My lovely cousin Bea gave us the box set of Seasons One and Two of Weeds as a Christmas present. I LOVE box sets of good television series. Himself and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the whole six series of Sopranos from spring to autumn of 2007. Last winter Lilbro gave us the boxset of the first series of Rome which was entertaining and the enhanced features explained many of the day to day aspects of life in Rome when you got confused. Mind you there were some confusing historical details that the producers were obviously less confused by than us… Watching a whole series on DVD gives a much more focussed experience of a series I think. I was going to use the word intense in the place of focussed and while I think you could apply that adjective to The Sopranos, it doesn’t fit so well to the likes of Weeds or Rome for example. The one drawback with box sets is that I don’t care to own DVDs after I watch them but I turn this into a positive by always passing them on to others when we’re done.
So back to Weeds. I’m really enjoying it so far. I’m not going to get into the moral question at the very centre of this series: whether or not cannabis should be legal or not. Not here anyway 🙂 What interests me about the series so far is the manner in which traditional male and female roles are highlighted. Nancy Botwin is the embodiment of many traditional female roles: mother, friend, loving wife, homemaker, widow. However her character is refreshing on the small screen: she’s rarely perfectly made-up or coiffed; many of her outfits are unremarkable and some are even ill advised; she is erratic in her mothering, her housekeeping and only sometimes manages to be the kind of friend we would all like to have. Honestly, I could be describing my own life. Compare this to any one of the Desperate Housewives even the kooky one who struggles to juggle working life with being a mom to 4 boys and a stepdaughter but never has roots or a spectacularly messy house. Nuff said.
Desperate Housewives and Sex in the City another recent popular American series aimed at women and about women, their relationships with their friends, families and lovers, were, I always felt, a touch unreal. Yes, true mother turned drug dealer is also unreal but it’s so unreal that you have to discount it: it’s artistic licence, a conceit. It allows the writers to introduce characters that normally would not co-exist. If you examine your own working life and think about your colleagues, the truth is you probably would not be brought into contact with many of them except through work.
Whenever I hear people questioning the likelihood of people knowing each other I always think about a play that I acted in when I was a member of Dublin Youth Theatre. Reading my blog you may or may not realise that I would be considered quite posh in Ireland. I have a south Dublin accent. In 1994 I was in a play about six women who dreamed of travelling together to the World Cup in the US. My one and only brush with the beautiful game: I had a solo in this musical about Denis Irwim. Don’t ever ask me to sing it. For your own sake. One of the critics, reviewing the production, complained about the unlikelihood of six women of such obviously disparate backgrounds ever knowing each other. The director, Gerry Stembridge, swept this criticism aside by saying, “But you’re all here and you know each other.” There’s nowt as strange as folk and what brings them together is the lesson I learned from that experience.
What is very true about the Widow Botwin’s experience is the fact that her home life is inhabited by women, her work life by men. I find that the series so far (seasons 1 and 2) highlight many truths about women’s working lives; about being a working mother or a stay at home mom. I really love the way many of the roles are turned on their heads: Nancy is incapable of counselling her youngest son on the changes he is experiencing as he battles through adolescence (women are compassionate and empathic); her brother in law, Andy, does most of the cooking in the home and many of the dishes he prepares sound pretty complicated; Nancy remarries for purely business reasons; Nancy knowingly uses her “pretty brown eyes” to get her way and those caught in her gaze refute it (Conrad: “Every time you flash your pretty brown eyes at me I get dropped in shit.”); we rarely glimpse Nancy in sex scenes and when we do they are low key love scenes while Andy is frequentely derided while being rided. (Sorry I couldn’t resist!)
Similarly I thought that The Sopranos tackled gender questions in a very honest and forthright manner, developing the main female characters in a fascinating manner while constantly underlining this depth with the shallow nature of the roles of the female staff in Badabaing, Tony’s topless bar.
I’ve noticed that in recent years many series that might not consider women as their main target audience have displayed a better understanding of what I as a woman want to see on the small screen. Real 21st century women’s issues being addressed and sometimes resolved but not always.
And my final reason for loving Weeds as a woman and a mother? Vaneeta James, the daughter of Heylia James, breastfeeds her baby. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I’m a big fan of breastfeeding.