This Mother’s Day, we’re giving a massive shout-out to a small contingent of wasteland warriors: mothers of the apocalypse! Not only are these women adapting to new landscapes, fighting off zombies or raiders, and killing butt, but they are also making sure the younger generation are fed, washed, and loved!
While mothers aren’t uncommon in post-apocalyptic stories, they are often minor characters or become mothers at the end of the story (after a harrowing birth scene, usually). As such, we’re focusing on those women who have to suffer all the apocalypse has to offer while also raising their kids. And don’t worry guys, there will be a list of dads for Father’s Day too!
Sarah Connor – Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) / Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
Of course, we have to start with the mother of all apocalypse moms! Sarah Connor is a fantastic character with great depth and emotion who, like Ripley, opened up new avenues for women in film. She does everything she can to escape the asylum in T2 so she can protect her son from the apocalypse she knows is coming. True, she can be a bit harsh with John, but she also believes in him and does everything she can to save him. Even twenty years later, she takes on the same role, albeit for a different young person, in Terminator: Dark Fate.
Evelyn – A Quiet Place (2018)
Emily Blunt’s Evelyn is a normal woman who rises to the challenge to fight off the creatures who threaten her family. Not only is she resilient, smart, and resourceful in a world where monsters lurk around every corner, but she has to deal with being pregnant on top of this. Given that the sequel comes out at the end of the month, it’ll be interesting to see how she and her family fares after the events of the previous movie.
Malorie – Bird Box (2018 Movie / 2014 Book)
In both the movie and the book (by John Malerman), Malorie is a regular woman who devotes herself to protecting her children from the “creatures” outside. In the novel, she spends four years isolated in a house with her infants (commendable enough!) and trains them to survive (in the movie she has a partner). She does everything she can to keep them safe, despite how horrifying the world has become and comes up with ingenious ways of doing so.
June/Offred – The Handmaid’s Tale (1985 / 2017 TV Series)
Margaret Atwood’s novel came out thirty-six years ago, but it’s still being taught in classrooms across Canada and the United States. If you haven’t read the book or watched the award-winning show that began in 2017, the dystopian show follows June Osborne / Offred / Ofjoseph, a woman who was captured by a totalitarian regime. Due to her fertility, she is made a “Handmaid”, which is the government’s warped way of attempting to increase birth rates in the country while also maintaining strict control of the population.
Check out our episode wrap-ups for season 4!
Myra – After the Flood (Kassandra Montag, 2019)
This novel is set in a Waterworld-like future where a great deal of the world has flooded. Myra is a mother struggling to keep her young daughter, Pearl, safe in a world where resources are scarce and staying on land is dangerous. They live on a boat, selling fish to survive. When Myra stumbles across news that her other daughter, stolen when she was just a toddler, could be alive, she risks everything to get to her, including ostracizing her other child. After the Flood is a tribute to a mother’s resilience.
Lauren – Parable of the Talents (Octavia Butler, 1998)
A powerhouse female science-fiction author, Octavia Butler is known for her deeply intelligent and poignant science fiction novels. The Parable of the Talents is set in a near-future dystopian American society that has been decimated by disease and is unravelling along socio-economic and theological lines. The main character, Lauren, fights to save her community, and her daughter, from a fanatical group that wants to delay their attempt to escape the planet.
Essun – The Fifth Season (N.K. Jemison, 2015)
In this Sci-Fi/Fantasy trilogy (The Broken Earth), every few generations, the world is wracked by catastrophic, apocalyptic-level climate events. A select number of people have evolved a talent called orogeny, which enables them to control energy (namely, the ground). The story follows Essun, a woman hiding her orogeny, as she chases after her husband during this harrowing climate event – he has captured their daughter after murdering their son because the children have inherited Essun’s powers. Essun is determined, brave, powerful, and willing to do anything to find the daughter she cherishes so much. Do not read if you’ve recently had a baby or you will be a crying mess at the end.
Melanie – Snowpeircer (Netflix Series)
Jennifer Garner’s Melanie Cavill is one of those morally gray characters you flip-flop between loving and hating (at least in season 1). A brilliant engineer with a will of iron, Melanie uses her brains, organization, and mental strength to keep the Snowpeircer train running. We eventually learn that Melanie is harbouring guilt and sorrow over the loss of her daughter at the start of the snow-maggeddon, which gives her character a sympathetic angle.
Michonne and Maggie – The Walking Dead (TV Series)
Both the sword-wielding badass and iron-willed widow are prime examples of mothers of the apocalypse. Michonne and Maggie have to deal with not only the threat of zombies and other humans but trauma over their lost loved ones. As the series progresses, both women take on leadership roles and are forces to be reckoned with, while also being caring parents.
Madison – Fear the Walking Dead (TV Series)
A mother with a tendency to become ruthless when her family is threatened, Madison is a high school guidance counsellor turned survivor. Intelligent and adaptable, she takes control of situations and is quite stubborn. Willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family, Madison is not someone to be taken lightly.
Linda – The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021)
Given this is a family movie, it doesn’t quite reach “apocalypse” (though it approaches it), but it has enough of the tropes that I consider it a hilarious addition to the genre. Linda Mitchell is a quirky mom that tries to mend the rift between her daughter and husband, but by the end, she almost puts Furiosa to shame with her martial prowess. Honestly, if you haven’t watched this movie, there are enough references to post-apocalyptic movies that you’ll be howling with laughter. And you can watch it with the kids without traumatizing them!