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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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Conclusion: A call for maternal diversity


The women who responded to my questionnaire have been open, honest and indeed candid about the pleasures, frustrations and criticisms as they see them in relation to representations of motherhood on television and their views have offered the first real insight into this topic within the fields of television, media and gender studies. However, their voices have not only added significant original thought to the academic community, but must be seen to open up a dialogue with the wider entertainment arena. Although many women spoke of favourite maternal characters, preferred presenters and mothers on the small screen that they were invested in, there was a general consensus that they did not feel fairly or appropriately depicted on television. Women felt that there were very few mother figures that they could relate to and that those women who were regularly and routinely seen on screen were often rigid stereotypes and stock characters with only a narrow version of motherhood being presented.

With this in mind, my final question asked women to think about the depiction of motherhood in terms of the scope and breadth of maternal types represented, to which the overwhelming majority of respondents made the point that television did not provide a sufficiently broad range of maternal images. Participants routinely commented that minority groupings were dramatically under-represented on screen, be it in terms of fostering and adoption roles, lesbian mothers, disabled mothers or mothers with disabled children, non-white mothers, grandparents and mothers with older children,...

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