In The Single Mother Project I am trying to get to the bottom of the negative connotations associated with single parents, by analysing (ish) films, TV shows and books that feature single parents. The good, the bad, and the ugly will all be discussed.
Netflix: Fun Mom Dinner (2017)
Single mum character: Jamie, played by Molly Shannon
Firstly, let it be known that this film is completely bonkers. I really can’t attempt to describe, let alone rationalise the storyline, except that it’s some sort of weird Hangover/Bridesmaids/Bad Moms lovechild. You keep waiting for the main plotline to kick in, but then, inexplicably, it’s all over and the take-away is, um, no I really have no idea.
Single parenting stereotypes aside, this feeds straight into all the annoying parenting stereotyping of mums’ nights off, mums gone wild, inept dads left to their own devices and somehow muddling along and adorably keeping their kids alive when in all reality at least one of them would have ended up losing a limb if not actually dying.
The single mother character of the unlikely tribe of ‘fun moms’ is Jamie, played by Will & Grace’s Molly Shannon (love her). Hers is not the central storyline (in fact it is one of the married mothers who gets the love interest), but Jamie is an insta-obsessed Mommy-blogger type who is initially seen only bribing her child with the promise of iPad time to take the perfect shot of her to share on Instagram.
Is this fair?
If ‘over-sharing’ on Instagram is a crime, I’m definitely guilty of it. And although I don’t think it’s intrinsically linked to being a single parent, I’m sure there is an element of creating a (somewhat filtered) version of your life that appears to the outside world to be pretty and ordered when underneath you’re paddling so hard to keep afloat it feels like the whole thing might capsize. And when you feel like you’re being judged and analysed after a major life event, social media is a way to construct whatever truth you like and broadcast it to the world (or, like, 300-400 friends / strangers that ‘follow’ you) safe in the knowledge that nobody knows you’re an absolute mess.
What did strike true was the couples’ dinner in which she was being discussed.
‘She’s a bit of an over-sharer’ says one member of the party over dinner as she posts a picture of her bath on Instagram captioned ‘#sharedcustody #metime’.
‘If it’s me-time why does she feel the need to share it with us?’ another questions.
Perhaps because she’s trying to find the positives in a life in which she’s now without her children from time to time, but no longer part of the world of married friends, couples’ dinners, wives get-togethers and normal social activities that her peers occupy? Because she’s trying to find her new place in a world where she feels like a bit of a social pariah, but maintain some modicum of control and pride? Or perhaps because she’s a self-obsessed over-sharer… But it’s worth being aware of options one and two here, also.
So, back to this gripping plotline.
It turns out that, despite her carefully orchestrated Insta-life, it was Jamie that cheated on her husband with an old boyfriend; that’s why she’s a single mother. But she covers her shame and guilt with aforementioned constructed reality and over-sharing on social media. She does, however, end up as a worthwhile member of the ‘fun mom dinner’ club. (More fool her, if you ask me.)
In the film, Jamie ends up hanging out with Barry, a sweet geeky younger guy who holds everyone’s coats while they gate-crash a teen party on a yacht. Thus concluding the most bizarre film I’ve ever seen.
Single Mother take-away: Jamie isn’t likeable, but neither is she detestable. She’s slightly slutty (I’m anticipating most single mother characters to be slightly slutty) and desperate, and her Instagram account can’t be trusted. Conclusion: slightly lazy characterisation in this single parent representation. But wouldn’t recommend you cancelling evening plans to watch this movie.