September 16 is National Stepfamily Day. You definitely should not have much trouble finding movies that cover every aspect of blended families you can think of. Unless you limit yourself to classic film. Let’s face it: films reflect societal conventions, traditions and values and American society following the collapse of the Hays Code is more blended than it was prior. Even so, you know you can always count on at least one very old tale that fits the bill that was told during the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Set aside a moment on National Stepfamily Day to ponder this question: Did the treatment of the stepmother in “Cinderella” arise as result of the collective societal view toward stepfamilies that contributed to their relative absence on the big screen or did the evil stepmother of “Cinderella” contribute to the creation of a psychological bias toward stepparents that in turn engendered a resistance toward cinematic portrayal? Or is there no valuable connection there at all?
Yours, Mine and Ours
The original 1968 version starring Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball was the first major Hollywood release to make a very big deal about the blending of two very big families. The opportunity for torture by a wicked stepparent seems to decrease in direct ratio to the number of biological children begat by the spouse. In a way, “Yours, Mine and Ours” turns the tables on the whole “Cinderella” trope as Fonda’s kid take advantage of the opportunity to inflict a little torture on Ball’s character’s dignity. Perhaps “Yours, Mine and Ours” was Hollywood’s awkward way of apologizing for the wicked stepmother thing. If nothing else, the film’s success helped convince ABC to take a chance on pilot they’d been mulling over that told a similar story. A little story you might have heard of about a man named Brady.
A Tale of Two Sisters
This brilliant Korean horror film creates a more psychologically mature portrait of the tensions at play between stepmother and the children of her husband. “A Tale of Two Sisters” takes the trope of the wicked stepparent into a realm rarely seen before. National Stepfamily Day is the ideal time to draw up the covers to your chin as night falls over your blended family and watch a masterpiece of modern horror that also happens to be an instructive lesson in how the emotional tension in your own real life situation could very definitely be worse.
For more from Timothy Sexton, check out:
Fresh Frights in Foreign Films
Geri Reischl, Fake Jan Day and the Oscar-Winning Documentary Just Waiting to be Made