Movieguide, a website where films are reviewed from a Christian perspective, has decided that Bad Moms is bad for moms. Last month, they even launched a petition against the film, imploring their readers to help them “Stop Hollywood from Attacking Motherhood.”
Their concern, explained on the petition page, is that “being a mother is hard enough,” and a film like Bad Moms only makes it harder. You see, the film promotes: “Excessive cussing by Mom’s [sic], Drunkenness, Sexual perversion, Disregard of parental responsibilities and safety.” Oh my. Such behavior reflects a selfishness that “is not only offensive…it’s dangerous!”
While not surprised by this response, I was befuddled by its logic. How exactly does Bad Moms make life harder for moms? Fortunately, there was further exegesis on the badness of Bad Moms in the one-click form letter protestors can send to the film’s studio, which helps clarify this point. In it, we learn that the film presents a temptation for moms, a serpent-shilled piece of fruit that, once bitten into, might spoil them for good. “Movies have a cultural impact and WE DON’T WANT TO GLORIFY BAD MOMS OR BAD PARENTING. I worry that too many will see your movie and decide to neglect their families for a short-lived desire,” the letter reads. According to Newsmax, over 2000 people have joined this campaign.
What’s most unnerving about Movieguide’s view of motherhood is the way it’s seen as both essential to the well-being of all people everywhere, while also incredibly fragile. In an interview with Newsmax, Taylor Beahr, a Movieguide writer and wife to its COO, shares a cautionary tale which emphasizes this point: “We had a family friend who had a situation very similar to the movie and it wreaked havoc on the entire family. It was a one-night party, and it wreaked havoc on the family for decades,” she explains.*
That there’s another way to make the threat of imperfect motherhood less severe—making moms less essential—never occurs to her. If less symbolic and practical burden was placed on moms’ shoulders, then a single bender would be far less likely to destroy a family.
The sad thing is, the whole making-moms-less-essential solution didn’t occur to the creators of Bad Moms either. As I pointed out in my piece on the film, the movie primarily frames the good mother myth as a byproduct of the mommy wars and not, more acurately, unhelpful partners and insufficient work and government support. Yes, moms can do some of the work of redefining motherhood on their own, as they do in the movie, and peel away the many layers of bonkers self-imposed expectations. But in order for moms to be truly free of all the unnecessary pressure that having children puts on them, we’ve got to kick to the curb the notion that parenthood—including reforming our expectations of parenthood—is all up to them. Unfortunately, neither the devils in the film nor the saints at Movieguide.com see it quite this way.
*Correction, Aug. 15, 2016: This post originally misstated that Taylor Beahr shared her story in a video accompanying the petition. It was in an interview with Newsmax.