It seems that the insanity of motherhood is all the rage in the media right now, almost as hip as the overt sexism of the 1960s! Recently I saw two media depictions of motherhood, the NBC television show Up All Night and the movie I Don't Know How She Does It. I will devote a separate post to each one. In this post I will discuss Up All Night.
NBC has been promoting the hell out of this show, which stars Christina Applegate and Will Arnett as brand-new parents forced to give up their partying lifestyle. He's a stay-at-home dad, she's a TV producer for a daytime talk show with a self-centered host, played by Maya Rudolph.
I had high hopes for this show. It looked like we would finally be seeing a realistic depiction of new parenthood, which TV up to this point has sorely lacked. Most shows seem to be about young, hip people, possibly the kind of people the parents on Up All Night used to be. Even when other shows have added kids, presumably for a ratings boost, the kids are never central to the characters' lives, which I think we can agree is hugely unrealistic. You saw baby Emma on Friends about once every fifth episode, and the rest of the time she was supposed to be either asleep, with a nanny, visiting her grandparents, or just quietly staring into space in her baby carrier while Rachel and the gang went about their usual antics. Wow, Emma was like the best baby ever! Ditto Miranda's son Brady on Sex and the City. Even as a single mom, Miranda still seemed to have plenty of time to go out with men or hang with the girls. Both shows did one obligatory episode about the struggles of caring for a newborn, and then presumably the characters solved all their problems and parenting was simple from there on out.
And I understand why those shows didn't focus on the babies. For one thing, they weren't really shows about parenting. For another, it's logistically difficult to have babies on a TV set, because there are so many laws limiting their exposure to lighting and whatnot.
But with Up All Night, there would finally there will be a show about new parenthood, a show the rest of us could relate to.
Except, could it be that the trials of new parenthood are too boring to depict on a television show? I mean, yeah, you're tired. You're arguing with your spouse about who works harder. You wonder how you can balance your career and motherhood.
I also wonder if maybe the problems faced by new mothers are kind of too subtle in some cases, too serious in others, for sitcom fare. I mean, who wouldn't want to watch an entire half-hour episode where Christina Applegate wrestles with a subtle loss of identity and a questioning of how society views her as a mother? Or maybe they could do the post-partum depression episode. That would be hilarious!
(You'd think I would like to see more exposure of PPD in the media, except that TV is always so unrealistic. Scrubs did a PPD storyline, but it was just ... bam! ... I took some antidepressants and everything is better!)
I didn't altogether hate Up All Night, I just question how much material they have to go on when it comes to the troubles of new parents. Hopefully they have some more plotlines up their sleeves that don't deal exclusively with parenting. I'm willing to give the show another chance to see where they're headed, but I think maybe they may have too narrow a niche to be successful.
Nit-Picky Complaint: Whose idea was it to name the baby on the show Amy? Now, Amy is a very popular name, and I know a lot of Amys, but not one of them is under 30. A quick search of the Social Security Administration's baby names database reveals that the name Amy peaked in popularity from 1973 to 1976, when it was the second most popular name. In 2010, which is the last year for which data is available, Amy hit an all-time low of 135th in popularity. That means it is really unlikely that parents today would name a child Amy. Baby girls born today get names like Olivia and Addison. I realize it's not impossible that a couple would name a baby Amy, it just seems like the kind of thing where nobody at the show did any kind of research, and it distracts me from the rest of the show.