Motherhood in the Movies: Stranger than Fiction
We go to the movies to escape – but if movie are supposed to reflect reality we’re in serious trouble, because motherhood in the movies is always extreme and never realistic.
Stop me if this has happened to you: After a struggle that dwarfs the Normandy Invasion for logistics and complexity, you have somehow secured the services of the one non-insane local teenager to babysit, hacked into your husband’s computer and marked every single one of his calendars with an entire evening set to “busy,” and dodged every other obstacle like Tom Cruise in a spy film and managed to plan a Date Night. Because you know that trying for fancy is a sure-fire way to invite the cosmos to smite you, you’ve kept it simple: Dinner and movie. And Dinner is at a place where no one will care when you finally discover that bit of baby puke you know is lurking somewhere on your dress. Then you’re at the movies, feeling curiously normal, and it happens: The movie includes a character who is on some point of the motherhood scale, from pregnant to teenagers, and everything goes off the rails, because motherhood in the movies is always absolutely insane.
The problem is simple: Most movies are written and directed by men, and men regard motherhood as some sort of strange alien affliction, and they tend to represent motherhood in exactly one of two ways:
1. Nirvana. Motherhood is the most right, most natural, and most perfect state of being for a woman, and the character in the film who’s a mother is angelic, wise, and totally, 100% satisfied with her lot in life. If pregnant, she glows and glides. If actively parenting, she may be slightly mussed and busy, but her life has been made complete.
2. Hell. Motherhood has ruined everything, from her love life to her career to her body. There is a curious focus on bodily functions, especially the ones that become less-than-voluntary when you’re pregnant, and home scenes are filmed with the Dutch Angles and haunting musical score of a horror film.
Now, when it comes to quickly-planned Date Night-appropriate movies, no one expects a deep, artistic study of motherhood. But a dose of reality would be nice, because as I think every mum reading this would agree, motherhood may not be perfect and has its challenges, but it’s not life-ruining. And while children are amazing and our lives would be empty without them, it’s also not like we wander through our lives suffused in a soft white heavenly glow as wisdom bubbles up from our wombs, straight from heaven.
The truth is, it’s somewhere in-between. The problem? Somewhere in-between isn’t terribly interesting when it comes to motherhood in the movies.
Motherhood in the Movies: Just a Symbol
Another reason motherhood in the movies drifts so far from the yogurt-stained but giggle-fueled reality is because pregnancy and motherhood are used as symbols in most films, not as actual character depictions.
Pregnancy is usually used to symbolise irresponsibility, maturity, or goodness, depending on the movie’s plot and the character. Parenting is either depicted as the End of Fun or the Beginning of Love, again depending on the movie’s character. While the symbolism may vary, the fact is using motherhood in the movies as a symbol instead of a realistic fact of a character’s life means it will never hue very close to reality.
There’s not much to do, of course, except steal your date’s popcorn that you insisted you didn’t want for yourself and spend the last half hour of the movies squirming in your seat and wishing you hadn’t ordered the Bucket O Soda they upsold you. The movies rarely get motherhood right, and that’s okay: We all know the truth! And we can spend the drive home explaining it to the men in our lives.
What do you think – have you ever seen a movie that depicts motherhood naturally and accurately, or is it as bad as we think it is? Let us know!
Stacey is a busy Mum of one and the content manager for Canvas Printers Online (http://www.canvasprintersonline.com.au/), a website that makes it easy and affordable to create beautiful canvas art. In her spare time, Stacey enjoys blogging on the challenges of modern day motherhood.