Let’s get this straight. I’m on the edge of 38, a therapist, father of two boys under the age of four, and yes – I went to see the movie Bad Moms on my own, by myself, with no shame.
Until I realized the place was packed with women. Lots of women. They slowly filled the theater in large groups clutching small purses and fancy drinks, and it hit me that this was a thing. I had crashed girls night.
There was only one other man in the entire room and he was clearly with his partner. So here I was, at the Alamo Drafthouse in South Austin, among the last few empty seats in the top-back row as if to announce, “look at the weird man who came here alone.” The woman to my left made this obvious with her unsubtle attempts to look my way. Her distrustful expression read, “how did I get to be the one to sit next to you?”
In the first 15 minutes the movie you meet Mila Kunis, a Type-A mom of two kids. She balances her job at a hip coffee company, the PTA, and her polished role toward perfection. This ends abruptly when she walks in on her husband masturbating online with a woman he has been seeing for months.
Skip to the bar scene and her chance to meet two women, both moms, well played by Katherine Hahn and Kristen Bell. Now best friends, and with the right fuck it attitude, they are on a mission to be bad moms.
Hear me now, this movie was hilarious. The chemistry between Kunis, Hahn, and Bell was on point. I actually thought of the classic Office Space printer scene when the three women drunkenly destroy a grocery store in dramatic-slow-motion style when the record breaks to an abrupt stop so they can ooh-and-aah at a cute baby in a stroller.
Bad Moms was filled with glorified let’s get drunk, smoke a joint, throw an adult PTA house party with Martha Stewart serving jello shots type of moments. It was I Love You Bro, meets Knocked Up, meets The 40-Year-Old Virgin – but for women. It sistered Bridesmaids and the new Ghostbusters giving attention to female comedy and a woman’s perspective.
Let’s be clear and define what makes a bad mom, well, bad. From a distance, it seems obvious that the women in this film would rather get wasted than parent. Don’t be fooled, it is not so simple. Rather, moms typically move at a fast pace with 150% effort. The movie attends to what happens when that effort decreases to a normative 85-98%. It answers the question of what life would be like if I gave less-a-shit about what other people think of me and actually be myself, in all my imperfections.
It made sense that the overwhelmingly high demographic of women around me arrived in high hopes to benefit from this validation. Despite its target female audience, this movie seemed just as fit for me. I understand the irony and privilege to write about a movie made for women and make it about men. That has not been lost on me. Yet, I felt messages being thrown at me with every joke and jab possible. It pained a picture of fatherhood that for the most part, spoke against my favor.
Take Kristen Bell’s character who has four small kids and a clueless breadwinning husband allergic to anything domestic. She has a bad mom moment when he calls in a panic, his anxious voice cracks, “Where are you.. I need you.. What should I do!?” – when she yells back, “Figure it out and do it your fucking self!”
To witness this man in the pit of his suffering was a highly comedic choice. The meaning was communicated loud and clear without even saying it,
The less of a mom you’re expected to be, and the better I am as a dad, makes us about even – so deal with it!
No male character in this movie seemed to have any value. They cheated, over-sexualized women, and couldn’t handle their own children. They were idiots and an embarrassment to watch. The only male character of substance was a hunk-of-a-man too good to be true. The way men were portrayed in Bad Moms must be how women feel all the time as the media has monopolized their image as passive, serving, and over-sexualized. It gave me a true sense of how degrading and shaming this must be for women, which happens far too often.
I believe this trend is changing, so how do we reverse this earned stereotype that dads are such duds? The men I know are emotive and have healthy relationships. They are good fathers and men of merit.
It is crazy to think I can be in the same category as the men in this film. But the truth is, I am on the same continuum, just hopefully better evolved. I believe I am a good dad but have to admit I totally connected with the man who freaked out about being alone with his kids. At least my wife might say so, as evidence of my curious facial expression when she leaves me with the kids and I ask, “How long will you be gone?”.
So let me broadcast this loud and proud, that I say it with full insight to my often unseen male privilege and learned entitlement – my wife is far better than I at handling the kids and our chances of general survival. She is our number one, and I am sure put me on her list of people in our house she is trying to keep alive.
To move the attention from me, and take a dramatic turn, let me finish with this…
If you are white, straight, and upper-class – this movie is for you. Bad Moms is about wealthy-hetero-parents with one-percent problems. When Kunis’ character decides her teenage kids can make their own lunch for a change, and her son whines in desperation, she jumps on the opportunity to scold him to not grow up another entitled white man. The message of the gender disparity seems clear but the lack of inclusion to diversity and culture gets lost as Bad Momsdrowns itself in a silly plot of PTA battling moms.
Bad Moms hits at every stereotype and may piss you off as comedy often can. However, the message is clear that moms are overworked and often under-appreciated. They are tired, want our help, and deserve recognition.
Despite the movie’s lack of perspective, I believe moms everywhere have a voice, a story, and a reason to be angry.
So whatever your situation, aim high and strive to be a bad mom and better dad.