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Mothers on Mothers

Maternal Readings of Popular Television

Rebecca Feasey

From Supernanny to Gilmore Girls, from Katie Price to Holly Willoughby, a wide range of examples of mothers and motherhood appear on television today. Drawing on questionnaires completed by mothers across the UK, this book sheds new light on the varied and diverse ways in which expectant, new and existing mothers make sense of popular representations of motherhood on television. The volume examines the ways in which these women find pleasure, empowerment, escapist fantasy, displeasure and frustration in popular depictions of motherhood. The research seeks to present the voice of the maternal audience and, as such, it takes as its starting point those maternal depictions and motherwork representations that are highlighted by this demographic, including figures such as Tess Daly and Katie Hopkins and programmes like TeenMom and Kirstie Allsopp’s œuvre.
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Chapter 4: Bad mothers and poor role models: Maternal inadequacy and the problem of perfection

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CHAPTER 4

Bad mothers and poor role models: Maternal inadequacy and the problem of perfection

Women in the audience find themselves drawn to a number of comedic and dramatic representations of motherhood that span different channels and schedules, and although such depictions offer a range of escapist fantasies, potential role models and the opportunity for emulation, there are a number of maternal depictions that create a sense of pity, disgust and mistrust. It is important to think about the ways in which certain depictions of motherhood are reviled while others revered, and the ways in which these distinctions can be seen to pick up on broader debates concerning the socially acceptable ‘good’ mother or the culturally inappropriate ‘bad’ mother as they are evident in the broader social and entertainment landscape (Feasey 2012b).

I asked the question ‘Are there mothers on television that you feel negatively towards, what is it about these mothers that encourages ridicule or disapproval?’ With the additional help text asking ‘Do you feel negatively towards their appearance, family, maternal behaviour, friendships, relationships, domestic space or working efforts?’ It is interesting to note the diversity of responses here in terms of the details provided. I do not mean simply in terms of the length of the responses proposed, but rather, in terms of minutia of information given. While some participants provided generalised comments about those maternal representations that irked or irritated, others spoke about specific genres,...

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