Friday, July 15, 2011

Femininity in Weeds’ “You Can’t Miss the Bear”

Women, according to the prevailing Victorian image, were supremely virtuous, pious, tender, and understanding.  It was above all as mothers that women were attributed social influence as the chief transmitters of moral values (Bloch).  These values are linked inseparably to the pop culture, though in recent years there has been obvious change.  Television has been a big contributor to the change in the culture.  Morality and being a good person with the allowable indulges have become appearing in recent television shows.  Nancy Botwin of Weeds is a perfect example of this change, with its roots in morality.  The first episode of the first season introduces the audience to a recently widowed Nancy, whose husband’s unfortunate death cause financial problems which compel her to make up for the loss.  She does this through selling marijuana in order to maintain her standing as the people around her see it.  Her viewpoint to others seems engrained in pop culture as well, and means very much to her.

Throughout the entire episode, Nancy keeps herself well kept and very attractive without much hesitation to show cleavage.  Now that her husband has passed, she hides the fact that she is struggling to maintain her status.  She has a knock off pocketbook that other women comment on and see as a sign of her high value.  She also drives a Range Rover, often driven by citizens of high standing.  Even though her pocketbook is a knock off and her Range Rover is full of clutter, she uses their images in order to maintain the level in society that society deems needed to be attained.  These objects symbolize Nancy in that they and she are both beautiful on the outside, while the death of her husband has made her and these objects a mess underneath.  These objects do not describe who Nancy is, but rather are their places in the race to be accepted and well liked by others.  This helps illustrate what it means exactly to be a woman in the world we all live in today.

Nancy exhibits the nurturing aspect of both a woman and a mother, catering her needs above and beyond by attending PTA meeting.  Nancy, the head of the healthy children’s committee proposes that the vending machines should replace the drinks with healthier options for the kids’ sake.  She follows the nurturing aspect of the ideal mother in that children are sacred to her.  This ideal mother is something that can be found from the aforementioned quote.  Nancy is acting not only in the best interest of her children but also of all of the children in the school.  The actions with her kids can be illustrated by her actions later in the episode as those of a person aspiring to reach the moral high ground.  The writer of the show is trying to impress upon the audience that while some actions may be immoral, such as the extreme of selling marijuana, in the end Nancy will maintain the best standing in society while doing the best she can for her kids.  The weight of a single mother has fallen hard and has forced Nancy to resort to certain actions.  The responsibility for her kids and her societal expectations of what a woman and, more importantly, a mother determine how she acts.  This in return relays a message to the audience on how to behave as a woman; if things are hard, have your vices, but use them to help achieve your more important goals.

The act of Celia, another mother, challenges Nancy’s healthy beverage proposal by saying the diet soda should not be removed because she believes that many of the girls are worried about their weight.  Later in the show, Celia talks about putting her daughter on medication to help her metabolism because she is overweight.  This highlights another major issue in pop culture for women, which is the “ultra-thin, media- driven standards of beauty” (Newman).  Many young women who want to be accepted in society’s eyes are willing to diet and starve themselves to be thin.  Newman notes that “as many as two-thirds of all American high school girls are either on a diet or planning to start one” (Newman).  In the eyes of society, thinness plays a big role for the acceptance of women, as a result of the modern media depiction of the ideal woman.  Celia is worried to the point of insanity that her daughter’s weight problem in elementary school will affect her image in society.

“Inside the majority of the West’s controlled, attractive, successful working women, there is a secret ‘underlife’” which includes the “dread of lost control” (Wolf).  Throughout the episode, Nancy struggles to keep a hold on her life, mainly her children’s wellbeing.  At the end of the episode, her youngest son gets suspended from school and she catches her oldest son having intercourse with another girl, both of which are still in high school.  She breaks down into tears at her drug dealer’s house because she lost control on her children’s actions.  She realizes that leading her single life while trying to raise two children, keep a house, and maintain her status in society is very difficult, and she doesn’t want anyone to see this for the fear of being an example of failure to the other women.  At the same time, these very actions make her character look like a hero to the audience.  The battle through stress as a single mom in society is looked on as a courageous act.  However when going through it, it feels only as if the mother is failing on many moral levels.

On the contrary to woman success to an extent, what makes a man into a man is reaching the goals of extraordinary which is a popular theme in pop culture.  Becoming a mother and all the responsibilities that go along with the process while conquering every issue as it comes and keeping the beauty in attractiveness are standards that popular culture has set on women to be deemed as successful in the eyes of society.  If it is not the entire process of becoming a woman, than it is a piece of the puzzle that is reflected to us in our media.  As Newman remarks, “[the] images of the successful woman of the 21st century: the perfect wife and mother, the triumphant” (Newman).  In this episode, Nancy struggles to triumph as a mother through an incredible rough patch in her life.

-Dan Ciszek

Works Cited

Bloch, Ruth. "American Feminine Ideals in Transition: The Rise of the Moral Mother." Feminist Studies. (1978): Print.

Kohan, Jenji. "You Can't Miss the Bear." Weeds. Dir. Brain Dannelly. Showtime. 7 Aug. 2005. Television.

Newman, David. “Portraying Differences.” Identities and Inequalities: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, & Sexuality. Higher Education, n.d. 91.

Wolf, Naomi. “The Beauty Myth.” Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth. William Morrow and Company, 1991. 120.

1 comment:

  1. Dan-
    Your analysis of Weeds here is interesting; however, it is tough to follow.
    Remember, the first paragraph needs to intro the show/character in the context of the assignment, with the thesis as the final sentence of that paragraph. It's tough to see how the last sentence of your first paragraph was your thesis.
    The use of a quote from outside the course materials is a fine idea; however, initiating the assignment with it was a tad confusing for me (as a reader) and lacked an adequate intro and context for its usage. Was there another, perhaps more contemporary piece you could have used instead (maybe from the course readings)?
    Additionally, make your thesis as specific as possible and don't leave anything unclear or without the definition you plan to argue.
    Be careful with your quote usage; therefore, remember to use quotes selectively to back up specific points. When you jump from a paragraph with a point from one author, directly to another paragraph that quotes a different author, the points the author makes should be backing up the same point you've made in the paragraph preceding the first paragraph with quoted work.
    Don't forget you need to cite your sources (in text citations too) using MLA style.

    The following outline can be used as a reference point (the numbers indicate the paragraph sequence) to structure and order a basic, written analysis:
    1. Intro Paragraph (with thesis at the last sentence)

    2. Point A (your first point/assertion that supports your thesis)

    3. Point A with quote from "expert witness" (author cited through the use of a direct quote to back up your point/assertion made in paragraph 2)

    4. Point B (your point/assertion that supports your thesis that can be directly linked with point A, so that your transition from point A to B is logical and adds depth to your analysis)

    5. Point B with quote from "expert witness" (author cited through the use of a direct quote to back up your point/assertion made in paragraph 4)

    .... repeat the steps above until your points have been made and you've adequately proven your thesis.

    #. Conclusion (after all points have been made)

    For the alpha-numeric grade, see the "gradebook" section of SOCS; however, for the more specific breakdown of points, click on the link for "assessments" to view the "TV Analysis" rubric that was used to calculate the grade you see in the gradebook section.

    - Jessie