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Sharp Objects: Does Mother Know Best? Or is Mother the Murderer?

Amma (Eliza Scanlen) tries to skate through life in Sharp Objects


In the long tradition of bad girls on screen, Amma in Sharp Objects, is a real piece of work. Devious, manipulative, she’s the very definition of two-faced. One sweet, like the cherry in an Amaretto Sour, the one she shows her mother. One as sour as the drink’s twist of lemon; bitter, jealous and angry, the girl we see who turns on her sister, shoving the lollipop in her hair when she sees Camille, happy for once, with the detective. 

Amma (Eliza Scanlen) does not like it when Camille’s attention is distracted


Running away when, again when she realizes Camille is busy chatting with the detective during her performance during the Calhoun Day play, failing to give her the attention she craves.

What does she want from Camille? Why so desperate for her attention? Is it because her mother Adora—if Adora is really Amma's mother rather than Amma being the result of Camille’s rape by the football player—is so neglectful?

Why doesn’t her mother do something about her? 
To hear Adora tell it, Amma is ‘just acting out, the way teenagers do.’ We know it’s that and more. But how much more? 

Adora (Patricia Clarkson) plays at motherhood, clueless how to really be one


How does Amma sneak out of the house undiscovered night after night? Camille can’t make a move without being caught out by somebody, whether it’s Adora standing at the window the morning after, watching over her like a hawk, or the owner of Sammie’s checking his watch when Camille buys liquor, Amma running into her in town, or Richard tracing Camille’s movements back to the rehab facility. 

But Amma? Amma flies down the road on her skates, unfettered, free as a bird.

I have more questions than answers.

Amma can’t stand it when Adora gives Camille attention


Where is Adora when Amma and her friends sit around her bedroom smoking a joint? They don’t even bother to close the door, which back in my day would be job one. Close the door, stuff some towels or dirty clothes along the bottom of the door to keep the pot smell from seeping out. Amma isn’t the least bit concerned that her behavior, her clothes, her going out at night will be reported. No one, it seems, will narc her out to Adora. 


How can we expect Adora to know how to be a mother, to understand the natural phenomenon of teaching your child how to fly before you release them into the world, of helping a child grow beyond your tethers when we learn her familial history? Allan, her so-called husband—if the almost-eunuch deserves the name—admonishes Camille that she should and would be nicer to Adora if she understood what her mother has been through. Adora’s own mother was lacking in the ability to love. He shares with Camille that her maternal grandmother actually smiled when Camille refused to latch on and breastfeed. 

Patricia Clarkson as Adora, Amaretto Sour in hand


Is Adora so numbed by her Amaretto Sours she never notices Amma’s absence or her behavior? Or does Adora simply turn a blind eye? Does she have the tools to properly mother? Does pretending Amma is a little girl allow Adora to believe that none of the fates that befall a girl on the verge of womanhood, of ripeness can happen to her daughter? Is that why Adora ignores even Vickery’s warnings? 

When she tells Vickery that he has the power to make the decision about Calhoun Day she follows it up with the biggest power play of all. She is the only one that has the power to remove him from office. 

Is that why Adora ignores Vickery’s warning? Because she knows that nothing can happen to Amma because she herself is the one pulling all the strings? Is Adora the mother of all murderers? Two more episodes until we know for sure.

For the record...according to the internet and NOT a scholarly search.

Adora means glory
Camille means warrior
Amma means abess or spiritual mother.

Adora has the glory, the power in town. 
Camille is a warrior, fighting her own inner demons, her upbringing, her own mother for a fighting chance to become her true, healthy self.
And Amma, duplicitous or not, is the one pushing Camille beyond her own comfort zone. Forcing her to get high on Oxy and Ecstacy. Forcing her to confront her own darkest side, so she can emerge as her true self. 

Isn’t that what motherhood is all about?

Next week on Sharp Objects, Episode 7


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