Five Reasons Bad Moms is Bad for Moms
When I first saw the trailer for Bad Moms I was so excited for this movie to come out. Like so many failed relationships, I pinned my hopes and dreams to it. We were finally going to be understood; someone was finally going to tell the truth about what it’s really like to be a mom in today’s world. As a coach and educator for moms, I could not have been more excited.
When I finally saw the movie last night, I could not have been more let down.
Don’t get me wrong: I LOL-ed. I cheered, and fist-pumped. I agree with the message that moms need to give up their search for perfection and “having it all.” I believe that we and our kids are over-scheduled, overworked and overwhelmed. I agree that we’re all trying to be and do too much and that it’s killing us—as a culture and as individuals.
But this movie missed the mark on so many levels, because in the end, this movie isn’t really about us. This movie is white-washed, surface-level version of what an outsider believes we are like. Because Bad Moms was written and directed by two men. Two white men who totally nailed the white male experience in The Hangover, but who have no business writing about motherhood for the screen, or anywhere else for that matter—BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT MOMS.
Here are 5 reasons I believe Bad Moms is bad for moms:
It’s full of stereotypes. Each mom depicted is a male-fantasy stereotype. Take Mila Kunis’ character as a prime example. She’s the overstressed, overworked mom with over-scheduled kids and a lazy, deadbeat husband. She’s so successful that when she finally tells her asshole, hipster boss to shove it, the company falls apart. And, to top it all off, she’s impossibly hot. Kristen Bell’s character is a weak, simpery stay-at-home-mom of 4 small kids with a controlling husband, and when she finally stands up for herself and says “NO” for maybe the first time in her life, she is then immediately transformed into a domineering bitch, and her husband into a pussy-whipped lackey. And while there’s some rich satisfaction in the turnaround, it is equally demeaning. Can a woman not develop healthy boundaries without becoming a bitch? Not in Hollywood. The most offensive to me, while brilliantly played by Kathryn Hahn, is the single-mom-as-slutty-sexual-predator. No, Hollywood, single moms aren’t out to fuck all your husbands thankyouverymuch. No, we don’t hang out in bars every night trying to get laid. Usually we’re busting our ever-loving asses trying to put food on the table, probably working multiple jobs, and, if we’re lucky enough to have support and shared custody, maybe going out on a few dates every once in a while, because (sorry to crush your fantasy, dudes) we're far more interested in finding love than sex.
This isn’t who we are. The struggles depicted in this movie are so clearly the struggles that men think moms have, not the struggles we actually have. Our marriages aren’t black-and-white, with clear-cut “good and bad” partners. Our struggles lie in the fact that these people we partnered with are often really really great in some areas and then fall ridiculously short in others, as do we. Because human. This is what we talk about ad nauseum with each other. This is what we share bottles of wine over, and smoke packs of cigarettes breaking down. How can I share a life with this man who will hold me when I cry and be there for me 150%, but not have sex with me? How can I share a life with this person who is my best friend in all things, but who can’t for the life of him contribute to the household in any meaningful way? Is my long-term affair actually saving my marriage and keeping my family together, or destroying it? How can he be so great as a dad, and completely not see me? How can I both hate and love this person with all my heart? (The movie, by the way, nails this experience when it comes to our kids, but totally misses it when it comes to our relationships.) This was the genius of Bridesmaids. That movie was written by a woman, for women, about the internal life of women. It exposed us. It served our crazy up on a platter and said, “Here we are, warts and all,” in a way that only a woman could, and women around the world got to say, “YES!!! That’s exactly who we are!!!” It was the first time in the history of Hollywood that we felt so represented and understood. It was an exposé from the inside out. Bad Moms is an objective view from the outside in, and, like so many men, it just doesn’t get us.
The end defies the message. Everyone gets their lesson in the end, and their lives are tied up in neat bows, indicating that there actually is a panacea; there is an “answer;” there is a “there there.” And if there’s any message that the movie gets right, it’s the idea that we’re all trying too hard to accomplish some ideal of perfectionism in motherhood, and if we could just let it all go, we’d feel so much better. But the ending then completely undoes that message by indicating that there’s actually perfection to achieve, we’ve just been going about it all wrong. The movie tells us that if we’d all just stop trying to achieve perfection, we’d in fact, become perfect.
It never talks about money. Mila Kunis’ character works “part time,” and her husband is a “very successful mortgage broker” who doesn’t actually work. Yet they live in a gorgeous suburban home, have 3 cars, and, when they finally separate, he goes and lives in a suite at the Waldorf. When she loses her job, there is zero concern for money or how she’s going to make ends meet. Kathryn Hahn’s character works at a spa as a cleaning woman, but has all the free time and money in the world for expensive champagne lunches. I know that’s not what this movie is about, but I’d wager that if it was written by a team of moms, that topic would be addressed at least once. I don’t know a mom who doesn’t worry about this shit on some level, even if it’s in the context of being the breadwinner and knowing that the financial responsibility rests on her shoulders.
It’s a symbol of Hollywood misogyny. At a time when Hollywood is struggling with a patriarchal identity-crisis and getting called out on its misogynist shit left right and center, the fact that it would produce an all-male written and directed movie entirely about moms is almost a joke. Except that it’s not. The fact that none of the actresses involved said, “Hold up. If we’re gonna do this movie, let’s do it right,” is shocking, but also reveals an insidious Hollywood problem: Women hold no sway. Actresses hold even less. “You wanna work? Do what you’re told. You wanna boycott the industry? Suffer the consequences.”
While I can get on board with a whole host of formulaic, surface-shit at the movies, especially in the comedy genre, I had personally pinned a lot of hope on this movie. It’s perhaps a testament to my naiveté that I thought Bad Moms would be the Bridesmaids for moms, or that it could be, or that Hollywood would even want that for us. In the same month that gave us the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, I was perhaps too trusting that they’d actually care to look beneath the surface and bother to see us for who we really are, what we actually care about and struggle with. Perhaps it was too much to think that Hollywood would let an actual mom (like, oh, say Tina Fey) write and direct a movie about moms.
I saw this movie with 3 of my best mom-friends. We all laughed uproariously. We all cried at the end when the actresses and their real moms sat and talked about what it’s really like to be a mom and not be perfect (the best part of the movie by far). But we all left feeling like we weren’t quite understood. It was like mediocre sex without an orgasm. Kind of fun, with some feel-good moments, but in the end, an utter disappointment and waste of time.