Monday, April 9

Blog Post #5: Motherhood and "Desperate Housewives"

Although many aspects of the definition of a good mother have changed since the 1950’s, there are a few parts of it that are still prevalent in today’s society. In a television show from the 1950’s the character of mama states that she wants “success at work for her husband, marriage and childrearing for her daughters, the presidency for her son, and nothing for herself” (Lipsitz). Although now one might argue women are now being encouraged to pursue education and careers, it is still expected for mothers to be self-sacrificing and want more for their family than for themselves. As soon as a mother does something for herself instead of for her family, she is portrayed as selfish and as a bad mother. Ironically, it is the character of Brie on “Desperate Housewives” who is the epitome of 1950’s values that is today considered a “bad mother.”

The character of Brie on “Desperate Housewives” is portrayed on the show as an ineffective mother. On the surface, Brie is society’s idea of the perfect mother, for she “stays at home all of the time and holds very conservative values” (Coates). In addition, Brie’s home is kept spotless, her cooking is superb, she is always dressed in beautiful clothing, her appearance is always perfect, and she enjoys housework. However, Brie is missing one key part of the definition of a good mother; she is not “providing a stable and safe haven for her children” (Coates). It is this unstable and unsafe home she has provided for her children that makes her easy to portray as a bad mother.

From the first episode of “Desperate Housewives,” the viewer can see just how much Brie’s children dislike her. They ask Brie to make a dinner for once that isn’t extremely fancy, and her response is asking her son if he’s on drugs because his behavior is “horrible.” The children are sick of the spotless house and the gourmet dinners, but Brie refuses to change her ways. Later on that night, her husband Rex tells her he wants a divorce due to her obsession with being perfect. Instead of showing her husband that she does in fact have emotions and flaws, she hides them in order to keep her “perfect” persona. As a result, the children blame Brie for the divorce. All of this happens because Brie is more concerned about what others think of her than what her own children want and need.

Brie tries to appear perfect to others as her “means of changing the unpleasant realities” of her life instead of emotionally reaching out to her children (Lipsitz). Her son Andrew protests this by slamming doors in his mother’s face, going to strip clubs late at night, smoking pot, etc. Instead of really talking things out with Andrew, Brie sends him to boot camp and makes sure to hide this fact from her neighbors. Later on in the show when Brie’s son tells his mother that he is gay, she tells Andrew he is not going to heaven. As a result, Andrew tries to make his mother’s life a living hell. Although his behavior is in fact horrible, he is acting this way because he believes his mother no longer loves him due to his sexuality. Brie tells Andrew at one point she would love him even if he was a murderer, but will not accept him when he takes away from her image of being the “perfect Christian.”

It is when Brie kicks her son Andrew out of the house and leaves him to fend for himself on the streets that the viewer is left with little choice but to think of Brie as a bad mother. As Brie kicks Andrew out of the car, a tearful Andrew tells her, "You know what? I win. The day I told you I was gay, I knew by the look in your eyes that one day you'd stop loving me. And I was right." Although Andrew was behaving atrociously, it is apparent in that moment that Andrew did in fact love his mother and was acting out as a defense mechanism. The second Brie kicks Andrew out of the house, she has committed the ultimate sin of motherhood- she has completely given up on her own child!

By the beginning of season 3, the viewer cannot help but be horrified at how things have turned out for Brie’s children. Brie’s son Andrew is living on the streets as a homeless man, Brie’s daughter Danielle is having sex with her high school history teacher as well as many of the boys in the neighborhood, and both of Brie’s children hate her guts. Recently, there have been some significant changes for her children. Andrew has been allowed to move back home and seems to be acting a whole lot nicer to his mother. Meanwhile, Danielle just got pregnant. As a result, Brie is having Danielle live in another country for 9 months and telling her neighbors Danielle is studying abroad so no one will know and there will be no “scandal.” Although the relationship between Brie and Andrew seems to be improving, Brie still has a lot of work to do in order to truly mend the relationships between her and her children. Until Brie can stop worrying about her own need to appear “perfect,” she will never be able to give her children the “maternal devotion” they truly need (Coates).


Coates, Norma. Moms don’t rock- the popular demonization of Courtney Love.

Lipsitz, George. The meaning of memory- family, class and ethnicity in early network television. Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 40-47.