The Atlantic

Hereditary and the Monstrousness of Creative Moms

Ari Aster’s horror film belongs to a long tradition of stories that see something sinister or unnatural about artistic mothers.
Source: Reid Chavis / A24

This story contains spoilers for the film Hereditary.

As a mother and a cinephile, I’m always on the lookout for films about women who have children but also retain some separate sense of self. Hereditary, the horror movie that has been lauded as a modern masterpiece of the genre, is an interesting case. Ari Aster’s debut feature follows Annie Graham (Toni Collette) and her family as they cope with the recent death of Annie’s mother. While critics and viewers have focused on the supernatural evils (and emotional traumas) that the Grahams face, as a writer I found myself most intrigued by the film’s portrayal of motherhood and creativity.

The audience learns early on that Annie is an artist who works from home making elaborate miniatures. Of ’s many horrors, it’s something minor that touched me most acutely: the persistent interruption of Annie’s work by her family. Relatives, both living and dead, feel free to pop in to her studio and disrupt her whenever they like—to ask for her car keys, to announce dinner, or to leave nasty notes. It’s not clear whether the film finds these mundane own is often not quite enough. The myriad interruptions imply that there’s a world outside of the studio, and outside of herself, to which Annie should be attending—an idea that’s all too common in literature and pop culture about creative moms. By linking Annie’s craft directly to the eventual dissolution of her family, suggests that art is something better set aside when the baby comes.

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