Opening my Guardian guide this morning I read with the usual sinking sense of inevitability that ‘How to be a Good Mother with Sharon Horgan’ was not going to be an insightful, thoughtful documentary. Rather it was going to be the usual ‘Point your Finger at the Freak’ style of programme. Because that’s all we want these days, isn’t it..? Heaven forbid we might see ordinary people going about their lives. How deathly dull!
The fact that most of the population, except for new mothers, doesn’t actually know what life is like for new mothers, is neither here nor there. Instead we’ve got this to marvel at!
Lynnea worships the placenta and turns other people’s into edible capsules for them; while Daria does not believe in nappies, or any detachment at all from her toddler.’ (The Guardian 7/1/12) So, this is ‘Knock the Hippies Time!’ Next will probably be ‘Knock the Trailer Trash!’ and the last ‘Knock the Pushy Career Mums!’ I realise this programme hasn’t aired yet, but this doesn’t fill me with confidence.
So, here’s a plan, thought the programme-makers. Let’s pick the most extreme example, so that anyone who practises attachment parenting/alternative methods (the first episode) will be made to feel ashamed of their choices. Who cares when we can have a good laugh? Indeed, the Guardian points this out for us: ‘It’s a fascinating look at the insanity of parenthood, which strikes just the right tone between the audience’s hooting and Horgan’s own mildly incredulous line of enquiry.’
I have to confess a personal interest in this. In March last year, I was forwarded an email from a friend who runs a music group for toddlers. She had been approached by the television company and thought I, as the director of Mothers Uncovered, might be interested in getting involved. Their intention was to make a documentary that was:
‘a celebratory look at women who love being mums and who are very focused on bringing up their children the best way possible.’
(Doesn’t seem much celebration if we are ‘hooting’ at them.)
I spoke to one of the production team, saying that I was keen to share my views on motherhood and perhaps other members of Mothers Uncovered might feel the same, but that I didn’t want myself or the group to be edited or presented in such a way as to mock us. There was a slightly uneasy tone to her voice as she ended the call as quickly as possible. Needless to say I wasn’t chosen, thankfully.
The reason I say people are unaware what life is like for new mothers, is because when you are a new mother, you withdraw from the world, for a short or longer time. When you return to the fray many of those memories and experiences have faded. One of the reasons I created Mothers Uncovered was to give space to those experiences and the chance to capture them, through writing, photography and interviews.
I would love for a respectful film to be made about mothers. We have had a such a film made about us by Ceri Whitby http://vimeo.com/23501568. There’s no chance of that, or anything like it, reaching a wider audience as long as we retain our desire for ‘Point and Laugh’ television.