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A Mother's Day pick of monstrous matriarchs

By Frances Burscough

This weekend is all about celebrating mothers, but just out of badness, I've decided to select the very worst examples of motherhood from contemporary culture (the telly, basically) and to celebrate them instead. So here's my Mothering Sunday countdown of the most monstrous matriarchs of modern times.

The Killing. Whether you watched the Danish or American version and seasons 1,2 and 3, there was one thing in common throughout and that was that the lead character of Sarah Lund is, was and always will be a great detective but a terrible mum. That poor boy, Mark, was forever being shunted from pillar to post; palmed off on friends called on to babysit at short notice while she pursued each case with vigour whilst barely caring two hoots for her only child. It's no wonder he accused her of "preferring the dead to the living".

The Disappearance. This was a French drama series about a teenage girl, Léa Morel, who goes missing on a birthday night out. Léa is seen getting excited about her 17th birthday celebrations, which kick off with a whole gang of friends going to a gig and then on to a city centre nightclub. Her laid-back mum Florence Morel makes only one stipulation: "Be home by 3am and no later!" So off she goes and during the course of the night she separates from her friends and her fate as a murder victim is sealed. A secret boyfriend is uncovered. Drugs and money are found hidden in her bedroom. In fact a secret life begins to emerge. They can't understand it! Zut alors! Comment est-ce que s'est passé?! Err... maybe if you weren't so laid-back about your child's welfare?

Mad Men's Betty Draper has got to be up there as one of the most negligent moms of all time. Mind you, both her kids are complete brats, but nevertheless... I'm specifically thinking of the scene where six-year-old Sally is running about with a polythene dry cleaning bag over her head and Betty yells: "My clothes better not be on the floor!" Classic Betty. Bless.

Fargo Season One. There have been some amazing, strong women in the first two seasons of Fargo, but Gina Hess, the (not very) grieving widow of murder victim Sam Hess wasn't one of them. She flirted with insurance salesman Lester Nygaard on the living room sofa whilst her two sons beat each other up outside the window. She affectionately said about her sons: "I've taken s**** I want to live with more than them". Charmed, I'm sure.

Most of the mums in Game of Thrones leave a lot to be desired, but Cersei Lannister-Baratheon would have to take the prize as the mother of all bad mothers. Not only were her children the product of incest, but she seems to view her role as conspiring, cajoling and even killing to keep the family together. No wonder they all go off the rails and end up almost as messed up as she is.

The same could also be said about Gemma Teller-Morrow, the fearless biker chick and head honcha in Sons of Anarchy. She too thinks nothing of ordering beatings, torture and even killings in her battle to keep her sons out of prison.

Livia Soprano, if you remember, was Tony's Soprano's crabby old mum who went to live in a 'retirement community' during the first three series and never forgave him for abandoning her, which is one of the many reasons she tried to have him killed. Meanwhile, after a lifetime of being cruelly berated by her, Tony (James Gandolfini) also fantasised about having her whacked. Such a bond between a mother and a son!

But for me, the award for the very worst mother of modern telly has to go to Carrie Mathison. Previously on Homeland, she told her five-year-old daughter Frannie that yes, there was a (deranged, psychotic, brain-damaged ex-assassin on a cocktail of drugs, who escaped from a psychiatric hospital and screams in the middle of the night, bangs on the door and breaks windows) man called Quinn staying in the basement. And trying to break in. But it's nothing to be worried about, darling. Now go back to sleep. And then, if that weren't bad enough, the next morning she leaves him to babysit and... well a hostage situation ensues, the Feds storm the building, bombs go off, people get shot, Frannie is taken into care and remains traumatised for the rest of her life. Now that is gold-standard manic mothering.

Cruise in control when it comes to ladies

So, according to the Hollywood rumour mill, megastar Tom Cruise has a new girlfriend. And, unless I'm very much mistaken, a pattern is starting to emerge. When you're one of the biggest movie stars in the world you don't need to go out wooing or courting or join dating sites like the rest of mankind does.

No at all. You simply watch a few movies and then take your pick of the female leads, invite them to audition for a part in your next big movie and Bob's yer uncle or, more accurately, Tom's your new boyfriend. Nicole Kidman for example was spotted when she appeared in the film Dead Calm. Tom saw her and suggested her for his next title Days of Thunder. The rest as they say was history.

Next up, he saw Penelope Cruz in All the Pretty Horses (2001) and was so impressed she was soon auditioning for Vanilla Sky, in which she co-starred with..you guessed it. History in the making again.

In 2005, Katie Homes was called for an audition for Mission: Impossible 3. She got that part and also the part as the next Mrs Cruise.

All of which brings us up to date and the rumour that he is now dating Vanessa Kirby (28), whom he arranged to meet after seeing her in the series The Crown. And guess what, she's going to co-star with him in Mission: Impossible 6. Go on ya boy ya! Who said romance was dead?

This week I'll ...

Mostly be getting ready for a well-earned Easter break and will be returning to Northern Ireland after three months of looking after my 84-year-old dad at the family homestead in Lancashire. Both my sons are coming home too, back to our empty nest for the holidays, so I can't wait to spend time with them and catch up on all the anecdotes and tall tales from life in student world. I'm even looking forward to all the laundry they will no doubt bring with them. It will be so good to feel like a full-time mum again, even if it's only for a couple of weeks!

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