Unpacking the stark similarities of film’s new favorite trope
In recent years, films have embraced the “Bad Mom” narrative: A female parent exhibits behavior that, traditionally, has only been socially acceptable for men to display—recklessness, a penchant for partying, a lackadaisical approach to authority. From hard-hitting dramas like 2009’s Precious and 2001’s Riding in Cars with Boys to raunchy comedies like 2016’s Bad Moms, films like these fill a void within popular culture, shedding light on a harsh truth: Once women reach a certain age or marker in life—motherhood, if we’re being specific—the already limited roles they’re allowed to occupy become even more constrained. Alternatively, the “Bad Mom” trope embraces imperfection; it humanizes and elevates the experiences of mothers, who are typically reduced to one-dimensional caretakers in the public eye. It allows them to mess up, become frustrated with the challenges of parenthood, and struggle to keep both their family and their individual lives intact. It has the potential to recalibrate gender stereotypes in media and more honestly reflect the vast spectrum of what motherhood looks like. Essentially, the rise of the “Bad Mom” offers space to mothers who wish to define themselves closer to their own terms. While it has the capacity to widen our definition and concept of motherhood, a crucial question emerges: Who is allowed to be a “Bad Mom,” and to what effect?
Mrs. George from Mean Girls