I Want to Know How She Does It

This Oliver Lyttleton post absolutely obliterates the new Sarah Jessica Parker movie, “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” based on the best seller about a working mother.  The Jezebel review of it is ambiguous. I have issues with both reviews, especially Lyttleton’s:

It combines the why-should-I-give-a-shit-about-your-problems misjudgment of the loathsome “Sex and the City 2” with the deeply racist your-child-will-end-up-speaking-Portuguese-because-it-spends-all-its-time-with-the-nanny scaremongering of any number of similar films, creating some kind of bullshit lilywhite New York brownstone rom-com checklist full house

First, I’m tired of white people trying to say something is racist when it’s not — and then missing it entirely when it does, even if it’s not racist but mainly dismissive as pointed out in today’s Ta-Nehisi Coates’ NYTimes op-ed piece about “X-Men: First Class,” “You Left Out the Part About…”

Yes, this movie deals with “First World” problems, but really, if it doesn’t involve super heroes, what in Hollywood is dealing with real issues? There was a meth crisis in the late 80’s and “Winter’s Bone” is one indie film and the one show dealing with it, “Breaking Bad,” is only 6 seasons old — and that’s not even a high ratings grabber. There’s a recession, 2 wars, and a host of problems, most of which are not reflected in movies and if they are, they don’t do well (so are producers or audiences or filmmakers at fault?).

Let’s take a look at the indie sector — “The Squid and the Whale”; “Smart People”; “The Kids are All Right”; “Little Miss. Sunshine.” They are not only First World problems, they are neurotic white people problems.

This is Movie Land and indie or Hollywood, in a country where there are over 25% Hispanics and growing Asian and South Asian populations; where the world is becoming a global village supposedly; and majority of the population in the US and the world is female, you will find only white stories and white actors and actresses, the latter mainly below 30.

Second, as a woman/mother/wife, I think I can speak about working mothers with some authority. As a mom and minority, I can say with confidence that no mom in this day and age that I know of feels too guilty about nannies. If the nanny/mommy’s helper/sitter is bilingual, all the better (hey, it improves school scores according to the latest research). So there’s nothing racist about a movie featuring a Portuguese nanny — most nannies are minorities, that’s reality. Statistics are different from judgmental stereotypes.

I want to see what else is happening in this story.  The working mom story may not be new but no story is new. It’s all about the take on it.  If boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy proves himself to win back girl is as old as history then women juggling it all is relatively new and I’d like to see new takes on it. How DO other mothers balance it?  I’d like to see my predicament in a humorous light because I’m too tired to see the humor right now.

I don’t have the problems that the women of India, or Sudan, or France, or Brazil have — just as most of the US does not — and I don’t need to apologize for it.  I can relate more to the SJP character than a woman struggling in Somalia with parenthood in the midst of a war.  At the end of the day it is about the child’s well being and the mother’s journey after all; one more harrowing no less but both deserving of treatment.  Just like “Precious” and “Bridget Jones” cannot and should not be compared though both involve a woman’s journey to being a more independent self.

To single out SJP’s new movie has having these flaws are not really its main flaws. If it’s trite, predictable, poorly acted, poorly directed, miscast, badly written, then we have some basis of a movie critique. Jezebel’s review touches on it briefly — the fourth wall break, like it or hate it. Otherwise, to say it’s myopic in its vision of women and the problems “real” people face is the problem of Hollywood.


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