Monstrous (M)others

From Paranoid to Reparative Readings of Othering through Ascriptions of Monstrosity




monstering, othering, mothering, structural discrimination, film representation, reparative reading, mother–daughter scholars


The Danish film A Horrible Woman (orig. En frygtelig kvinde, 2017) marked a pattern that can be identified throughout several decades of Danish filmmaking. Examples are found in contemporary films like Antichrist (2009), as well as in earlier Danish films like The Abyss (1910) and Red Horses (1950). In these and other examples, women characters exhibit monstrous behavior that can be construed as a form of othering. Furthermore, othering women and mothers by presenting them as terrible, abnormal, or monstrous in Danish (popular) culture goes well beyond the silver screen. In this article, ‘mother–daughter scholars’ Mira Chandhok Skadegård and Tess Sophie Skadegård Thorsen explore how monstrosity functions as a tool for othering in film and other media, offering both a (generational) and historical view, and a discussion of current constructions of monstrosity, on and off screen, in Denmark. The article argues that monstrosity, as a symbol of power and violence, becomes a particularly oppressive gendered gesture. The authors examine this in a correspondence with one another. In letter form, with shifting analytical positions between mother and daughter, a dialogue emerges between generations on questions of ‘(m)otherhood’ in Danish film and other Danish contexts, transitions of female film characters from passive to aggressive, and the role of monstrosity in othering non-white immigrant ‘(m)others’ in public discourse. Finally, the article argues for a different approach to ‘monstrous othering’. Through a reparative reading, it discusses whether there is empowerment and agency connected to being ascribed monstrosity.

Author Biographies

Tess Sophie Skadegård Thorsen, Aalborg University

is a PhD candidate in the School of Social Sciences at Aalborg University. Tess’ research on the production of representation in Danish film is a part of the VELUX-funded research project ‘A Study of Experiences and Resistance to Racialization in Denmark’ (SERR). Tess is Mira’s daughter and Dr. Rashmi Chandhok Skadegård’s granddaughter.

Mira Chandhok Skadegård, Aalborg University

is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Aalborg University in Copenhagen, Denmark. The focus of her current research is primarily on structural discrimination (gender, religion, social background, and the other discrimination grounds), and dynamics connected with power, inequality, inclusion/exclusion and complicity. Her theoretical framework builds on her background in philosophy, anthropology, and literary theory, and is strongly informed by postcolonial, feminist discourse theory, deconstruction, CRT and inter-sectional perspectives. Mira is Tess’ mother and Dr. Rashmi Chandhok Skadegård’s daughter.


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How to Cite

Thorsen, Tess Sophie Skadegård, and Mira Chandhok Skadegård. 2019. “Monstrous (M)others: From Paranoid to Reparative Readings of Othering through Ascriptions of Monstrosity”. Nordlit, no. 42 (November):207–230.