Why Weeds Matters

Weeds uproots the bourgeois family unit. It kills the father and burns down the house. Without the all-too-familiar, all-too-human structure to ground the show, it careens out of the clichés and bathos that the media propagate with relentless fervor.

The very structure of the show refuses to follow the hierarchical, patriarchal model of a lead character with quirky sidekicks. The show is more like a jazz band than a rock band. There is no neutral bass and drums in the background on top of which scream a lead singer and guitar hero.

Sure, Mary-Louise Parker — Nancy Botwin — is clearly the star and the character that wields the most influence. She is a demure, if robust, force of nature. But she is not the center of our sympathies; it is not she against the world with the audience rooting for the good guy to vanquish evil.

Weeds is refreshingly free of the judgment and morality and guilt that drive contemporary parenting.

In this sense, Weeds is like Loony Tunes: what matters is the whole. It is not Disney with a poor lost fish trying to get back home. Home is gone. All there is is this endless play of desire and need, this endless play of life.

As it literally disassembles the bourgeois home, it proffers a refreshing and radical take on family and parenting. The show never succumbs to the reigning model of parenting in which parents sacrifice their lives, their desires, individuality, their sexuality in order to provide their children with an anesthetized existence. Nancy doesn’t Purell her kids.

She is first and foremost a woman. Yes, she’s a mother and she takes mothering seriously. But that doesn’t mean sacrificing herself in the process. On the contrary, parenting in Weeds means expressing oneself, showing kids what it means to live life with nuance.

Rather than treat kids as precious objects to be served and protected, Weeds treats them respectfully, as human beings who have desires and personalities. Children are not denied their sexuality. On the contrary, young Shane is not only taught about masturbation, he is taken to a rub and tug parlor by his uncle. And nothing bad happens! Weeds is refreshingly free of the judgment and morality and guilt that drive contemporary parenting.

Rather than the sterile home in which anxiety, fear, and loathing burble below the surface, Weeds proffers a home alive with individuals who interact with each other. Kids, here, are individuals whose lives are at play with adult individuals. Is it messy and scary? Sure. Such is life.

Weeds is a lone voice of dissent for those amongst us who find the terms of family, of parenting, oppressive, if not downright distasteful. And this makes it radical, revolutionary, proffering a different view of what it means to be a parent, what it means to be a mother, what a family is and can be. TC mark

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How To Talk About It
  • Molly

    “Nancy doesn’t Purell her kids.” Perfect.

    • Good Parent

      Some kids I would imagine need to be Purell'd if not downright deloused

  • Matt Lowe

    I too enjoy the show's refreshing lack of… what is it, treating children as if they are humans in training? Something like that.

    • Matt Lowe

      or rather, training to become human.

  • matt

    Children are not denied their sexuality. On the contrary, young Shane is not only taught about masturbation, he is taken to a rub and tug parlor by his uncle. And nothing bad happens!

    nothing bad happens? keep watching.

  • Drhochmann

    There is a third alternative that seems to have the best chance for success.  Life is not either black or white.  It is a shade of gray.  Let me take, for example, the author’s mention of morality.  Certainly an inflexible morality stifles and terrifies children, but I feel that this show is a depiction of the adventrures of a very lucky matriarch without a core morality.  She has certain attributes that tend to miraculously get her and her family out of the multiple disasters they encounter (anyone else wouldn’t have made it through the 1st season without some serious jail time).  My point: Life is not lived well either black OR white but the right balance of both.  Don’t throw away morality.  Just because most relions are obsolete doesn’t mean the values they did their best to uphold are too.  Find a core morality through reflection that works for you. Most of the components of this will be obvious.  Beyond the core are a set of values that must be constantly adapted based on our experiences.  Part of a parent’s job is to set in place and enforce a morality that is functional in society until the child is mature enough to figure out their own.  In case all this sounds like the ranting of a lunatic, I direct you to the entirety of the Weeds series, which depicts what happens when there is no “moral compass”.

    • Drhochmann

      should be “religion” instead of “relion”

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