Mommy Angst: Motherhood in American Popular Culture

Mommy Angst: Motherhood in American Popular Culture

Mommy Angst: Motherhood in American Popular Culture

Mommy Angst: Motherhood in American Popular Culture


This revealing work looks at representations of motherhood from a wide range of pop culture sources to explore larger questions about the image and self-image of mothers in the United States.

How has the popularity of Gilmore Girls influenced perspectives on teenage pregnancies? How did the mother-in-law assume such monstrous proportions? Did the Republicans’ view of motherhood—and their continual hectoring of Hillary Clinton for putting ambition ahead of family—cost them the 2008 election? Mommy Angst: Motherhood in American Popular Culture considers questions like these as it probes our country’s views on mothers, and how those views shape—and are shaped by—the habitually oversimplified portrayals of mothers in pop culture, politics, and the media.

Mommy Angst gets at the heart of America’s anxious ambivalence toward mothers—whether sanctifying them, vilifying them, or praising the ideal of motherhood while thoroughly undervaluing the complexities of their lives and their contributions to family and society. To highlight the many sides of motherhood, the collection contrasts the lives of a diverse range of real moms with their pop culture representations, including Jewish mothers, Cuban mothers, teenage mothers, mothers with disabilities, working versus stay-at-home moms, and more.


Ann C. Hall Mardia J. Bishop

Americans are anxious about motherhood, and American mothers are anxious about nearly every aspect of their lives: their careers, their families, their bodies, their children, their mothering abilities. One of the important reasons for this anxiety is the culture’s desire for a simple, reliable definition and representation of motherhood, one that answers all questions, addresses all situations, and, perhaps, requires nothing on the part of the American culture in return. Americans want a “mom” definition of motherhood—a nurturing, accepting, easy definition. Mothers, moreover, are the reservoir of American expectations, so it is no wonder that when Americans say “mother,” there are a host of images and expectations associated with the term. For mothers in American culture, the deluge is overwhelming.

In order to fulfill the desire for a definition or simple representation of motherhood, mothers in pop culture are frequently represented in particular ways. Most recently, the “supermom”—the mother who could do it all, with a smile, with a perfect figure, and on a budget—was the cultural ideal. Those who complained earned the most oppressive label in American culture, “the bad mom,” the postmodern equivalent of a scarlet letter. In other instances, perhaps in an attempt to perpetuate the competition among women so common in patriarchal structures, stay-at-home moms are pitted against working moms, with both sides feeling inadequate as a result of the comparison. Under these circumstances, women who once . . .

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