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.

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