Why ‘A Bad Moms Christmas’ reminds me of how inaccurately Hollywood views women

A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS
Motion Picture Artwork/Courtesy

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“A Bad Moms Christmas” is maybe the worst movie I’ve ever seen. So bad in fact, that I left the theater not wanting to celebrate Christmas, a holiday I typically start preparing for in January. Sure, the production quality and the cheesy storyline played a role in the poor quality, but the biggest issue with the film is the misrepresentation of women — particularly moms.

There is no doubt in my mind that that misrepresentation comes from the fact that this holiday feature and the preceding “Bad Moms” film were written by the white male writing duo Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Lucas and Moore are not just white male screenwriters, but a duo whose collective filmography is riddled with movies absent of strong female characters. They have spurted out films like the  “Hangover” trilogy (notorious for being boys’ films), “The Change-Up” (a movie where Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman switch bodies after peeing into a fountain at the same time) and “Ghost of Girlfriends Past” (Matthew McConaughey has too many exes!). None of these films feature really strong or independent women.

Time and time again, this duo has proven that they are wildly underqualified to write accurate women characters.

For example, the scene in which Kiki (Kristen Bell) and her mother Sandy (Cheryl Hines) attend therapy and Sandy claims she has cancer to make Kiki feel bad is so representative of the inaccuracies promoted in this film. “A Bad Moms Christmas” perpetuates the classic stereotype that women are dramatic and manipulative.

It doesn’t help that the therapist (Wanda Sykes) goes on a rant about how Sandy is “crazy” because of how hard it was to take care of Kiki when she was growing up.

This whole scene was so cringe-worthy, I thought I was about to scream right there in the theater. It makes it seem like once you become a mother, you “go crazy.” Sandy is not like this because she gave birth. She’s like this because her character is supposed to be a manipulative and needy one who, based on stereotypes, ends up looking hysterical. Her problematic personality is not caused by her being a mother in the slightest — it’s caused by the ignorance of the men who wrote her.

Sandy is not the only problematic character. Carla (Kathryn Hahn), the single mom of the franchise, is a wild, poor alcoholic and regifts a box of Ziploc bags to her son on Christmas Day. Not all single mothers are as careless as Carla. Again, women represented in this film are the 1 percent being peddled as the 99 percent.

There is no part of me that could enjoy this film, because every scene and every line of dialogue reminded me of every sexist stereotype I have ever been confronted with.

Women are powerful, not petty and certainly not this predictable.

A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS

Motion Picture Artwork/Courtesy

This movie perpetuates humiliating and discriminatory stereotypes of mothers for the sake of easy jokes. Every scene is like wading through a pool of debris of poor decisions by the writers. Lucas and Moore pick the low-hanging fruit that they know will get a laugh from audiences who believe these stereotypes to be true.

“A Bad Moms Christmas” demonstrates a fundamental problem plaguing Hollywood.

Most male screenwriters, not just Lucas and Moore, use harmful stereotypes as crutches when portraying women characters. Even if it is meant to be ironic and call out a prejudice that is wrong, not everyone knows that those stereotypes are jokes. Half the people watching may be laughing at the ridiculousness of the societal prejudices facing women, but the other half are laughing because they believe those prejudices to be true. When most of the films being released are full of reductive stereotypes, it’s easier for audiences to believe that they are true.

Women can’t escape these prejudices because Hollywood is validating them all the time.

This isn’t an abstract problem. It’s a perpetual and systemic issue with readily apparent solutions.

Men need to stop being the main voices for women. Women in Hollywood need to move to the forefront of their own stories and pursue narratives that are important to them and that need to be told with accuracy. Actress Reese Witherspoon is already starting to alleviate the lack of women-driven films with her production company, Pacific Standard, which focuses on producing movies with strong women leads. This is important because heads of blockbuster production companies such as Miramax have been revealed as sexual harassers and sexists. This is not a friendly place for women trying to promote women-driven stories.

I am tired of films depicting women as hysterical, manipulative and less capable than male counterparts. The women I interact with every day –– my accomplished mother, my bright sister, my strong friends, my hilarious roommates –– are representative of all the amazing qualities that deserve space on the silver screen. With the men who have dominated Hollywood for so long slowly being ousted for sexual misconduct, the next step is to replace those men with the strong women, particularly women of color, who will broaden the spectrum of film.

Contact Maisy Menzies at [email protected].

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