Mommie Dearest vs. The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is sold out, solid, all over town, so Sam and I stayed in this weekend and tried to approximate the experience as best we could, by watching Mommie Dearest.

The first time I saw Mommie Dearest was within a year of the premiere, but on HBO, at home. I was 12 or 13. Soon thereafter, I got into a fight with Mom and called her “Mommy Dearest.” It earned me the requisite slap across the face. God, how dramatic. In fact, we both realized we’d been caught up in a wave of self-concocted drama and busted out laughing. How Camp. (That link, btw, is the best intellectual discussion of Camp, ever.)

The second time I saw Mommie Dearest, I attended a screening of it here in L.A., hosted by Christina Crawford, who entertained Q&A, surrounded by giraffe-height drag queens impersonating her Mommie Dearest. The lights went down and the few hundred men and women in the theater gave the entire film a Rocky Horror treatment, reciting most of Joan’s lines, and adding ad libs. Most memorably: when Joan visits the adult Christina in NYC, she gives her the pearls in a velvet jewelry box. Before she opened it, a man yelled, “Don’t open it! It’s the steak!”

This weekend I watched it for the third time, with Sam, who has met Faye Dunaway but had never seen her signature perf. It premiered on the day before his seventh birthday. Yes, it’s a gay rite of passage. This third time, I noticed how the sets might have passed for best in class in 1981, but now they looked flat and stagy. But then, that was the point: a blurred line between acting and reality that proved toxic, if not fatal, to nearly every one of Joan Crawford’s relationships. I have to assume that was the director’s intention: art imitating life imitating art. There was a point where it looked like a high school production of Ibsen; like it needed to be any more surreal.

One thing’s sure, 27 years later, I see clearly that my Mom was never, ever, even remotely that vicious (or tidy) and I was just being a brat. Crawford was not the mother from hell, as we also once thought, but rather a character making a mark on a rapidly changing professional landscape while struggling with bipolar and obsessive-compulsive disorders and sociopathy… kind of like the Joker.

We’ll see The Dark Knight this week. Stay tuned.

3 Responses to “Mommie Dearest vs. The Dark Knight”

  1. Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Love the pics! Tina…..bring me the ax!

  2. 2 Pants
    Monday, July 28, 2008 at 8:19 am

    One of my fondest memories was watching it with Chad, I thought you were there, but ya never know … any whodles, we sat there screaming at the TV like we were watching Rocky Horror Picture show.

    “I should’ve know you’d know where to find the boys and the booze.”

  3. Thursday, July 31, 2008 at 6:27 am

    Your mind and mine do match!

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