Madrastras Redefining the Evil Stepmom Narrative

The evil stepmother trope should end

I would not be the woman I am today without my mom. That’s a statement – I think – many of us can relate to. For the better part of my life, my mom has modeled what being a strong, kind, tenacious woman looks like. She walked the path before me so I could follow (if I chose to) and provided support and encouragement when I decided to forge my own way, even when she disagreed with my actions. This version of me does not exist without her in my life and I will be eternally grateful to her for choosing to take on the arduous task of parenting three children that came with the amount of baggage my siblings and I came with.

My mom did not carry me in her womb. We do not share DNA (although we’re often told we look alike – which always makes us laugh). Twenty years ago she was a stranger, someone my dad had started dating. A year later, she became his wife, my “madrastra malvada” or evil stepmom, as I’d (half-jokingly, half not entirely joking) call her.

At the time, I didn’t realize it must have been quite the experience for her to go from newlywed to full-time step-mom. Much less a step-mom to three children who had escaped the abusive home of the woman who birthed them. She handled us with the care and love I had never known before, and slowly but surely pieced together the bits of three little souls someone else had broken. One day, out of nowhere, she went from “Karla” to “Mami” and we’ve never looked back.

There are no evil stepmoms without spineless, absent fathers. But blaming women has always been easier.

Ces Heredia

As a kid, May was always an uncomfortable and emotional month. I never had a good relationship with my birth mother so every year, when the time came to buy presents and put on shows at school in honor of our mothers, I always felt a bit uncomfortable. For a while, the shows and movies about mothers and daughters made little sense to me – I just didn’t have that. The woman who gave birth to me wasn’t my best friend or my biggest cheerleader. If anything she was my first hater.

As a grown-up, I realize that while I’m able to relate to (some) of the mother-daughter stories out there, there are barely any positive representations of mothers-by-marriage, versus more “traditional” mothers by pregnancy. For a culture that is so mother-oriented, we still have a long way to go when it comes to showing stepmoms the kind of love and appreciation they deserve.

In a few telenovelas, we see the evil stepmom who sets out to destroy someone’s happiness, playing a Latinxfied version of Lady Tremaine or the Evil Queen. The first thing that pops up on Google when you search for “madrastras en las telenovelas” is one called La Madrastra, where (you guessed it) the evil stepmom is portrayed as a cold-hearted, cruel woman.

I’ve tried, for months, to come up with positive stepmom representation and there were only two examples I could think of. Sister Cecilia (great name, btw!) — from Carita de Ángel, a Mexican kids’ telenovela from the 2000s that I used to love. Sister Cecilia is a nun who works at a Catholic boarding school for girls and meets and raises a sweet girl, Dulce María​​. Eventually, she leaves the nunnery to marry Dulce María’s widow father, Luciano, finally becoming the family they were always meant to be.

 The celebration of Latina mothers should include all women who willingly take the role of raising children. Period.

Ces Heredia

The other example of a loving stepmother comes from a more modern show, Modern Family, and one Gloria Delgado-Pritchett. I know, we usually only think of Sofía Vergara’s character as a hot-headed, bombshell/trophy wife who’s there for comedic relief. Maybe she’s Manny and Joe’s neurotic mom, but she’s also technically the Pritchett siblings’ stepmom. Sure, their step-parent/stepchild situation might be a bit different than what we’d typically imagine, but that’s also what makes it so special. Instead of being a guide or traditional parent, Gloria becomes a friend and confidant for her adult stepchildren.

The celebration of Latina mothers should include all women who willingly take the role of raising children. Period. They should be portrayed as heroes, not as evil villains. Our media should evolve to include these mothers as a valid, real, and loving part of modern and blended families instead of perpetuating stereotypes that are not only outdated but also heavily rooted in misogyny.

Because let’s be real, stepdads in TV and movies are rarely portrayed as evil. Honestly, there are no evil stepmoms without spineless, absent fathers. But blaming women has always been easier than blaming men. So instead, we have the evil stepmom trope and the sexism that goes with it.

While my mom and I might not share genes, there is no one with whom I’d rather share my love of books and mannerisms. There is no one else who I’d rather find myself becoming. I have slowly realized the phrases of hers’ I once laughed at and the things I once rolled my eyes at, I now do. She might not have carried me in her belly for nine months, but for the past 19 years she’s carried me in her heart and I’ve carried her in mine. And for that, I call her mother and know she should be celebrated as such, the Mother’s Day and all the ones to come.

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