The Misrepresentation of Working Moms on Television

Please welcome freelance arts and entertainment blogger Blake Meredith with a look at working mothers on TV, a topic which sprung from conversation about the delayed renewal of THE CLIENT LIST starring Jennifer Love Hewitt.

the-client-listAccording to ABC News back in April 2012, 70.8% of mothers with children under the age of 18 were in the workforce. This is an adjustment that has slowly been working its way into the public eye since the 1960s. But while real life has progressed markedly, the entertainment industry is still behind when it comes to equal representation of men and women on the big and small screen. According to an article posted to the Ms. Magazine blog about a report from the Center for the Study in Television & Film titled “Boxed In”, “In television, the report found that the percentage of female TV characters has fallen, and the characters that make it on-screen are far less likely to be leaders than their male counterparts.” To view the full report click here.

Among women, working mothers are a specific group that is underrepresented and severely misrepresented on television. It seems like every working mother on television is corrupt and has glaring flaws that make the viewer question her morality and ability to be a mother. NURSE JACKIE is a drug addict who steals her next fix from work. Nancy Botwin on WEEDS illegally sells marijuana. THE CLIENT LIST’s Riley Parks begins giving “extras” to clients at a massage parlor to make money. Jackie on ROGUE also walks a thin line when it comes to being a moral mother and a good role model.

tmb_rogue_stories_1aAll these shows are entertaining and full of great storytelling, but how does this portrayal of working moms affect the public’s already skewed view? Well, according to a Pew poll, October 2009, 37% of people said “more mothers of young children working outside the home” was a bad thing (click here to view these results and many more startling social trends on the issue). If the only working mother that the media displays is one that works until they need drugs to get them through the day or the one that begins to sell sexual favors to make ends meet, then of course people are going to be against the idea of working moms.

ROGUE, a DirecTV original series, portrays one working mom, Jackie, as too involved in her job. Jackie doesn’t do drugs or sell drugs; she’s is a cop in Oakland, California whose son was killed by gangsters, and she is hell bent on finding her son’s murderer and getting some answers – but as a working mother she begins to neglect her daughter and husband. The show is entertaining, but this portrayal can negatively affect the way people view working mothers. For more on where you can view ROGUE and form your own opinion on the show click here.

WEEDS (Season 4)NURSE JACKIE, WEEDS, and THE CLIENT LIST have more obvious flaws to their working mother characters. A drug addict, a drug dealer, and a prostitute don’t scream mother material to most people, but the problem is that that’s about all we are getting on television these days. Without positive female leads and moral working moms on television some easily influenced people still believe that a working mom is a disgrace to the traditional nuclear family. The fact is that thanks to a struggling economy, more women want and need to go to work, and since women make up about half of the population and they should make up half of the workforce too.

Despite what many folks want to believe, television, films, video games, and other forms of media do have a profound impact on social issues. With children, and even adults, looking at screens for most of the day we need to be more conscious about what we put out there and how it affects the public as a whole.