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Sharp Objects: Adora's Brand of Motherly Love

A Case of Munchausen by Proxy: Patricia Clarke as Adora in Sharp Objects


Last night’s penultimate episode of Sharp Objects answered a lot of questions. And posed a few more. 

Clearly Adora killed Marian. The Munchausen by Proxy diagnosis seems so clear and obvious now, Adora mixer of drinks, the ultimate controlling bitch, mixed up a poisonous brew to bring her daughter Marian to her death. I wish we’d had a few more clues. Or did I just miss them?

In retrospect, one might say Gillian Flynn gave us a hint in naming Adora. As I shared in a previous post, the name Adora means Glory and in Munchausen by Proxy, the individual—often the mother—brings attention— ie,  glory—to themselves by being seen as heroic and self-sacrificing in looking after the very person they’ve made ill. It’s a toxic psychological syndrome any fan of SVU, True Detective or any number of television crime shows is familiar with. 

But what about the other murdered girls? We know from John that Adora was close to both Ann and Natalie. That she wouldn’t give up on them. But where then, does the teeth-pulling fit in? How could Adora, who wimps out at a cut from the thorn of a rose, have done that? Poisoning someone slowly, measuring out their death by the spoonful over time is one thing but the kind of deaths those girls faced couldn't be accomplished by Adora without help.

Is her creepy husband—Do you need me for anything more tonight, dear?—her assistant? He seems so inept, failing at getting Camille to move the car, a task Adora has assigned him. In response to her questioning, his ineffective response that she was always better with the girls. Does that include all the girls? All the dead girls? Would he be up to this task?

Is Vickery, her confidante, her helper? That seems unlikely. He may have helped cover up the killing of her daughter but these murders are on a different scale.


Amma (Eliza Scanlen) looks on as Adora (Patricia Clarkson) and Camille (Amy Adams) talk

Is it Amma? We’ve seen how jealous she can get. Envious of Camille giving Richard, the detective, her attention. A green-eyed monster when her mother actually pays attention to Camille—for a change—at the dress shop. Was she so jealous of Adora's devotion to the girls that she killed them? That seems so obvious that I would be surprised if it turned out to be true.

At the same time, I’m mystified that Amma, so conniving herself, would submit to Adora’s manipulations. Yet when she refuses to take her medicine and submit to her mother’s ministrations, Adora calmly begins to take her dollhouse away, emotionally blackmailing her with the removal of her care, her motherly love and Amma caves, climbing back into bed. I’m not sure I buy the girl being so susceptible to Adora’s tricks, especially as we’ve heard Amma say her mother is so easy to play.


So you don’t need me, huh? Patricia Clarkson and Eliza Scanlen

And if Adora killed not only Marion, (and possibly both Ann and Natalie) and is now on her way to killing Amma, how did Camille escape what would seem a likely fate?


A lack of motherly love

Adora gave us the answer to this question herself when she told Camille ‘I never loved you’. That lack of motherly love, while hurtful on its surface, meant Camille was never the object of Adora’s attention. We’ve seen evidence of that, of Adora’s uncaring attitude toward Camille time after time throughout the show: Camille’s flashbacks to Adora inviting Marion into her room, shutting the door in her face. Adora posing with Marion in the photo accompanying the article about the house, leaving Camille out. Hurtful, hateful, unmotherly behavior. 


Camille: Scarred for life? Or saved.

That lack of motherly love may have scarred Camille. It also seems to have saved her.


What are your thoughts? I’m all ears.


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