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Monday, February 28, 2005

Some Things I Saw

On Friday, b and I went to a movie downtown—I met him after work, we ate, saw a movie, and then met some friends at the Hungry Brain. All of this, of course, falls into the category of stuff that won’t happen for me after we are pregnant. Hnnr. (As a side note, over drinks, I commented that I think in some ways I drink more now than I have every before, and it was a funny moment because we could talk about that with our friends even though only b and I knew what, really, we were talking about. Privacy! It’s weird for me; these are good friends.)

Anyway, had I not already been thinking about motherhood, I would have been after the movie. It wasn’t, in fact, an actual movie; it was a showing of nine of the short films nominated for Oscars this year. Though these were all separate movies made by separate people, they did have an almost universal theme, and it was this theme that put parenting newly on my mind. The theme was: the world is bad, and the badness of the world can be poignantly revealed via the suffering of children. In the short films we saw, we saw children suffering in New Zealand, Korea, the Kashmir, and London. Somewhere else, too, I think. But the children suffering in London were the worst. Those children, four of them, were (the movie) the daughters of a really really young working class British mom who loved them very much but was too young to really be a good mother. She couldn’t manage basic mothering things like feeding them, for chrissakes, so when the only food in the house is some moldy bread she resorts to desperate measures like giving them A BAG OF SUGAR to share (“don’t eat it all!”) and then taking them to wait for hours in the parking lot of a pub while she spend her little remaining money buying beer for a boy she is trying to convince to like her.

This all goes on a shockingly long time, and is incredibly awful to watch, even though nothing ever really desperate happens (except a wasp crawling inside the babies mouth, but that works out okay too, sort of). B. and I both were sort of blown away by it; it won the Oscar and it deserved (as I said, one of a type, but a really good one). But even so, I felt a little manipulated by it. It made me think of how both my mother and mother-in-law are hyper sensitive to a lot of stuff—just no critical distance when it comes to the representation of children.

I myself find this a little irritating. I mean: buck up, right? Don’t spoil every one else’s narrative pleasure just because you want to put your deeply-felt maternal instincts on parade. And this movie—all these short movies, really, who play to an elite audience really interested in class guilt and guilt appeasement—were really interested in letting you put those instincts on parade. I could talk about this more, but it’s sort of beyond my main point and worry, which is this: what if I start to have those maternal instincts?

I always want to be above stuff like that. But it makes me wonder if there’s more integrity in having and expressing those feelings (and developing a feminism that has a meaningful place for them) or in working hard to put those feelings, if I have them, in perspective and realize that while I might need to be a protective mother the world doesn’t really need to care about that.

I don’t know.

Something else I saw this week: a realize amazing McDonald’s ad that featured a totally hot girl walking down the street being ogled by boys who are shocked to see, as she passes by, that whoops! She’s a mom; there’s a baby in her backpack. She walks on by, and they laugh good-sportishly to themselves. The joke’s sure on them! They thought a mom was hot, o ho! I’m lovin’ it!

The really tragic part was that McD’s clearly thought this ad would also appeal to women, who would be flattered to imagine being hot ogled moms. Good lord.

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