Mommy Issues

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Mother? May I call you mother? My mother was a person with no self-respect of her own, so she tried to take mine. Ten years old, she had the scissors, you wouldn't believe what she did with those...(chuckling) She's dead to me now. Mostly 'cause I killed and ate her.

This is a much darker take on the usual Momma's Boy story.

The villain is a basement-dwelling, creepy, perverted sociopath with nothing but contempt for his chosen target villain group (almost always women). Rather than give the character just any Freudian Excuse, the creators have decided to give the character a mother who is unstable, cruel, demanding, possessive, controlling, and sometimes outright insane. She isn't the Evil Matriarch... she isn't a true villain in her own right. But she's twisted her son's psyche from birth through years and years of psychological and physical abuse. Bonus points if the relationship is incestuous.

While it is rare, having the Mommy Issues actually be Daddy Issues is just as possible. Usually this is reserved for female characters, however.

Sadly, this is sometimes Truth in Television. A subtrope of Freudian Excuse, almost always reserved for characters who are sexual deviants of one stripe or another, or else Serial Killers.

Compare Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas. For the other type of Mommy or Daddy Issues, see "Well Done, Son" Guy.

Examples of Mommy Issues include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Fruits Basket (the manga, at least; the anime didn't get this far), Akito's issues stem from the fact that her mother insisted that she be raised as a boy out of insane jealousy.
  • Seishirou's relationship with his mother in X 1999. This would be the incestuous kind.
  • The manga version of Chrono Crusade reveals towards the end that Aion's Start of Darkness was when he learned the Awful Truth that Pandaemonium, the mother of all demons is actually the corpse of a human woman who was kidnapped by demons and grafted onto what was left of the former demon queen—oh, and she was pregnant with twins, who would grow up to be him and his brother, Chrono. This is foreshadowed earlier on in the manga by the fact that he's obviously quite obsessed with and terrified of Pandaemonium.
  • Ritsuka's mother has been an abusive version of The Ophelia ever since her older son died and her younger son "went strange" and no one, including her husband and Ritsuka's teacher can stop it. At one point she ties him to a chair so she could go shopping, and it's very briefly mentioned she has her own Freudian Excuse too.
  • Ritsuko. But then, everyone in Neon Genesis Evangelion has so many Parental Issues it's not even funny. Asuka's the other big one for Mommy Issues; her mother rejected her after getting her soul ripped out and put in EVA-02 and believed that a doll was her daughter. After this had been going on for some time, she committed suicide... and Asuka found the body.
    • Shinji's Mother apparently put her soul into a Biomechanical Giant Robot created directly from the Angel that is also the Mother of Mankind. Shinji's reliance on his mother and his subsequent hatred of his father then springs from...ironically enough, his "angelic" mother. So both his parents are apparently off the deep end in terms of being half-way efficient in any given way, aside from traumatizing him into the justified breakdown he has at the end of End of Evangelion.
  • Although not his actual mother, Athena inflicted this training on young Hayate, shown in a flashback which included kicking him in the stomach while teaching him that he had to be financially able to care for a girl before he could have a girlfriend. Those lessons have still stuck with him to present (10 years later) and considering he's currently carrying a 150 million yen debt, he doesn't think he can be anyone's boyfriend. Ignoring, of course, that most of his Unwanted Harem could sit on their hands and make more in a day than he could if he spent the rest of his life working.
    • Hayate's actual mother and father are responsible for the 150 million yen debt and tried to sell him to the yakuza to pay it off. Hayate never seems bitter about this despite spending most of his life paying off his parent's debts and consistently getting stolen from (Hayate is only 16!).
      • His current debt is his own and self incurred. Mask the Money paid off the debt from his parents, in full.
  • Oskar von Reuentahl from Legend of Galactic Heroes is an interesting subversion in that he lacks the typical traits associated with the trope - he's not even a villain but a sort of Tragic Hero. He is, however, a bitter misogynist who never refuses women's advances but inevitably ends up breaking their heart when he gets bored of them. Later on he becomes involved in an unhealthy and abusive relationship with a woman whom he indirectly compares to his mother. The reason is his mother thinking his brown eye an omen about her brown-eyed lover and trying to gouge it out with a knife when he was just a baby. When she didn't succeed she went insane and eventually killed herself, driving Reuentahl's father to alcohol and emotional abuse.
  • The entirety of Brain Powerd. Every episode of it. In particular, Yuu and Johnathan.
  • Guts from Berserk. When he was growing up in a mercenary camp he lived for the approval and love of Gambino the leader of the mercenaries. Sadly, that love was not reciprocated since Gambino blamed Guts for the death of his lover Shisu (who rescued Guts as an infant) of plague, believing the boy to be bad luck. Gambino sold Guts to a pedophiliac soldier for three silver coins, then later tried to kill him after he got drunk. Guts killed him in self-defense, and ever since he had issues with being touched and had trouble forming emotional bonds. Guts was on the verge of getting over his Daddy Issues thanks to his time with the Hawks (Casca in particular), but then the Eclipse gave him even worse issues.
  • In the 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist, Envy is eventually revealed to be driven by daddy issues from his biological father, Hohenheim, abandoning him. On the flip side, his relationship with his mother Dante appears to be more cordial, despite her being the one who abuses, controls and manipulates him like a chess piece—of course, it's 'more cordial' in the sense that he only despises her to the level that she's not worth killing until after he's settled things with daddy and his half-brothers.
  • The Big Bad in Maranosuke clearly has these problems Up to Eleven as he 1. Is built like (and same temperment as) Broly, 2. over 1000 years old, 3. A Physical God or at least some kind of Demigod given he's the son of Yao Bikuni, 4. leader of a supernatural ninja clan and 5. the title character's Shadow Archetype and apparent unfavorite because he either didn't get to have sex with their mom like Mara did or did, but didn't get enough. His method of "grieving:" fucking girls to death and harvesting their bodily fluids for immortality fuel while crying about missing his mom until he sense her return and... the series abruptly ends.

Comic Books

  • Scarecrow, one of Batman's villains, was abused by his grandmother as a child. This isn't the sole reason why he became a psychotic who enjoyed instilling fear in others... but it certainly added to the problem.
  • Another Batman villain, Humpty Dumpty, was also abused by his grandmother. It was just one factor in a completely crapsack childhood that drove him over the edge into insanity.
  • Rorschach from Watchmen had a mother who was an abusive prostitute, and this shaped his damaged psyche and negative attitude towards women to the point where he can't really function like a normal person.
  • Wolverine's son Daken is said to have this, rather than father issues, by his creators. While at first this doesn't make sense, it begins to makes sense when you realize that Daken has plenty of father figures, from his true father, Wolverine, to Romulus. However, while neither of these men were very good fathers, they were they in some way or another. His mother, Itsu, was technically dead before he was even born. While at first it appears that he has a case of Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas, it becomes more and more a case of Mommy Issues, if only because he feels that she was not there to protect him from his fathers. This trope becomes especially obvious when Daken, as an award to himself for conquering the criminal underworld, buys himself a painting depicting a baby suckling at the bare breast of its mother.


  • The classic (cinematic) example is Norman Bates, the mother-fixated killer of Psycho.
  • Citizen Kane. While neither a sexual pervert nor a serial killer, one could argue that Kane's extreme hubris and mistreatment of women stem from him being unable to reconcile himself with his mother sending him away when he feels he did nothing wrong. His extreme materialism seems to be his way to telling himself that he deserves to be loved, when really, trying harder to reconcile with his mother before she died would have allowed him to live a much happier life without becoming a Manipulative Bastard.
  • In Raising Arizona, the Big Bad has a tattoo that reads, "Mama didn't love me."
  • Subverted in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Henry tells of how he killed his abusive mother in self-defense, but he tells it in a bizarre, disjointed fashion, and occasionally forgets exactly how he killed her. It's then you realize that his terrible past is used to make him creepier, as you realize how disturbed and dangerous a person with such a past must have turned out to be.
  • Both big bads in the two Kung Fu Panda movies have been driven mainly by parental abandonment issues. Not to let the bad guys get all the psychological issues, both Tigress and Po have underlying issues involving their own parents too with both being orphans.
  • Peter Foley, from the movie Copycat. He eventually killed his mom and set fire to her house.
  • The Big Bad's mother in Kindergarten Cop is one of these. She even shoots Arnold at one time.
  • Frank Zito from Maniac has severe mother issues, and he is compelled to decorate mannequins to look like her(using the scalps of women he murdered) and carries on conversations with them as if they were his mother.
  • The Aviator implies that this was one of the reasons (and there were a couple) that Howard Hughes had so many "eccentricities" in his adult life.


  • Two of the lesser villains (meaning, those who aren't Hannibal Lecter) in Thomas Harris's series of thrillers have this background:
    • The childhood of Jame Gumb (from Silence of the Lambs) was never fully explained, but we do know that his mother was an absentee porn star.
    • Frances Dolarhyde (from Red Dragon) fairly takes the cake: raised by a sadistic grandmother who regularly threatened to castrate him for things as trivial as wetting the bed (he was around five years old at the time). In the 2002 movie version, Edward Norton's character even uses this as a Berserk Button to distract Dolarhyde during a fight.
  • The Red Rose Killer in Robert B. Parker's Crimson Joy, who killed women and left red roses at each scene, was abused by his mother, Rose Black.
  • John Dread, from Tad Williams's Otherland series, is a monster because his mother abused him while he was growing up. She specifically wanted her son to grow up to be a monster, and it worked. None of this makes him any less horrifying.
  • Ben Ladradun of Cold Fire was berated and abused by his mother for basically his entire life; he got respect and attention for the first time when he became a firefighting expert. And then promptly devolved into a Pyromaniac Serial Killer by way of a Well-Intentioned Extremist when his methods caused such a drop in fires that people stopped listening to his advice to prepare for them. He also eventually murdered his mother in what is implied to be a fairly horrifying way.
  • In Death: Well, this trope has popped up a number of times! Just check out Glory In Death, Vengeance In Death, Visions In Death, Born In Death, and New York To Dallas.

Live-Action TV

  • Sylar from Heroes. His mother was completely obsessed with him being it bled over into him and drove him nuts.
    • In Volume Three, Arthur and Angela try to exploit his Mommy Issues in order to get him to work for each of them.
  • An episode of Law and Order Special Victims Unit featured a mother who brainwashed her two sons to believe the world outside their apartment door was unspeakably hellish, and that being placed in a foster home was A Fate Worse Than Death. She mistreated them in other ways as well, and when it looked like they (surprise!) were going to be placed with foster parents, the older son killed his younger brother so he wouldn't have to experience those horrors. Never mind that her eldest son had gone through foster care and was apparently normal, he was dead to her (literally - it was like a zombie was in the room).
    • Another episode featured a BTK-style killer whose mom had locked him in a closet while she went out to watch movies.
      • Still another featured a woman who molested and murdered little girls, and had been brainwashed into believing it was because her father had molested her—in actual fact her mother had been molesting her until well into her teens (and was still molesting her younger sister.)
  • An episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent featured Stephen Colbert (years before The Colbert Report, when he was still primarily a voice actor and The Daily Show correspondent) as a master forger who was trying to discredit a soon-to-be canonized priest because his mother used the guy's charity to literally steal his childhood - he had on average about a day to enjoy anything he bought or was given before it was whisked away.
  • In The Sopranos, many of Tony's psychological problems can be traced back to a lifetime of manipulation and abuse inflicted on him by his mother, Livia, a woman with a borderline personality. She even manipulates her brother-in-law into putting a hit out on Tony.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Complete Monster vampire Zachary Kralik definitely qualifies; he talked about his mother's abusing him, and he was obsessed enough to target Buffy's mother Joyce. It should be noted that (as mentioned in the page quote), Kralik killed and ate his mother before becoming a vampire.

"I have a problem with mothers. I'm aware of that."

    • Spike has been revealed to have mommy issues of a kind, in a story that involves incest but still makes both Spike and his mother sympathetic. Faith's mother (who spent her time "enjoying the drinking and passing out parts of life") isn't particularly squicky, so it's more of a straight Freudian Excuse than this trope; however, Faith taking Joyce hostage in This Year's Girl is clearly motivated by Mommy Issues.
  • Jacob and the Man in Black's "Mother" (who isn't, really) on Lost. Her determination to keep the Man in Black from leaving the island causes him to dedicate his whole life (and well beyond) to doing just that.
  • Bree from Desperate Housewives is a bit two dimensional because of the creator basing her on his own mother.
  • The Cold Case episode "Blackout" featured a woman, who back in the days seduced her own 13-year old son. To make it even worse she later tried to do the same thing to her equally young grandson. Averted. The son grew into a decent man. It was her daughter who finally flipped and drowned the oedipal man-eater. And you can't blame her for it.
    • Another episode had two brothers whose mother was an abusive prostitute (no, they did not become vigilantes), and when one discovered that the other was with a prostitute... she was a friend and he was just trying to learn how to be sociable
    • Lilly is menaced by a serial killer/rapist (I missed most of that arc) who believed he witnessed his abusive mother being raped when he was a child, but the truth is much worse his mother gave her son to the rapist to save herself.
  • An episode of CSI featured a powerful man who was into roleplaying as an infant, even hiding a woman's baby so she'd provide him with breast milk. The woman tells the detectives that boss man-baby said he gave her baby to his mother, but that goes nowhere as said mother is hospitalized, has no knowledge of the baby or her estranged son, and is probably the least maternal person in Nevada (hence his need for all that maternal attention).
  • On Community Dr. Rich is revealed to have an abusive mother that blames him for the death of his brother. He does a great job of hiding how messed up he is though.


  • Cyrano De Bergerac: Perhaps the most awesome subversion of this trope, Cyrano does not hate women, but he has a nose so big and ugly that he is utterly terrified of any women mocking him if they talk about love. The nose is only an excuse; his problems come from his childhood. His tragedy is that his Mommy Issues and his Martyrdom Culture ruin his life completely: He is a talented poet, duelist, soldier, philosopher, physicist, musician, playwright, and novelist who will never accomplish anything because those traumas. The whole point of the play is that Cyrano could have won Roxane's (or any other woman's) hearth any time he wanted, but he never did because his self - loathing. (And, From a Certain Point of View, he is a serial killer, only he chases Asshole Victim s). In the final act of the play, Cyrano, trying to comfort Roxane, lampshades this trope:

Cyrano:You blessed my life!
Never on me had rested woman's love.
My mother even could not find me fair:
I had no sister; and, when grown a man,
I feared the mistress who would mock at me.
But I have had your friendship—grace to you
A woman's charm has passed across my path.

  • In The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh, Maureen has serious issues with her mother Mag. Mag is manipulative, emotionally abusive, passive aggressive, and selfish; Maureen is delusional, physically abusive, and eventually murders her mother. Charming pair.

Video Games

  • Curtis, the protagonist of Phantasmagoria 2. As a 6-year old kid, he endured extremely cruel, painful, and humiliating torture at the hands of his Ax Crazy mom. She gave him electric shocks, sliced him with knives, and forcibly dressed him up as a girl (while calling him a "Monster") before hanging herself in full view of the little boy. Cue the following Parental Abandonment by his dad soon after. Later in the game, it's revealed that Curtis's mom went mad / was Driven to Suicide because her son was really a Tomato in the Mirror (Curtis's dad was also murdered in cold blood by The Dragon because of this), but still... Hoo, boy.
    • Some things to clarify here. Curtis's mother did not hang herself in front of the boy. She hanged herself, and he found her afterwards. There is the possibility that the Hecatomb committed Mind Rape on Curtis' mother - the same way it did to Curtis, and that the Hecatomb was acting through her and eventually had her kill herself to traumatize Curtis. Another detail to point out her is that Paul Allen Warner and the Hecatomb were not working together. Paul Allen Warner had Curtis' father murdered.
  • Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII. Oh so very much. You have to be "quite" messed up to want to try a smash a Meteor into the Planet so you could eat up all the Lifestream to become a God. Apparently, it's cause Mommy did that thousands of years before, and now he wants to be a good son and make her proud by doing the same!
    • Then there's the Remnants of Sephiroth in Advent Children. Keep in mind each of them is basically the Aspects of Sephiroth's Personality divided and eliminated of any direct influence from Jenova. They now mention "Mother" even MORE then Sephiroth himself....all THREE of them!
  • While not a villain, it's revealed in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty that Otacon had an incestuous relationship with his stepmother, which accounts for much of his social awkwardness and problems with intimacy.
  • Dragon Age: Morrigan's problems with her mother probably stem from being raised as a body for her mother to possess.
    • To a lesser degree in Dragon Age 2, assuming you interpret Merrill (an orphan) and Merithari (her mentor who is certainly old enough to be her mother) this way.
  • Isaac in The Binding of Isaac spends a cutscene after each level crying to himself about the traumatic things his mother put him through, even before she started hearing the voice of God telling her to kill him.


Web Originals

  • This trope is Doctor XX's whole reason for supervillainy, though in her case its Daddy Issues.

Western Animation


Raven: Let's just say I have some issues with my father.

  • Azula in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Interpretations of Ursa vary: the only time she appears, it's from Zuko's perspective of past events and, therefore, likely idealized and slightly unreliable. Azula, with her mind twisted by Ozai's emotionally abusive and violent tendencies, could only fixate on her belief that 'Mother loved Zuko best' and that 'my own mother thought I was a monster'. She points it out herself, but it's very clear she was always yearning for her mother's approval and love—and just as clear that Ursa was concerned for her. Fortunately, none of this is pertinent because the only thing you really need for Mommy Issues is the perception of an uncaring mother.
  • See Nineties Anti-Hero for The Tick parody.
  • Gazpacho from Chowder
  • In Adventure Time, the relationship between Princess Bubblegum and her son Lemongrab is... complicated, at best. She sees him as an obnoxious jerk and is blatantly ashamed of his existence, while Lemongrab sees the princess as "unacceptable," and has absolutely no problem with sending her to the dungeon for one million years. Granted, he was the first of her science experiments gone wrong, and has an unpleasant, strange personality, and we haven't seen the princess do a whole lot to help him. He sent innocent people to the dungeon for committing the pettiest of crimes, and to make him leave her people alone, she punched him, caused him physical pain and discomfort in other ways, (even making him cry,) and called him a "butt" right after firing him. We'll be learning more about their weird mother/son relationship in Season 4.
  • Cliff has an upsetting Oedipus complex, which is too bad considering he accidentally killed his mother.
  • Archer. The title character certainly has issues with his mother. Made clear in the first episode where he gets an erection when the man threatening his mother's life describes her dead in the gutter.

Malory: The thought me dead gives you an erection?


Archer: Just... half of one. The other half would really miss you.

  • Skwisgaar Skwigelf has a few problems with his mom.
  • Luanne's mother from King of the Hill was very abusive to her father causing him to flee and is implied to have neglected her in the past, when she comes back she is okay as long as she doesn't have any alcohol when she does she's borderline psychotic and will attack anyone who provokes her in the slightest and according to her she views Luanne more as a sister than her daughter.
  • Grimes' mother on Ugly Americans pulls a Visual Pun (with being a literal mummy) definitely falls into this trope, as she doesn't approve of his (fake) demon girlfriend, Callie, and even tries to one-up her by showing how to really kiss her little boy.
  • On the Netflix show Big Mouth, Diane Birch showed a very uncomfortable affection to her son Nick by smothering him with love and saying:

"You smell like fresh buttered baby... I want to put you back up inside."


Real Life

  • Unfortunately, abusive or neglectful parenting situations do make it more likely that the child will have mental or behavior issues when they become adults, so this is Truth in Television.
  • Augusta Gein, mother of Ed Gein. It's questionable who was more unstable.
  • According to this, it is one of the top reasons for serial killing. Although often there is no reason, resulting in Reality Is Unrealistic since a Freudian Excuse reads more true in fiction than it actually is.
  • The reason Freud believed in this so strongly was because it actually applied to him. He really did have incestuous feelings for his mother. However, one critic pointed out a reason for this. Since Freud had a wet nurse, he instead recognized her as his "mother", and recognized his biological mother as just an attractive woman who cared very deeply for him.
    • Similarly, many Freud biographers say there is evidence he was sexually or at least physically abused by his father, meaning he has a, well, Freudian Excuse for both halves of the Oedypus Complex that's so bizarrely prominent in his theories.