Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants

Title

Mothers and Antiheros: Analyzing Agency, Power and Representation in Weeds, Sons of Anarchy and Breaking Bad

Department

Women and Gender Studies

College

Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies

Disciplines

Arts and Humanities

Abstract

Feminist theories of motherhood in Western patriarchies typically build upon Richs Of Woman Born (1976) which identified how mainstream beliefs about motherhood serve to confine womens options and opportunities while reinforcing patriarchy. Despite almost forty years of feminist efforts to challenge narrow motherhood philosophies, women are still pressured by mainstream ideals. A redefinition of motherhood from a feminist maternal perspective will include subverting and supplementing dominant narratives with additional and alternative visions of mothering. Some feminists are promoting outlaw mothering as theorized by Andrea O Riley as a way of mothering outside of the mainstream. This presentation will focus on a complex discourse analysis of the representation of outlaw mothers in three serialized, scripted US television shows: Weeds (2005-2012); Breaking Bad (2008-2013) and Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014). These series provide a means to understand and challenge traditional messages about mothering and to deconstruct the structures that regulate and police motherhood boundaries. Individually and collectively depictions of outlaw mothers are providing alternative visions that may serve to counter good mother ideologies. However, the extreme violence and illegal nature of their actions leaves little room to translate into a useful feminist practice of outlaw mothering. Challenging motherhood ideologies through an expansion of popular representations of mothers to more accurately reflect the diversity of experiences, choices and situations of womens lived experiences needs to be accompanied by social and political reforms aimed at addressing the material conditions of women and children. These television series provide a means to understand and challenge traditional messages about mothering and to analyze the structures that regulate and police motherhood boundaries. This presentaion therefore centers on how televised depictions of outlaw mothers challenge dominant good mother ideologies while additionally deconstructing the means through which these representations reinforce normative definitions of motherhood and by extension patriarchy.

Conference Name

Motherhood and Culture

Conference Location

Maynooth Ireland

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