While complex women in contemporary television are, as Svenja Hohenstein and Katharina Thalmann contend, “no longer a niche phenomenon,” the antiheroine continues to be defined by her relationship to motherhood, sexuality, and violence. This essay contrasts antiheroines Camille Preaker and Mare Sheehan from HBO's Sharp Objects and Mare of Easttown and argues that the antiheroine is premised on a disturbed mother-daughter dynamic that complexly manifests in two key opposing ways: in Sharp Objects, as the destruction of both self and other via a dynamic that is monstrous and devouring; and in Mare of Easttown, as a source of reconciliation and healing through a redemptive vision of the maternal. Both series confront the idea that the antiheroine's moral failings are a result of bad mothering, a familiar patriarchal trope that is simultaneously challenged and upheld in the narratives. Importantly, while they differ in their responses to essentialist patriarchal ideologies, Sharp Objects and Mare of Easttown position patriarchy as the true monster and suggest that control over the self can be gained through resisting the notions of the maternal taint.

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