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Motherhood: Electric Boogaloo***

Cover of "Motherhood"

Cover of Motherhood

Last year, I found the Uma Thurman film, Motherhood, available in my OnDemand free movie listings on cable. I was somewhat excited even though I’d barely been aware of this film when it had been in theatres. I don’t even know anyone who’s seen this movie. Yet, I knew this movie was the bomb — as in, this movie is supposedly so bad that it only made $130 during its opening weekend in the UK! However, remembering that I’d also chanced upon an article discussing why films about mothers don’t do well at the box office, I decided to give Motherhood a chance. Plus, I was bored.

The verdict: It’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen (That title belongs to Cyborg), but it’s certainly not good.

The film follows Uma’s character, Eliza, as she goes through a day in her harried mom life. She’s the first to wake up, serving breakfast and wrangling two children while her book editor husband blissfully (and unhelpfully) reads the newspaper. She spends most of her day attempting to write a 500-word essay for an online contest (top prize being a $3000/month gig at an online parenting magazine — as if!) in between shopping for her daughter’s birthday party, blogging, navigating a series of absurdly rude New Yorkers, and extricating herself from sticky situations that she creates for herself. Eliza also spends a lot of time pondering what motherhood has done to her sense of self and ambition as she was once an up and coming writer.

Motherhood should’ve been good movie. I should’ve felt like I could relate to Eliza and the feeling that motherhood can lead some women to defer or stop the pursuit of their dreams. Instead, I felt incredibly irritated with every passing minute of this film.  First, despite being labelled as a comedy, Motherhood is not funny. Not even an iota. Second, although the title is, Motherhood, we don’t see a lot of “mothering” going on. The interactions between Eliza and her two children, a 6-year-old girl and toddler boy, are almost at the periphery of the movie. The older child is at school during most of the film and the younger one tends to sit quietly in his stroller or car seat (save a scene or two).

Third, Eliza is irritating. I wanted to sympathize with her but I just couldn’t. Eliza runs into rude people a lot but instead of telling them to mind their own business, she engages them with unnecessary blather. Eliza makes a big deal about finding time to complete her daily to-do list yet finds time to clothes shop with friends. Eliza betrays a friend’s confidence publicly and then whines about it instead of properly apologizing. Eliza asks her husband to honestly critique her essay but she has a fit when she sees his criticisms. She then decides to run away to New Jersey an hour or so before the start of her daughter’s party  (the one she’s so harried about).

Ultimately I felt the film sought to look at some universality of motherhood yet it was really just another portrayal of motherhood through a very specific and narrow lens. Eliza is a white, middle class, heterosexual, able-boded, partnered, cisgender woman living in a well-off New York City neighborhood. Her concerns seem somewhat limited to that perspective. The reason she had to carry all of her shopping parcels on a bicycle? Her car got towed because a film production took over her street. It’s presented that Eliza is not as well-off as her neighbors but she and her husband are able to rent two apartments on the same floor using one income. While there’s nothing wrong with Eliza having that life, it’s not an experience that’s lacking in media representation and certainly not universal.

But what should a film addressing a universal motherhood look like? Should it be a series of short vignettes? An ensemble piece? Could one film really do that successfully? Is there even such a thing as a universal motherhood experience?

But I’m neither a film maker nor screenwriter. I have a lowly blog with a small reach. I’m also a mother whose experiences don’t always get represented in mainstream pop culture. I’m sure there are others who feel the same way. That’s why I’m starting a guest blogger series where the topic of Eliza’s essay — “What Motherhood Means to Me” — is explored through multiple lenses.

  • In 500-1500 words (give or take) share your insights on motherhood
  • Feel free to define “mother” in the way that best fits you
  • Feel free to stray from writing a traditional essay and use other media
  • Feel free to stifle those voices that might tell you your insights are unnecessary
  • Feel free to ignore those voices that say you’re not creative enough
  • Feel free to submit your insights even if you relate to Eliza’s experience of motherhood

Send your submission to navelgazingbajan {at} gmail {dot} com along with a brief blurb about yourself. I look forward to reading and publishing your insights.

***Yes, I’m aware that the Electric Boogaloo meme is technically reserved for shitty sequels, but this movie is shitty enough that I doubt there’ll be a sequel.

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