Watson as a victim of mental illness or give him any complexity whatsoever? Did A Killer Among Us portray the conniving father as anything other than a heartless murderer? Of course not. Those characters were men.

As Lifetime has taught us for years, male villains are just bad guys with no back-story or reason for doing the bad things they do. But female villains have obviously been forced to do crazy, violent things by their horrible pasts. Even Virtual Lies, which features another crazy woman terrorizing people, implies that the woman could have changed if she’d gotten effective help for her anger management issues.

It’s okay to portray antagonists as complex characters. Truman Capote did it in In Cold Blood, and countless movies have made the bad guys sympathetic or entertaining. However, Lifetime has a track record for turning men into one-dimensional villains and women into victims, whether they’re good or bad.

I by no means have seen every Lifetime movie, so if anyone knows of an example which contradicts this idea, please let me know. Still, in my viewing of Lifetime over the past few years, this seems to be the trend, and it has become not only predictable but quite hypocritical.

In closing, I think I’ve found the new Lifetime slogan in this movie. I know I’ve found one in practically every movie I’ve reviewed, but this one is really good. When asked why she’s forbidden from engaging in relations with the opposite sex, Vanessa responds, “I forget to do my homework when I have a boyfriend.” Just imagine it: “Lifetime. Because you forget to do your homework when you have a boyfriend.” Too long?

(Photo: Mishule)

You can reach this post's author, Jill O’Rourke, on twitter.
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    • Mia

      Obviously you don’t feel the same way, but when my friend and I watched this, we didn’t feel any pity for the girl. She didn’t come across as a victim, the boy and his mother did. Maybe don’t worry about creating social problems when there aren’t any?

      • Bridget

        Yep, cause if you don’t see a social problem, there isn’t one. Queen Mia has spoken, men, you don’t get to be offended at being consistently treated as one dimensional monsters where female villains are given back stories and complex emotions (the back story was clearly there, whether it makes you feel bad for the character or not). Let’s try imagining that it’s women who are always painted as soulless monsters or brainless victims, while men get to be the emotionally deep, tragically heroic protagonists, or villains with rich, sad back stories intended to make you feel sorry for them even as they do hideous things to your daughter (who’s too stupid to stand up for herself or even realize she’s being victimized, so she needs the ever wise, strong, brave daddy to save her). Is it a social problem now?

      • sam

        let me play you the worlds smallest violin :’(

      • niceguy

        lol that’s exactly what i just said to this girl that was crying to me about getting raped

      • ChiChi

        Uh, that’s really rude.

      • Paul

        Fantastic post that shows real understanding of the dynamics so prevalent today. What a shame about that stupid “violin” comment. I love it when good women can see the sexism that exists against men and articulately speak out against it. I loved your comparisons which highlighted the sexism so well.

      • Bob613

        Hey I make fun of Lifetime as well. I call it the Man-Hate network (I know, very creative – thank you). My wife watches the horrible made-for-tv movies from time to time. She is well aware of what she’s going to see when she opts to spend an evening in front of a new Lifetime original. Still, it’s cheap entertainment and she enjoys them so I have no problem with it. it’s one channel out of hundreds where the focus is on women.

        On the flip side, until recently with the advent of things like Harry Potter and the Twilight saga (I’ve never seen the latter, just making an assumption), action flicks usually revolved entirely around the male protagonist. Sometimes even the main character in these male machismo flicks lack substance, but he is always much more important to the story line than any of the (eye candy) women. How many movies out there have an alpha male running around saving the world while every woman who passes by swoons (or pretends to hate, and then swoons) over the aforementioned cowboy?

        My solution (works great since we have more than one TV): 1) I continue to watch “male-saves-the-day-and-bangs-hot-chick” movies because I’m a guy and that’s what most of us like (excluding men who ware skinny jeans). 2) Don’t complain when wife watches Lifetime, because that’s the only equivalent available to women.

    • Chris Balducci

      You could also tell this girl was bad news because of the icky sea green nail polish she was wearing!

    • Lisa

      where can I watch this??

      • Grandma

        Victim, Schmictim! The girl was a physco and please don’t tell me she didn’t know what she was doing. Get my violin!

    • Lisa

      Can someone please tell me where I can watch this please!?


    • malpaso

      Dude…it’s like watching BET…you’re not the target audience. Move on with your life.

    • Neisha Shanelle Roulette

      What was the words of the song she was singing when they were doing the blood bond scene ?

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    • Anon

      You are definitely overthinking this.

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