The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nancy Botwin

Weird timing after my last post, what with my discussing misogynistic comic book readers. Now I am going to discuss the utter hatred I've been seeing for Nancy Botwin, the flawed protagonist of "Weeds."

Nancy Botwin is the widow of Judah Botwin, and a single mother struggling to raise her children and maintain their upper-middle-class lifestyle. To do this she becomes a marijuana dealer. That's the premise of "Weeds" in a nutshell.

Nancy, herself, is something you don't often see on television and something that is practically unheard of on network television. She is a flawed mother. A very flawed mother. She is definitely a loving mother, but she makes mistakes. A lot of mistakes, and being a drug dealer is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the course of the series, her actions put her family in mortal danger on several occasions. Silas starts helping her deal and gets beaten up by bikers; Shane gets shot in the arm because of a hit put out on Nancy; and in the sixth season, they are on the run from both the F.B.I. and a powerful Mexican drug cartel.

Season six is also about Nancy doing everything in her power to protect her family. Sure, if she had handled things better and didn't panic, the events of season six would never have unfolded, but this is still a woman who loves her kids. And, at the climax of the season, we see her make a huge sacrifice for the sake of her family.

On top of all of this, I have never seen such hate thrown at a fictional TV character. Some of the comments are staggering. She is often called selfish; and yes, she can be. They say she dresses like a whore; no, not really, but she definitely doesn't dress conservatively. She is accused of not giving a damn about her family; she does, she does, she just makes poor choices. She's even been called evil; no, not by any definition of the word.

At the same time, Nancy Botwin's critics will turn around and reap mountains of praise on Mafia figure and crime boss, Tony Soprano. Tony was a neglectful father at best. A lousy husband; constantly cheating on his wife, Carmella, with any woman he ever looked at. He was involved in serious crimes, including ordering deaths like you or I would order a Big Mac, as well as committing murders himself.

Nancy Botwin put herself at risk to rat out a tunnel the Mexican cartel was using for human trafficking. Tony Soprano was once given a chance to turn state's witness to protect his family and didn't... he became Boss of the DiMeo Family instead. Nancy never murdered anybody.

Nancy Botwin is a lot of things, several of them horrible, but she is not Tony Soprano. So why is Nancy reviled while Tony is beloved? Because society in all of its double standards holds women to different standards than men, and places mothers on a pedestal that fathers are not on. Take your Homer Simpsons, your Peter Griffins, your Archie Bunkers, and look at their better parent, voice of reason wives. How many bad television mothers can you name? Peggy Bundy is one of the very few that comes to mind.

No question that Nancy is flawed and yes, deserving of some of the scorn she receives. But Tony Soprano and his ilk should not be celebrated in the same breath.

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