Sociology 2303 5 December 2012 Critical Sociological Analysis of the Movie ‘Motherhood’. A number of recent Hollywood movies depict family issues that are of interest to sociology researchers. These issues range from family relationships, sexuality, identity, socialization, all the way to paren’thood and the diverse types of families that exist in society today. The family as an institution has changed and is continuously changing over the years. This institution serves as a source of reproduction, nurture, and socialization of its members in the society.
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Through this definition, the tereotypes of gender roles in the family have evolved, thus becoming a controversial topic within a number of studies and disciplines. The ways in which gender roles have changed over time has become a topic of many articles, and its effect on family as a whole continues to be analyzed. In this essay, I will focus on the relationship between family members, mainly on paren’thood and gender roles, which will then be further explored in their connections to the workforce, socialization, and identity.
All of these will be analysed within the film ‘Motherhood’ which was produced in 2006. The film revolves around a number of the sociological topics outlined above. The purpose of this essay is to show the stereotypes of gender roles, and the ways in which they affect the family and individuals within families, and the ways in which these ideals are changing over time. The relationships among the family members will also be explored, and how different situations lead to several occurrences or disputes within parent’s.
Also, the way in which the film portrays the idea of taking care of the elderly will be addressed. ‘Motherhood’ revolves around the life of wife nd mother Eliza Welch (Uma Thurman) as she attempts to both prepare for her daughter’s birthday party and complete her entry for an important writing competition. It details her life as a former Manhattan writer who is now dealing with a cramped apartment, a busy husband, and a side-street parking problem, while raising her two kids.
The film primarily details Eliza’s episodic exploits over the course of one very long summer day. The film has a humorous and hectic picture of family life. As a stay home mom, Eliza’s frenzied day begins immediately as she gets out of bed. She lives a life filled with an “energetic ballet”(Robledo) of activities; these range from dropping the kids off at school, walking the dog and planning her daughter’s sixth birthday party, and making sure to fix time to shop with her best friend. The movie has been said to be an ode to the Joys and agonies of paren’ting.
The protagonist Eliza feels overwhelmed by her motherly duties, and is shown to resent the fact that her husband works in an office because he is hardly ever around to help her out. Within her life and hectic schedule though, we are given an insight nto her husband’s life and the relationships within the family. It is mentioned during the early parts of the film that Eliza was once a great writer, but when she had kids, she decided to give up her Job to raise a family, “Now, she’s a shell of her former self in frumpy clothes and messy hair” (BuzzSugar 2010).
The film’s take on family although is humorous, consists more of internal themes such as identity, family, and relatlonsnlps. I ne major polnts 0T tne Tllm tnat I will De exploring are; Hrst, tne way in which it depicts stereotypical gender roles with the characters of Eliza and her usband Avery. Second, I will explore the way the film touches upon aiding the sick and elderly through Eliza’s care for her elderly neighbour Edith who seems to have dementia and needs care. From this I will address the topic of care giving addressed in the course.
Third, the issue of divorce is also touched on a little bit and allows for a bit of exploration in the essay as well. Lastly in regards to the idea of socialization and identity, the former is explored with the various scenes in the movie where for example, profane words are used or Eliza is seen to be smoking and she stops when he is going into the house or the kids are around. The latter on the other hand is explored in the film through Eliza’s feeling that she has lost her identity from having to do the same things over and over again.
She feels this because her life before having kids was very much different and she had the chance to live a life she wanted and was content with. In an table 1 by Tim B. Heaton and Ashley M. Blake (1999), both authors talk about how gender has an impact on mmarriages and sometimes on its dissolution. To them “gender differences are evident in the household division of abour, in paren’ting styles and responsibilities, in the expression of sexual intimacy, [and] in psychological orientation (26).
This definition is present in a number of scenes in motherhood. Gender differences are evident in division of labour in the household from the beginning of the film, as we see how Eliza is the one who takes care of running everything in the house. She gets up before everyone, and makes sure to check her to-do list before going on to make breakfast and get the kids ready for school. Although because this film runs in somewhat real time for a day’s worth of vents, it is almost impossible to draw out the issue with paren’ting styles.
Though, from a scene in which Eliza is seen to be struggling frantically to get everything in order with the kids and making sure they are eating, her husband Avery is shown to help with very little, and then goes off to watch TV. He helps later on by taking them to the car when she is ready to drive them to school. This scene can be said to represent the stereotype that women are expected to be the ones who do the running around, and that they make sure everything is in place, whilst the man helps n some cases during the little time he his around.
Another early scene that shows this clearly is in the beginning when Eliza is struggling to make her son eat and get her daughter dressed at the same time, and even whilst doing this she still has to make Avery coffee and listen to him ramble on about something her expression clearly shows she is not quite interested in. The aspect of responsibilities in this film can be said to have a stereotyped share for each paren’t, with Eliza taking care of the household, the children, and making sure everything goes well, an example being her aughter’s birthday party.
Whilst Avery, takes charge of making sure he is earning enough money by working overtime in a Job he hates. This can be traced back and linked to the notion of a nuclear family. The film portrays the image of what functionalists, who defined the family as consisting of the submissive and content housewife and the working father, would have termed a perfect family. Although, this film goes further in making the protagonist who is the housewife, challenge her roles and finally reach her breaking point when she rants at the end of the film about all he housework she has to do.
Studies have shown that if men view an aactivity as sometnlng otner tnan real work, tney are partlcularly 11Kely to place a low value on It and unlikely to invest effort in it. Evidence suggests that men do not view women’s work as real work (Valadez and Clignet 1984). This definition can also be related to the film. An example is the way in which Avery sees Eliza’s constant work in their lives. He does not seem to see it as something she should not be doing, and does not attempt to help. This can be interpreted as a result of Eliza’s constant act that she is ine with having to everything herself.
In a scene where she has Just asked him why he did not pick her calls when she needed him, and he replies by saying he did not see them. She then rresponds by saying, “[anyway] it was nothing I couldn’t figure out on my own, you have no idea how lucky you are to be married to a multi-tasker” and Avery replies by saying but I do know”. This sentence alone tells how her husband is well aware of the amount of things she has to do in the household, and yet he does not see it as anything burdensome in a sense because he believes that is expected of er and she is able to do it all.
This is yet another confirmation of the stereotype of gender roles in the home. Eliza can be seen in the early parts of the movie to have conformed to this roles society has her restricted by. By doing all of these things, she agrees to have herself placed in the role of being a compliant wife and not complaining. She seems to have succumbed to the stereotype of a woman’s place being in the home. Although, as the film moves on, we start to see the frustration build up, and the tiredness and loss of identity that results from continually doing he same things over and over again.
Also, this frustration evolves as a result of feeling like her efforts went unnoticed by her husband. This perception can be seen as somewhat ssimilar to the idea Barbara Mitchell(2009) terms “labour of love”, which refers to unpaid or unrecognized work in the household. As the film shows, even Eliza is aware of this constriction being a housewife puts on her, although unlike many women she does not seem to view her work in the home as real work. In a scene when she is talking to her best friend Sheila about wanting have a Job, she rants and inally states that “there’s something validating about having a real Job”.
This scene in the movie can be scene somewhat as criticizing this notion of housework not being a “real Job”. Also, the Job that Eliza is interested in getting by winning the competition can be seen as ssimilar to the idea that even though society is changing and women are now going into the workforce, the Jobs they are going still constitute of the same requirements as the household. Such as nurturing and caring. In Eliza’s case, the Job is one that requires a mother who writes to write monthly columns in a magazine bout different topics on motherhood. The film also addresses the ideas of changing ways of paren’thood.
Through a number of scenes, this term is stressed by majority of the mothers. An example of this is the scene in which Eliza takes her son out to the park and is seated when a friend comes over with her son to sit by her. After a few minutes, her friend’s son begins to cry and his mom start to cry with him almost instantly. Eliza is confused by this occurrence and asks the reason for her doing so, she replies by saying she read a book once written by a pediatrician, and he came up ith a theory that :if you really connect with your child in a moment of pain, it calms them down”.
As written by Barbara Mitchell (2009), mothers in earlier centuries tended to focus more on cchildren’s physical health, but as economic conditions became favorable, child-rearing literature “began to focus more on the social context 0T motner cnl – 10 relatlonsnlps ana Its role In psycnologlcal nealtn quotes Wall and states that there has been a wider expansion of educational material targeted at parent’s that stresses the importance of secure attachment. (151) On the topic of identity, Peggy A.
Thoits (1991) defines it as referring to “individuals’ conceptions of themselves in terms of the social roles that they enact. She writes that virtually all studies show that “homemakers exhibit significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression than employed husbands, and most studies show that employment does not benefit wives as much as husbands, particularly when it is combined with rearing young children” (102). For examples of such research in her essay, she cites Gove and Tudor (1973) who attributed the higher distress of wives elative to husbands to the unique strains induced by traditional gender roles.
For them “these strains include social isolation (among homemakers), low-gratification, low-prestige occupations (among employed wives), role conflict and role overload, and the burdensome demands of nurturing others. (qtd. Thoits 102). In the film, we see Eliza as being fully aware of her identity as a mother and a wife. She knows she is expected to run the house and make sure everything is in order, without complaining because that is what is required of her as a mother and a wife. Although, because he has lived a life that was very different from this, with herself and her husband in the work force and no children.
Then, there was time for her to develop herself through this process and be a wife, as well as retain her identity of being who she wanted to be as an individual. Although not burdened by having her children, in fact on the contrary she loves them; She is depressed by the way she feels she has this continuous string of requirements expected of her, and that this is the way she has to live for a tangible amount of her life. Her search for self is almost touched on in he movie, although it is not the main plot.
In scenes such as the end were herself and Avery finally talk about their relationship, we learn that apart from Just losing her identity as an individual, she feels like she has lost her identity as a woman as well. We see this in her reference to her husband’s lack of acknowledgement of her looks and sort, she comments that the delivery man who she had met earlier in the day, looked at her like she had “something to offer, like she was somebody”. Eliza also refuses to fully embody the identity that the society has placed on her, as a mother nd aging paren’t.
In a scene when someone refers to her as ma’am, she protests saying although she is old enough to be a mother, she does not need to be referred to as ma’am. The idea the viewer can gain from analysing this sociologically, is that Eliza’s refusal to accept the term stems from not wanting to entirely lose the identity she once had. In the scene that follows, she is talking to Sheila her best friend and says she “used to be fluid and graceful” once and now she is not that way anymore. She indirectly refers to a time when she had more time on her hands and was able to ocus on Just herself and her writing.
Furthermore, the idea of the aging and taking care of the sick is a theme present in the movie as well. In the flat beside Eliza’s lives an aging woman Edith, who seems to be suffering from dementia. From the beginning of the movie, Eliza is seen to show care towards Edith and always making sure to check on her at intervals to ask if she or her cat needed anything from the store. Even though sometimes Edith forgets most of the things Eliza says, it is obvious that she knows Eliza is there to care for her. In a scene where the delivery man helps
Ellza wlt n ner groceries ana wltnesses ner aropplng OTT EOItn’s some tnlngs Tor he comments that it is really nice to see someone who is willing to help another person for nothing in return. This theme can be said to have been making reference to the ideas of taking care of the aging generation when they are in a situation where they need help from loved ones. The film challenges the idea that as society is changing constantly, people tend to be moving away from the responsibility of doing so. The idea of socialization within the family is also shown in the movie.
Through he constant interactions mainly with Eliza’s daughter, they idea of socializing one’s offspring into the norms and values of the society, is present. In a number of scenes in the movie, Eliza is shown to be cautioning herself from doing certain things because the children are around and she is trying not to be a bad influence. In a particular scene when she is shopping for her daughter’s party and get’s into a verbal argument with someone in line, she uses a swear word and instantly realizes that a child behind her heard the word. She apologizes almost instantaneously, even hough she gets weird looks from the women around.
In another scene, Eliza’s daughter continually repeats majority of the things she hears her mum saying. This is shown in a number of scenes in the film, and can be said to have portrayed the definition of socialization. The final scenes of the movies, illustrates the notion of divorce and mmarriage dissolution, as Eliza through her frustration and her husband’s lack of involvement leads her to drive out of the city to nowhere in particular. She is angry at the fact that her work in the home is not being taken for how much she puts nto it, and her general feeling of losing her identity is also a huge contributor.
Eventually when she turns around and returns back home, she sits with her husband and they talk over things. She explains to him how she feels somewhat left out, alone and unappreciated. She also comments on her frustration on having to do the same things over and over again each day, and he [Avery] will not help, even by Just picking up his socks. Avery is confused by the statement she makes about the socks and does not understand how that is making her cry exactly, but the viewer is well aware that icking up his socks was not exactly Just literally picking up his socks.
Instead she is making reference generally to him Just picking up after himself and helping her more often instead of assuming she would do it all. Although, even with this disagreement, they talk over their problems and show devotion to each other and their children, and are willing to make sure their family stays together. In conclusion, this film although has been critiqued by many to be lacking, does not fail to embody all of elements of the family it seems to explore. It captures the life of a mother and her elationship with her family as well as herself.
Through the events of Just a day, we see the themes of identity crisis, gender roles, socialization and even care giving towards the elderly. The film has been reviewed positively as being an ode for motherhood, although it does not Just revolve around Eliza but uses her to touch on a number of topics present in sociology of the families. The film is very useful in shaping one’s idea about family life and paren’thood as a whole, especially for women who are not in the workforce. It is an almost accurate depiction as reviewed by users n IMDB and Rotten tomatoes.