Wednesday, January 23, 2008

When did middle class white mothers become the bad guys?

Last year I saw three movies with the same antagonist, the "uptight" upper middle class white mom. Seeing them in temporal proximity brought the theme to the forefront of my mind and for some reason, I started ranting about it to my friend today. The movies are American Beauty, Spanglish, and Radiant City (a "documentary.") Each of these movies focuses around a particular family and in each, the uptight, controlling mom is portrayed as the cause of the stress the family is experiencing. I know blaming the mom is hardly a new theme in American culture, but this is demonization of a specific type of motherhood. I can understand the urge to critique the style of parenthood that involves living in lifeless suburbs and shuttling your children from one activity to another in your over-sized minivan, but can all this dysfunction in American culture really be placed on the shoulders of middle-class soccer moms?

Although I'm not a film scholar, I am very tempted to write seriously on this theme, because I'm convinced that suburbia has negatively affected women and children to a greater extent than men, but moms in particular are often portrayed as the driving force behind the current configuration of suburbia. The writers of these screenplays might want to read some Dolores Hayden, to learn a little more about the relationships between gender, housing, and family life.

My question to you, dear readers, is, "Can you think of any other movies critical of suburbia and motherhood?"

the wife in The Truman Show
Claire Wellington in The Stepford Wives (2004 version)


k8 said...

I started getting annoyed when the term "soccer moms" started floating around. I don't watch many movies, so I can't think of any aside from The Stepford Wives (I haven't seen the new one). Of course, they aren't controlling - they're controlled - but there is that homogeneity and facade of perfection going on in it. As for TV, I can't help but think of all of the crime dramas where there is the occasional episode involving the soccer mom gone bad.

Breena Ronan said...

Oh, you have to see the new Stepford Wives, manages to twist the story around to make women to blame.

Anonymous said...

yah, i can't think of any either, but this is interesting! and i really liked the book you cite! in the beginning, i totally thought i would work on the same sort of stuff she does.

Breena Ronan said...

The stuff she does is sort of a side interest of mine. Gender isn't my main focus these days.