Morgan Bridgewater COMM 411
While in this class, I learned a lot of interesting things about mothers in novels. Mothers in novels can be portrayed in various ways. They can hover, interfere, or neglect, among other things. In the novel I read, The Bell Jar, I learned that a mother figure does not necessarily have to be your actual mother. She can be your boss, your mentor, or someone of the like. I also learned that during that particular time period (Vietnam War period), mothers were more apt to want their daughters to simply pick up a common trade so that they could be hired somewhere until they got married. Their main concern was making sure their daughter had a husband. In the novel, both Esther’s (the protagonist) mother and grandmother were so concerned about Esther getting married that they didn’t necessarily care about much else she did. Esther’s mother put her in activities that she didn’t like and she didn’t care about Esther’s interests. What this section of the class taught me is that many women in the novels that took place around this era pretty much desired to marry off their daughters and make sure their sons were married to a “worthy” and respectable young lady. They thought that was the best way to love their children and to gain respect for themselves in a social arena.
The Films section of the course was probably my second favorite because I love movies. The most interesting thing about mothers in movies is that they did not really start to become comical until recently. Before maybe a couple of decades ago, they were more so hysterical, happy-cheery, hovering, or very dramatic. In some cases, some of the mothers were just horrible. For example, in the movie Psycho the mother was pretty much fatal to her child’s existence. A lot of the movies in the seventies and eighties contained mothers who would lose their minds and go off the deep end over simple things. Now, the movies mostly portray mothers as comical and ditzy, but still rather incompetent when it comes to parenting. I learned that the portrayal of mothers in movies is more fictional than anything. The movie I had, Hope Floats starring Sandra Bullock, was more realistic, but the mother did neglect her child at one point during her own depression, but once she got herself together and realized that she had to be there for her daughter to help her get through the divorce as well, she pulled herself together and exhibited some honest parenting skills. For example, she let her daughter see her father for the man he was for herself without any interference. She didn’t try and convince her daughter that he was a bad man who left them. She just simply let her discern for herself what kind of person her father truly was.
Bernice's first day at a new school
Birdee (Sandra Bullock) giving her daughter, Bernice, a confidence booster before her first day at her new school.
Mama knows best
Birdee thanking her mother for being such a great grandmother to Bernice.
We're gonna be OK
Birdee cheering up Bernice after her father drives away and leaves Bernice behind so that he can be with the woman he cheated on Birdee with.
Bernice's first day at a new school
Leave it to Beaver
June Cleaver in the kitchen cooking dressed up, pearls included.
Fresh Prince, Roseanne, Cosby Show
Some of my favorite TV moms from the 80s and 90s (Vivian Banks, Roseanne Conner, Clair, Sandra, and Denise Huxtable).
Clair Dunphy and Gloria Delgado-Pritchett from the hit TV sitcom.
Fresh Prince, Roseanne, Cosby Show
Moms in the news was a treacherous ordeal for me because it was difficult to see so many stupid mothers do such horrible things to their children. Mothers trying to force their toddlers to drink rat poison, leaving their small children in food courts alone, beating their children and then letting them die from internal bleeding. This portion of the course was the most disturbing. Of course, I don’t want to take anything away from the articles that were about mothers doing good things, but even several of those received distasteful critiques and comments about these women’s mothering skills. It made me wonder if fathers have to suffer that much. I don’t think they do because oftentimes a father can be depicted raising his child like he’s supposed to and gets a whole lot of praise for it, but when a mother does the same thing, people just make the comment about that being her job, and are quick to scold her when she does “her job” any kind of wrong. Moms in the news made me realize that the media is unfair to mothers and that this society is stuck in a binary state of mind when it comes to gender roles.
The results I got from my advertising project were interesting, and slightly upsetting. Based on the three ads I chose (the Nutella ad, the Mr. Clean ad, and the Kenwood Chef ad), I asked a series of questions about the activities associated with those ads, like cooking breakfast, cleaning the house, and the number of times the mother of the family cooks dinner during the week. The responses I got for those types of questions were expected. However, when I asked the open-ended question about the roles of mothers in the household, many of the mothers basically said that the mother’s role was to cook, clean, and that was pretty much it. I was shocked that the majority of the answers said things like making sure the kids are fed and making sure the house is clean. It was weird, to say the least, because several mothers actually have jobs and careers today, but they felt that their main role was in the home, not spending time with their children and learning about their interests, but cooking and cleaning. It was enlightening, but quite depressing.
The portrayal of mothers in magazines has evolved, but not much. When mothers are discussed in magazines, they are simply portrayed as nurturing, cooking, cleaning machines. The only difference is that nowadays, mothers are more stylish, but not too stylish. For my magazine project, I had Redbook 1965. For the most part, there was just a lot of cooking ads, ads for things dealing with childcare, and ads for purchasing family attire and undergarments. There were also ads for makeup and hair products so that wives could look good for their husbands. The magazines today have ads about makeup and hair, but the focus isn’t on looking good for a man, but for other women or yourself. As far as mothers go, magazines are more critical of them today, especially celebrity mothers. They criticize what the wear, what they allow their child to wear, and various other things as well. Magazines sold items to mothers by presenting this notion that if they bought what was being advertised, then they would be a better mother. The Redbook magazines also had stories with tips for mothers so that they could parent their children better and please their husbands more. As magazines evolved, many of them took a turn toward empowering women sexually and independently, but that was usually targeted toward single women, not necessarily mothers.
The Feminine Mystique
The Feminine Mystique was an interesting start to the course. It really was an eye-opener to how women were viewed back in the fifties and sixties. The fact that women who were mothers before the war wanted their daughters to have careers and not just stay at home with the kids was thought-provoking. However, when the men returned home, the women were forced back into the home and they wanted to be good housewives and mothers, or so it seemed. The fact of the matter was that being a mother and housewife was what they felt they had to be and what they felt they were meant to be. In reality, many of them felt trapped and thought they were alone in feeling that way. The Feminine Mystique brought to light that many women wanted more out of life than taking care of home. They wanted careers and hobbies that weren’t associated with parenting. Being a part of the PTA or taking part in their kids’ extracurricular activities was not going to satisfy the void they were feeling. The Feminine Mystique reveals that mothers wanted to have lives of their own, a concept that may seem obvious to the women of today. However, when a person doesn’t have the luxury of saying exactly what they want, things such as “the problem with no name” start to surface.
When it comes to motherhood, Disney Films take a different route. Most of the Disney characters do not have mothers. When they do have mothers, the mothers are either taken away by way of death or some other type of removal, they’re evil, or just completely absent. For example, both Bambi and Dumbo’s mother are removed from the movie in some way after protecting their children. As far as evil goes, Snow White and Ariel’s (The Little Mermaid) mothers are absent at the start of the movie. To take their places, they have mother figures, but the thing is they’re evil and horrible to the princesses. Both Ursula and Maleficent are jealous of the princesses and do evil things to hurt the princesses. It is said that the reason behind this is because Walt Disney felt bad about the death of his parents in a fire for which he blamed himself, and that’s why many of the scripts he wrote didn’t have mothers. Even still, after Disney’s death, the films still didn’t contain mothers, only evil mother figures and fathers who were oftentimes ditzy.
Children and Teen Fiction
The way mothers are portrayed in children and teen fiction is somewhat realistic, more so when dealing with television. In movies like Harry Potter and Divergent, the mothers are concerned with teaching their children lessons and making sure that they behave themselves, while also protecting them. In other movies, however, mothers are absent, like the mother in The Hunger Games series. Katniss is more of the mother figure in that series, and her mother learns about parenting from the way Katniss cares for her little sister, Prim. The mothers from Twilight aren’t as prevalent. In fact, they are both actually kind of absent. While Bella’s mom, Renee, is sort of ditzy and fits into the role of the best friend mom, Edward’s mom, Esme, is a bit more stern and wise. When it comes to television, the mothers on The Secret Life of the American Teenager and One Tree Hill are very realistic. They date, have ups and down, and they discipline and protect their children. Some TV teen fiction moms are more so associated with living vicariously through their kids and making sure that their children make them look good to the social world, like the mother and grandmother in Gossip Girl. This section of the course taught me that teens want to see more honest depictions of motherhood in their movies and television shows.
Edward's mother, Esme Cullen.
Secret Life of the American Teenager
Molly Ringwald as Shailene Woodley's mother.
One Tree Hill
Deb Scott and Karen Roe, mothers of Nathan and Lucas Scott, respectively.
The surveys were cool because they let us know what the mothers in our lives actually think about how they are being portrayed in the media and text. The surveys also showed how much they identify with the depictions of motherhood. Very few of them seem to be influenced by moms in the media and many of them don’t really learn much from magazines and books. One thing that I thought was interesting was how younger moms use internet to help determine what is wrong with their kids when it comes to illnesses, while older mom consider technology to be a bit of a hassle, especially if they have older children, because their answers were more so aligned with having to monitor what their children are doing with the technology.
I enjoyed the mothers in the music because it was mostly positive. The songs about mothers are ones that are meant to celebrate motherhood and show gratitude to our mothers for all that they do for us. I had the song Dear Mama by Tupac Shakur, and I love that song because he discusses how even though his mother was a drug addict and even though he sold drugs, his mother still took care of him and she still disciplined him and his sister because she wanted better lives for them. This section was sweet because it gave an idea of how the students in the class feel about their mothers, and I for one had fun putting the project together. Music about mothers gives credit to moms where credit is due, and with all the backlash mothers receive, I think this section was definitely necessary and worthwhile.
Letter to my future daughter
In this class with Professor Aschenbeck, I have learned that mothers don’t always get the credit that they deserve. In fact, mothers are actually extremely stereotyped by what the world feels they should be doing with their children. It is just interesting to me that a world full of travesty could be so cruel to the women who give birth to the people of the next generation. I have also learned that it takes courage to be a mother because people are always going to have something negative to say or advice on how you can mother your child better. This course has taught me that the media doesn’t value mothers as much as they should. It’s too busy either excluding mothers from the equation all together or critiquing how they take care of their children and their home. What irks me the most is that some people still believe that women shouldn’t work. They believe women should let men do all the career-related activities and stay at home with the kids. Because of this prehistoric notion, women get paid less, get passed over promotions often, and get looked down on in the workplace. I surely do hope the world is better for you, Kailey, because even in the year 2015, we are still fighting for our right to be whatever kind of woman or mother we want to be. It really upsets me knowing that you may be born into this simpleminded world. I enjoyed this class and if you choose to take it one day, I hope the societal rules will have been changed for the better.
Love you the mostest,