Warning: Spoiler alerts abound.
This weekend, I saw Bad Moms, the new film lead by Mila Kunis, which promised some cheap laughs. On that, it delivered. Proud to say, I cackled so hard at all the dick/drinking/SAHM jokes that two moms (wearing wedding rings, gotta point out) gave me dirty looks and left the theater.
What I didn't expect was the shocking, envelope-pushing array of pro-women messages that this Hollywood comedy delivered by the heaping sandbox-shovel-full:
From the first scene, stay-at-home moms are mocked as privileged, sanctimonious, and/or dependent and powerless. When the harried protagonist, Amy Mitchell (Kunis), drops her kids at middle school, and bumps into the coiffed PTA mafia trio (Bad Moms' antagonists), who admonish: “I so admire you for working all day! Don't you miss your kids? You are so strong!” To which Amy replies: “Um, yeah. I work because … I … need the money.” Which, of course, the hugely vast majority of moms get, because the hugely vast majority of moms work, because nearly all of them need the money (and large portions of moms who don't work, want to work. Because they need the money, surveys find.) The evil trio, we see, fill their over-supply of SAH time with PTA power-mongering.
One of the protagonists, Kiki (Kristen Bell), is a frazzled SAHM of four, with a domineering husband who demands she iron his underwear and admonishes her for taking time for herself, treating her like a child, and she deferring to him as a daddy. Bad Moms wants moms to have power. When, late in the film, Kiki screams over the phone to her husband, home with the kids and whining about being overwhelmed: “Just fucking DEAL WITH IT! STOP BEING SUCH A FUCKING PUSSY!” the audience in the New York City theater where I was viewing Bad Moms, burst into applause.
Full bush is hot. Worried your husband is jerking off to bald, pre-teen pussy porn while you're putting the kids to bed? In Bad Moms, Amy finds her husband having a digital affair with a beautiful blonde, with a big, bushy bush. An adult woman's bush. Full, grown-ass-woman bush is hot in Bad Moms.
Moms are horny. Every single mom in Bad Moms is an unapologetic horn dog. Carla (Kathryn Hahn) veers firmly into cliche territory as the sex-craved (“I used to walk down the street, and it was raining dicks. Dick, dick, dick, dick. Cock everywhere.”), boozy single mom who refuses to attend her kid's boring baseball games (“The last game I went to was six hours long! And the score was 1-0!”), while prim Kiki complains about the weekly scheduled coitus with her husband's semi-hard erection that she is forced to fold and “stuff it in my vagina.” Even the PTA Nazis unabashedly lust after Jesse, a.k.a. “hot widow,” one admitting she'd let him “go to town” on her backdoor, and later announcing her new lease on life after her husband “50-shaded me.”
In fact, as Amy emerges from her sexless, longtime marriage, her friends admonish her Mrs. Doubtfire wardrobe and utilitarian bra. The chaste mom is the weirdo in Bad Moms.
I'm not sure I've seen such guiltless sex drive in moms in media like this. Collectively, society is warming up to the idea that the Lena Dunams and her 20-something peers are entitled to casual sex all in its frisky varieties, but the same freedoms are never extended to mothers — much less unmarried ones. In Bad Moms, we do see Carla as an actual bad mother who also happens to be super-slutty, but we also see Amy character settle into her new single-motherhood, and enjoy the heck of of sex (with cunnilingus-loving Jesse, of course).
Kids aren't that interesting to moms. There aren't many kids in Bad Moms. Sure, we see them in the background at the morning school dropoff, and Amy's tweens play minor roles in the plot. But in Bad Moms, mothers are not all-encompassed with their off-spring, as moms, often, really aren't — despite pressure to spend copious amounts of quality time nurturing parental bonds, and celebrating the blossoming lives that have been bestowed into our responsibilities. Kids are boring, and sex lives, school politics, and interesting careers often occupy our minds and adult conversations far, far more than our children. Bad mom frees women from the pressure to orbit around our children, sacrificing ourselves.
Kids thrive when moms are happy. Once Amy ditches her unhappy marriage, stands up for herself and gets a big raise and promotion at work, gets laid, rebels against the alpha-mom status quo, her kids start thriving: Her previously spoiled son does his own homework and makes his own breakfast, her angry children turn forgiving, and she connects in a new and better way with her daughter. Again: Bad mom frees women from the pressure to orbit around our children, sacrificing ourselves.
Women are real, dynamic, nuanced human beings. Pat as it may be, the big theme in Bad Moms is: We are all trying so freaking hard to be perfect, convince everyone else we are perfect, and instead making ourselves, our kids and our families insane — alienating ourselves from everyone. This is actually a very powerful and relevant message, as Gena Davis and her feminist cohorts take on sexism in Hollywood, and it's simpleton cliched, one-note female characters.
This message begs to be screamed to moms everywhere, as we stalk each other's Pinterest and Instagram feeds, denigrating ourselves and each other for less-than perfectly stylized Tuesday morning breakfasts, casual-yet-hip getup for running Saturday errands, and family vacays to St. Martin with the perfectly behaved children, and fit, successful husband who, we presume is-not-having-semi-hard-erection-stuff-it-in-once-weekly-scheduled-sex.
No. Bad Moms wins for its celebration of imperfect motherhood. That is: Amy's character literally wins the PTA presidency on the platform of being an imperfect mother, one often full of doubt, disinterest, mistakes made and priorities unclear. In her humility and vulnerability, she connects with the mothers in her community, and moms and women in the audience. Bad Moms tells women: You are a person. A failable, strong and messy human.
Did you see Bad Moms? What did you think? Share in the comments!
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.