Southern Fried Momma
We're fond of the phrase "You are what you eat." That makes us about seven cups of coffee washed down with a half-cooked frozen pizza. And it makes Frank's mom, Linda, a woman who is willing to risk her own health for something she likes the taste of.
If you're asking yourself, "Why does Linda stay with Doyle?" the answer is in her first conversation.
VAUGHAN: You're just gonna have to learn to live without all that grease.
LINDA: Shoot, not here in the South. I like grease on everything. I like fried chicken, fried okra. Biscuits and gravy.
VAUGHAN: It'll kill you.
In this little analogy here, Doyle is the grease. He adds flavor to Linda's life, and she can't resist, even though she knows it's dangerous.
The problem is that Linda isn't just eating the grease herself—she's forcing it on Frank, too. It would be one thing if Doyle's destructiveness only affected Linda, but Doyle hurts her son…and yet she keeps allowing him to stay around. She lets Doyle in whenever he wants—though she also lets in Karl, as if to offset Doyle's dangerous tendencies. She's generous with her space, maybe even to a fault.
Linda is sympathetic—again, almost to a fault. She's the only character who attempts to understand Doyle, for example.
LINDA: Doyle's had a real hard life. It's just about run him crazy, I think.
But is she being too nice to him? Does she actually think Doyle is harmless?
To put a sharper point on our question, is Linda a good mother? Well, Karl thinks so.
KARL: Mmm. You're a good mama to that boy. You care for him. You work hard to care for him. You light him up in his eyes. I've seen it. That boy wouldn't know what to do without you. […] You been real good to me too. It ain't everybody that'd make biscuits in the middle of the night.
Karl admires Linda as a mother because she is better than Karl's own mother was. But being better than Karl's mother is crossing a bar it wouldn't take an Olympic high-jumper to get over. He killed her, remember, because she was so bad?
Because Sling Blade is told from Karl's point of view, we don't get Linda or Frank's reactions to Doyle's death. How do you think Linda will take it? She's lost a husband to suicide and a long-term boyfriend to murder. Will she feel free of Doyle, or will she be even more broken than before?