Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sprint presents: "freewheeling", stressed-out moms

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

I was confused, to say the least, reading the New York Times' description of the new show "In the Motherhood," which premieres on ABC tomorrow night. I've never heard of it, but apparently it's not a new phenomenon - there have been web episodes since 2007, when Suave and Sprint teamed up to create a show based around product placement, with "real-life" stories of mothers neatly packaged around the advertising. The "real-life" stories were procured from the "In the Motherhood" website, which is now causing some consternation from the Writers' Guild - and the producers will now have to stop soliciting for stories from mothers for the TV show (although they're still welcome to post them on the website).

My problems with the fact that mothers' stories about their children were used as a way to sell shaving cream and cell phones aside, the TV show itself sounds really maddening. The show stars Megan Mullally, Cheryl Hines and Jessica St. Clair as women who try to "juggle motherhood, work and love lives in an overly complicated modern world." That sounds all very well and good, but reading the description, I was shocked and irritated by this description of supposedly "normal" modern motherhood. Megan Mullally plays a woman who is essentially irresponsible (the show's word is "freewheeling") and single (although she has been married several times before), but who - somehow - is raising a son who is far more responsible than she. Hines is recently divorced and trying to keep her career balanced with her two children, so she hires a "manny," who believes that he has a "special connection" with her eight-month-old - he thinks the baby is the only person who really "gets" him. As for St. Clair, she plays a former model and "super-mom" who "takes parenting as seriously as any mother could" - which means keep a home which is a "work of art" and tending to her husband and two children.

All of the men in this show are somehow more responsible than the women, except for St. Clair, who fills all the traditional heteronormative housewifely roles. The other two women are kept afloat by male figures, and one of them is portrayed as flighty and irresponsible, despite the fact that she is raising a son on her own. I don't like the portrayals of men or women on this show, and I'm disappointed that the producers could be looking at real-life stories of motherhood - something that could be a hilarious subject - and coming out with more boring sitcom garbage. And what about "In the Fatherhood"? Are Sprint and Suave assuming that men wouldn't be drawn to a show about an essential part of their lives? Or just that men don't want shaving cream and cell phones, so why bother?

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