Update: Watch our pre-viewing discussion of the movie here.
A raw look at parenting a newborn is coming to theaters on May 4, and it's powerful.
Like motherhood, the film is complicated, contradictory, surprising, and at times will likely leave audiences feeling blindsided.
Whether or not you choose to read the spoilers (and here and here), and whether or not you choose to see the film in theaters, this movie is bringing strong reactions for those of us who have lived experience similar to the characters in the film, and for those of us who work with pregnant and postpartum women.
Part of the reason we are seeing such a strong reaction to this movie, and to the spoilers, is that there are so few representations of real motherhood in popular culture and film. We feel hope that this movie will FINALLY show people how it really is for us. We feel a sense of excitement that maybe this film will finally shed light on an area of our lives that is largely invisible and misunderstood.
Because Tully is one of the only representations on film of some of our common experiences of motherhood (as seen in the trailer) it feels like the true work of motherhood may finally be drawn out of the darkness, and maybe those people in our lives that don't see those acts of daily motherhood will gain a deeper understanding of how hard we are working, and finally say, "I didn't get it, but now I do. I get it now." We want to be able to use Tully as something we can share with others as a window to our own experience, because we so desperately want people to see the realities of the postpartum time and the realities of modern parenthood. When/if we feel like Tully is no longer a story that represents us because of twists in the storyline, it can bring feelings of disappointment, even betrayal.
Part of why there are such strong reactions to Tully is that there has never been a representation of motherhood like this in the media. The fact that a story like this was written by Diablo Cody, a woman who was writing from her own experience, the fact that this movie has high-profile celebrities like Charlize Theron talking about her own experience of postpartum depression, and that it starts a conversation around how often maternal mental health struggles are misdiagnosed, mismanaged, or missed altogether by medical providers and other points of contact-- those are all great things. We are excited that this movie provides an opportunity to bring these important topics to light, in hopes that fewer women like Marlo slip through the cracks. Instead, we hope we can use Marlo's story to bolster the support net around women in the postpartum period.
But, there is also a danger that comes when we characterize or stereotype an entire group of people (postpartum moms) from a single representation of that group in the media. There is a danger that comes from having just a single story.
When there is only one story in popular culture that supposedly represents a group, we risk a mischaracterization and an oversimplification of the complexities with which people who belong to that group live. The single story comes to stand for the whole group's story.
There is also a danger when we ourselves look to a single story or a single character to somehow represent all of us. Just because neither Marlo nor Tully fully represents me as a mother or as a postpartum doula doesn't mean there isn't value in their story being told. Just because I have serious criticisms of Tully's behavior in the film and I know she is definitely a flawed representative of my profession, I am still excited to see a film where a postpartum mom has a support person like Tully.
We must keep in mind that as powerful and groundbreaking as this film may be, it is still simply a piece of media produced by Hollywood for the purposes of making money. We hope it can become more than that, but we can't forget that it is just a single story, based on the experience of one woman who lives with a lot of privilege in our culture. If we are saddened by the fact that Marlo fell through the cracks and this movie shows how alone she is in her struggle with mental health issues in the postpartum period, we must respond to that sadness with the awareness that those living with less privilege are at even greater risk for being unheard, unseen, and untreated.
We all want to be seen. We all deserve to be seen.
Proud Mama Support Services thinks this movie is important, whether or not people choose to see it. The fact that it was produced in the first place and that big name actors were interested in the script and committed to such a raw and heartfelt performance is significant and refreshing.
As we approach the release date of the movie, we are setting up a variety of ways the community can engage with us in the conversations that this film brings to light. We are ready to dig in to those conversations! Please stay tuned here on our blog and on Facebook for more opportunities to connect with us and to hear our perspective as people on the front lines of supporting women and families during this time.