In the United States, yesterday was Mother’s Day, a celebration of the women who have impacted our lives. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a number of women as my role models throughout my life, but none more so than my own mom and my grandmothers on both sides of my family. Ever since I was a kid, they’ve inspired me and taught me so much, and I look up to all of them greatly.
In light of Mother’s Day, I decided it was a good time to celebrate the awesome mothers in fiction as well. Parents in fiction get a bad rap, mostly because they tend to be absent in one way or another (oh how we love the orphan protagonist cliche). However, there are plenty of great moms, grandmas, and other maternal figures in books, TV shows, and other works of fiction, and I think they deserve to be recognized.
Sally Jackson from Percy Jackson & The Olympians
With Percy’s father being the Greek god Poseidon, Sally was left to care for him herself. And Percy certainly hasn’t made it easy – he struggles with dyslexia and ADHD due to being a demigod, and he’s been kicked out of nearly every school he’s ever attended. In order to protect Percy from Greek monsters, which can “smell” a demigod, she marries a repulsive man (who, fortunately, is later removed from the story). She endures a lot for her family and she never once gives up on Percy in the midst of his “troubled youth.”
Despite their hardships, Sally cares a lot for Percy, and it’s clear she would do anything for him. She’s a hard worker and she has a strong sense of compassion. Her selflessness and love makes her one of the best representations of mothers I’ve ever seen in fiction, period.
Madeline Westen from Burn Notice
Very rarely do crime dramas focus so heavily on the main character’s relationship with his/her family. This is the case in Burn Notice, where former spy Michael Westen finds himself living in Miami and having to reconnect with his mother. More often than not, we see Madeline getting wrapped up in the events of the plot, whether its helping do surveillance, interrogating a suspect, or just wanting to talk to her son. Despite their rocky relationship, it’s clear that Madeline does love her son a lot, even when she doesn’t like what he’s doing. (Also, she quits chainsmoking in order to be able to take care of her grandson, which definitely takes some dedication.)
What I also really like about Madeline is her no-nonsense attitude. Sure, Michael might be an ex-spy and a pretty intimidating guy at times, but she still calls him out when he’s in the wrong. She’s a strong and capable woman that loves her family fiercely, and I don’t think that gets any clearer than her actions in the final episodes of the series.
Isabel Pullman from Wonder
For those who haven’t read the book or seen the movie (which you totally should – both area great), Wonder is about a young boy, August “Auggie” Pullman, who was born with a genetic condition that caused him to have a number of health problems, as well as a facial deformity. Because of this, his mother, Isabel, gives up her career of being a children’s book illustrator in order to homeschool Auggie.
Wonder takes place as Auggie is about to start attending a private school for the first time in his fifth grade year. There are a lot of ups and downs during the school year, and through it all, Isabel is there to support him. She shows the same care towards her older daughter, Olivia, as she navigates high school for the first time. She encourages both of her kids, and does everything she can to help them through life.
Michelle Benoit from Scarlet
(minor spoilers for The Lunar Chronicles)
Michelle is the grandmother of Scarlet, the main character of the second book in The Lunar Chronicles series. She was once a military pilot before retiring and living out her days as a farmer in the French countryside. Her son (Scarlet’s father), is unfortunately not a reliable person, and so early on, Michelle decides to raise her granddaughter herself. She’s a good mentor for Scarlet, and teaches her almost everything she knows.
Michelle also has a secret role in the series – when the rightful princess of Luna is nearly killed, she’s brought to Michelle’s farm and kept in hiding while she’s turned into a cyborg in order to save her life. In a way, Michelle is a protector of the princess as well, and because of her role in providing a safe haven, there’s hope that the rightful ruler of Luna will one day return.
Joyce Byers from Stranger Things
Joyce Byers is a single mom taking care of her two sons, Jonathan and Will. When Will disappears mysteriously, she’s determined to find him no matter what. Even when the rest of the characters thing she’s crazy, talking about monsters and other nonsense, she doesn’t give up – she knows her son is out there, and she will do everything she can to find him.
Joyce also shows her strength in other ways – she works hard in order to be able to provide for her family, and despite often being busy, she makes time to spend with her sons. Her care for her family shines through in everything she does, whether it’s taking Will to the movies or facing unknown horrors to save her family.
Fictional characters always pale in comparison to the real thing, but I think that all of these mothers and grandmothers are pretty great examples. They’re caring, compassionate, selfless, strong, and brave (albeit in different ways). Even if you’re not a mom (or even a woman), I think these characters have a lot to teach us about what it means to be a good person.