Motherland brilliantly skewers the myth of the perfect parent but does it need to pit women against each other? – iNews

Posted: October 6, 2019 at 7:47 am

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CultureTVThe BBC2 sitcom expertly deconstructs traditional representations of motherhood, only to lazily cast its characters as school-run Mean Girls

Saturday, 5th October 2019, 07:00 am

Child-rearing has long been irresistible to comedy writers who like to use vomit-stained clothing and curdled sex lives as shorthand for the daily grind. But lately we have seen comedy dramas setting aside gentle farce in favour of something grittier, with the focus shifting towards mothers.

The series gleefully washes its hands of the stereotypes peddled by ye olde sitcoms such as 2point4 Children and My Family, in which the mother is the fulcrum of the family, consigned to standing serenely over a cooker.

It takes a similarly dim view of the concept of having it all a fallacy dreamt up by self-help gurus and glossy magazines that serves to make women, and in particular working mothers, feel as if they are failing.

Instead, it follows the seat-of-the-pants existence of Julia (Anna Maxwell Martin) as she juggles two children, a job in PR and events, and a largely absent partner. For Julia, being a parent is less the pinnacle of female achievement than a test of endurance, during which just getting through the day without anyone dying is a victory.

Thus, in the opening episode, we see Julia racing to buy school shoes on the last day of the holidays, only to find the shelves empty save for a pair of baby shoes and some kitten heels. At the school gate, Julia listens in to fellow parents summer holiday adventures, noting that she had to send her kids to seven different sports clubs, which they absolutely hated. But on a positive, theyre now county level at badminton.

'Motherlands masterstroke lies in skewering the myth of the saintly mother'

We also see her scowl at newcomer Meg (Tanya Moodie), who has just moved into the house opposite. With her brace of children, successful career and sunny disposition, Meg appears to have it all worked out. She cant be a high-flyer and have five kids, Julia carps. Ive got two children and a job I phone in and I already have incredibly low self-esteem. Who does she think she is? Nicola Horlick?

It is here, in addressing competitive middle-class parenting, that Motherland falls down slightly. While the series expertly captures the cycle of panic that balancing kids and work can entail, less edifying is the way it pits women against one another. If its not Julia taking potshots at strangers, its Lucy Punchs cartoonishly coiffed mega-mum looking down her nose at her less glamorous acolytes.

While its one thing to draw attention to the divisions at the school gates related to class and differing family set-ups (among the social outcasts is blunt-talking single mum Liz, played by Diane Morgan), its another to lazily cast them as school-run Mean Girls.

More heartening is that Horgan and co clearly feel no compulsion to make their protagonists likeable. While the popular girls versus scruffy outsider tropes are tiresome, all the characters scheme and manipulate to make their lives easier, or themselves look good.

Motherlands masterstroke lies in skewering the myth of the saintly mother and showing us that atrocious behaviour is by no means the preserve of children.

'Motherland' returns to BBC2 on Monday 7 October at 10pm

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Motherland brilliantly skewers the myth of the perfect parent but does it need to pit women against each other? - iNews

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October 6th, 2019 at 7:47 am

Posted in Self-Help