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Why The Mother Kept Tess Alive In Barbarian (& Saved Her Life)

This article contains a discussion of sexual abuse.

the mother inside Barbarian initially comes across as a monstrous villain, but there’s still something human about her behavior towards Tess that separates her from the male characters in the film. In his first half Barbarian Gradually builds tension through a series of red herrings, with any kind action by Keith towards Tess appearing suspicious. However, when Tess discovers a secret room in the basement of her rental house, Barbarian‘s plot shifts gears and introduces The Mother. With what follows, Bill SkarsgĂ„rd’s Barbarian character, Keith, is ruthlessly exterminated while Tess finds herself trapped in the labyrinth of rental tunnels as a prisoner of The Mother.


When Barbarian‘s storyline jumps ahead to introduce AJ, it’s hard not to wonder what happened to Tess after Keith’s death. But shortly after, when AJ also falls into one of The Mother’s traps in the underground tunnels, it becomes clear that she may not be half as bad as she seems, especially to Tess. Instead of mindlessly killing Tess, The Mother (played by Matthew Patrick Davis) offers her a milk bottle and even tries to coddle her while calling her a baby. even in the direction of Barbarian‘s violent ending, The Mother doesn’t think twice before putting her life on the line to save Tess, further confirming that she’s more complicated than just being a horror movie monster, and – although her attempts to become a mother are disturbing being – clearly cares about Tess.

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RELATED: How Long Tess Was Held Captive in Barbarian (and Why No One Was Looking For Her)

Why the mother never tried to kill Tess in Barbarian?

At first glance, The Mother Tess seems too protective as she probably developed a skewed sense of motherhood after living in Frank’s basement and obsessively watching the videotape teaching mothers how to raise their children. Other than that, however, given how she gives Tess special treatment over AJ and Keith, her behavior is likely related to her years of trauma in the basement.

Frank’s flashback and Andre’s story establish that The Mother is a result of the sexual abuse and incest that Frank’s victims in Barbarian were subjected. After years of physical and psychological trauma from forced births, rape and appalling living conditions, The Mother probably became more suspicious and less forgiving of men’s mistakes by associating them with Frank’s treatment of her, while more sympathetic to women like tess. This also explains why she recoils in fear when AJ walks into Frank’s room in the tunnels.

Was the mother a villain in Barbarian?

As the homeless man Andre mentions, The Mother is not the worst living in the basement of the house. As much as she appears to be Barbarianprimary antagonist, she is merely a victim of Frank’s sinister crimes. Frank is the real monster because he made The Mother through years of rape and deep incest. He is the titular”barbarianwhose misdeeds spiraled out of control and destroyed the lives of many innocent women and children. In some ways it seems like Barbarian‘s The Mother is just trying to prevent more women from traveling deeper into the cave and finding Frank’s room. Her methods of doing this may be too aggressive, but she’s just trying to play her part as a misguided protector for those who end up in the tunnels. Both Frank and even AJ are more inclined to be the one Barbarian movie villain, because their misdeeds seemingly have no history of blatant abuse, trapped in an underground maze to explain them. The Mother, on the other hand, has a much better moral compass, as she nearly dies protecting Tess, showing that she wants to protect others despite how cruel her life has been thus far.

The mother’s protective behavior towards Tess in the Barbarian‘s scenes with the two also have a lot to do with Tess’ sympathy for her. Unlike the men in BarbarianTess quickly sees the Mother’s humanity and maternal warmth beneath her monstrous behavior. As Frank attacks her, Keith runs away from her, Andre demonizes her, and AJ doesn’t recognize her attempts to protect him. Even if Tess shoots The Mother Barbarian During the film’s climactic moments, she seems to be doing it more out of pity than anger, showing how much she understands what she’s been through.

NEXT: Secret Missing Scenes Explain Barbarian’s True Message



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