Shows / films about emotionally abusive families?
July 13, 2022 5:16 AM   Subscribe

Watching Succession a few months back really helped me see how f'ing awful my family really were and process some things. Any similar 'emotionally abusive family representation' out there?

I'm still processing what I've been through (mid 30s, just really realising) and I'm finding it hard to 'feel my feelings', the anger and the sad. I think some media that accurately represents abusive families could help reassure me I'm not alone in what I've been through, jostly some repressed memories out, and feel the fuck you / the tears.

What I went through was just emotionally abusive, nothing sexual or physical, so probably media that's about primarily (if not solely) about emotionally abusive families.

Aside from fiction I don't have a specific genre in mind, though I think anything that's a too overtly serious might be too confronting? Sucession hit because it's funny, smart, accurate, dramatic and detailed with that veneer of unreality - so if there's anything that has a similar 'ha ha ha OW' tone? Horror could work too, The Dark and the Wicked helped me see my self-sacificing tendencies.

TV shows or films preferably. I'm struggling to read regularly so probably not book recommendations, unless you feel strongly that would help.

But also, I have no idea - very open to suggestions. If anyone's been through similar (CPTSD etc) and has found specific things helpful, definitely say - even if it's 'This webcomic about neon skeletons' level of out there.

And, also, UGH. Bastards.

If you've watched Succession... the conversation between the daughter and the mother where the mum blames the daughter for 'twisting the knife' .... when she was 10? Son getting hit then immediately saying it was nothing? Getting terrified by the donuts? yeah...
posted by litleozy to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Arrested Development is a very comedic example.
posted by ejs at 6:38 AM on July 13, 2022 [5 favorites]

It’s broadly comedic (and some of it hasn’t aged well) but Arrested Development has a lot of the same dynamics. (On preview, yep +1 to ejs)

You might also find resonance with Mad Men which has a lot to say about how childhood trauma manifests in our adult lives. I’m around your age and the kids on that show would be about my parents age. To see a (dramatized) version of their childhood era made me reflect more on how they became who they are.
posted by rodneyaug at 6:41 AM on July 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

An old favorite of mine is Ordinary People, both the book & the movie.
posted by Bron at 6:56 AM on July 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

oh man. "Royal Tenenbaums" by wes anderson really did it for me.
posted by evilmonk at 7:15 AM on July 13, 2022 [5 favorites]

Frankie and Grace.

A short Netflix series called "Maid" was about both emotional abuse from her mom and physical abuse from her husband.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:56 AM on July 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

The Squid and the Whale. The Jeff Daniels character in particular.
posted by thivaia at 8:01 AM on July 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

The new Amazon series The Lake may fit the bill. Julia Stiles revels in being awful. A much darker option is Ordinary People, just devastating.
posted by headnsouth at 8:12 AM on July 13, 2022

Maybe too silly, but Absolutely Fabulous and Married With Children spring to mind. Less silly, Dekalog: 4.
posted by eotvos at 8:25 AM on July 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

First thing I thought of was Ordinary People, but yeah, pretty dark. It did help me process some of my trauma and was recommended by a former psychologist.
posted by kathrynm at 8:44 AM on July 13, 2022

TV: Crazy Ex Girlfriend! It's about bad romantic relationships on the surface, but (spoiler) all of those are at least partially rooted in unhealthy family dynamics.

Movie: Kajillionaire
posted by prewar lemonade at 9:24 AM on July 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

The Sopranos
posted by extramundane at 9:28 AM on July 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

On the excellent Netflix comedy-drama Sex Education, Adam’s father and Maeve’s mother are good examples of emotionally abusive parents. I think it would have that HA HA HA OW feel you’re looking for.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:45 AM on July 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

The A Song of Ice and Fire book series, for the Lannister family. (Skip the more famous television show.)
posted by coffeeand at 11:04 AM on July 13, 2022

Steven Universe, with the caveat that “family” is really non-traditional and there is a focus on learning better rather than just portraying fucked up dynamics (but sometimes something/someone just sucks and the characters have to accept it). It easily made me cry more than any show I’ve watched and definitely hits the hahaOW vibe for me. That chosen family of anthropomorphic space rocks working through their trauma was very healing.
posted by momus_window at 11:19 AM on July 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Big Mouth touches on this topic a little bit, although I'd say leans more towards "parents trying and failing" than overt abuse with a couple exceptions.

F is for Family is absolutely dysfunctional in a Married With Children kind of way, but much darker. Its setting is a little before my time (and yours) so might not land quite right. It's honestly not really my thing but maybe it'll resonate with you.

The Bear just released on Hulu and carries some of those themes throughout but is not strictly about family abuse. Excellent series either way. It is not a comedy by any means.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:37 AM on July 13, 2022

+1 to The Sopranos, pay particular attention to the way the phrase "poor you" reverberates through the Soprano family.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:18 PM on July 13, 2022

Yellowstone hit the same abusive familial notes for me that Succession did.
posted by coldbabyshrimp at 1:00 PM on July 13, 2022

TV Shows:
Six Feet Under
Sharp Objects

August: Osage County
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
The Ice Storm
posted by iamkimiam at 1:13 PM on July 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Bloodline, TV series with Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, Sissy Spacek, and Coach Taylor - the black sheep/bad apple family dynamics really hit a nerve with me. It's a dark show though (death, violence, drug use). Loved the first season.
posted by aiglet at 2:18 PM on July 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Breeders - while some episodes are more about parents trying and failing, one character does have a serious anger management problem. There is some physical abuse, but it also depicts emotional abuse as well.
posted by coffeecat at 2:32 PM on July 13, 2022

The Righteous Gemstones.
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 3:54 PM on July 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

+3 for The Sopranos
posted by cyndigo at 4:18 PM on July 13, 2022

Nth to Arrested Development, which Succession strongly reminds me of. The tone is a lot lighter and more absurdist, but the family dynamics are extremely similar.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:30 PM on July 13, 2022

Dexter manipulated the hell out of every one in his life.
posted by bendy at 7:20 PM on July 13, 2022

I couldn’t watch much of Knives Out because it had too much of this for me - don’t know if it kept up throughout.
posted by clew at 7:30 PM on July 13, 2022

The Netflix cartoon Bojack Horseman addresses addiction and generational trauma. It's somewhat spread out throughout the seasons so if you don't want to watch all 77 episodes you could look up the Beatrice Horseman (the main character's mother) and focus on her appearances.
posted by What is E. T. short for? at 7:51 PM on July 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Lady Bird

Home for the Holidays-- particularly with Jodie Foster's director's commentary
posted by travertina at 8:53 PM on July 13, 2022

Disney’s Tangled
posted by Neekee at 2:45 AM on July 14, 2022

Hereditary is an amazing film about a family filled with both toxic emotional coping strategies, and also intergenerational horror.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:30 AM on July 14, 2022

Dogtooth comes to mind but it is a very extreme film about familial abuse (social isolation, brainwashing, emotional abuse) and it is maybe the only film I regret watching. Still I think it fits the bill here.
posted by Cyber666 at 2:18 PM on July 15, 2022

Margot at the Wedding
posted by slidell at 12:03 AM on July 16, 2022

Fleabag captures one of those "probably wouldn't be legally considered abuse but totally is" families really well, and it's kind of a dramedy in tone so it's not overly upsetting.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 12:14 PM on July 16, 2022

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