I’ve seen Bridget Jones’s Diary more times than I have fingers to count on. It was a cute movie. It was funny and clever; but the reason I clung to it was because as a shy, socially awkward, chubby, single girl in my 20s, it was like watching my own biography. And who doesn’t want to marry Colin Firth?
There is something so powerful about connecting on a visceral level to a movie. We have one for every stage of our lives. It’s the reason we force our eight-year-olds to sit through The Neverending Story, and why 30-year-old women will still pop on Mean Girls from time to time. When a movie speaks for you, becomes part of your narrative, it stays with you. Held next to Shawshank Redemption or Casablanca, Bridget Jones is unlikely to stand out as a winner; but for me, it was profound.
I had heard that Bad Moms was hilarious. I went in expecting basically a sequel to Bridesmaids. My herd of 16 women from our community moms group walked into the theatre like the giant stereotype we were and sat down prepared to laugh and enjoy some time watching a movie that didn’t star talking animals. We laughed… a lot. We recognized all of our mom friends, because there is always one of those moms, and we giggled to ourselves every time slang for male genitalia was thrown about so casually and emphatically. We were essentially watching played out on the screen all of the conversations we had with each other via facebook messenger while our children watched Paw Patrol. Moms are filthy, and the juxtaposition is genuinely funny.
What I was not prepared for was beginning to sob about a third of the way through the movie, and not truly stopping until the credits finished rolling. It suddenly hit me I was no longer Bridget Jones. I was a mom hanging by a thread, and I was watching the next installment of my biography. The pressure that had been building in me released as Mila’s character unraveled on the screen, and I cried. I cried tears of frustration, I cried tears of guilt and of fear, but mostly, I cried tears of relief because someone out there understood me.
When the credits began to roll, the entire theatre applauded. It had been a while since I’ve seen such accolades given to an inanimate screen, as though it were a live curtain call. We didn’t want to go home. At home, we were mommies, and for many of us, this was the first time in a very long time that we had been out as women, and it felt empowering. As we sat on the restaurant patio, drinking our wine, we discussed the movie and confessed the things we did that made us bad moms. We all had stories. Multiple ones. We talked about the struggles of being a working parent, and being a stay at home parent, and being a work at home parent, and how high the standards were for anything that ended with the word “parent.” We were all bad moms, and we knew it, because, in the world of parenting, bad has become a pseudonym for normal. The relief in the air was palpable, as all of the facades evaporated. We were relaxed, and that is a rare luxury for moms these days.
In a world where so much of our interaction is through a screen, it is easy to forget that filters are used. We have come to accept that the models we see in magazines are heavily photoshopped, and no longer strive for that kind of perfection in a swimsuit. What we fail to see amidst the status updates and Pinterest tutorials is that the photoshopped perfection applies to the view we see of our peers’ lives as well. We post what we are proud of. Sometimes, we vent, but we sanitize them into cute stories. It is rare to see the tweet about how you skipped lunch so you could cry in your car about the argument you had with your tween that morning or the Instagram photo of the dishes that have been in the sink for 3 days because you simply have nothing left at the end of the day to summon and clean them. Photos are cropped, details are omitted, our best foot is put forward, or at the very least we are adorably self-deprecating. We are aware that we use these tactics, yet when we look at our friends’ lives, we fail to recognize that we are seeing the highlights. We hold ourselves to standards that not a single one of us are actually achieving, but we accept the notion that everyone else has it together, so we must be failing.
Bad Moms is resonating with parents because it is giving us permission to just be who we are, unfiltered. One mom in the group remarked that it, “made [her] feel okay about life.” It is okay that our lives have muffin tops when they wear bikinis because no one’s life looks as good in a bathing suit as the magazine implies. It will probably not win an Oscar. It will probably not be nearly as popular with people outside the suburban mom niche. What it has done, and will continue to do, is spark conversations about what it really feels like to be a mom who is one Caillou whine away from head combustion. It will normalize parenting just a little bit. It will make a generation of moms laugh until their mom bladder’s give out, and then collectively sigh with relief that they are not alone and that they are doing okay, and they will have a night where they relax.
Take that, Shawshank.
(Photo credit: theknockturnal.com)