Mars Needs Moms…and Dads
By Jennifer Green
My kids had early out on Friday, a perfect way to kick-off spring break week. I had to make good on a promise because I had never gotten around to taking them to see Megamind in the theaters, they got to choose another movie for me to spend a ridiculous amount to see on a large screen. They chose Mars Needs Moms.
I knew the premise of the movie: little boy’s mom gets whisked away to Mars so he hitches a ride on the spaceship to try to save her. Personally, I think the whole “almost human-looking CGI animation” stuff is downright creepy, but it was the kids’ choice.
It was a fairly predictable movie. I’ll spare you an actual review, but it was cute enough that I didn’t totally regret the money I spent. I understand it’s bombing horribly at the box office. That makes me kind of sad, because it really has some good qualities. At one particularly poignant moment between the boy and his mom I even had tears in my eyes.
But, as I walked away from the movie, I was troubled. You see, in the movie, both the Martians and the humans realized how much they need moms. But dads, well, they were an afterthought.
I’ll give the writers credit though—at least the boy had a dad who was actually married to his mom. The movie opens with the dad calling from an airport telling his son he won’t be able to make it home for a special occasion. After that, the dad is not in the picture until the final scene when he returns home and is clueless about the adventures his son and wife have just been through. So, there’s a dad, but he’s pretty much absent due to work.
On Mars, halfway through the movie, we find out the hairy, aboriginal type people dancing around in a giant junkyard are an entire generation of dads who have been relegated to the pit because they were useless—all they wanted to do was hug and have fun. I’m pretty sure I gave a little snort of agreement upon this discovery, because I remembered what it was like when I was a stay at home mom with two toddlers who all but threw a parade when daddy came home. But once I started deconstructing the message a bit in my mind on the way home, I realized how very sad and insidious it really is.
Just like the endless loop of sitcoms where every mom is skinny, powerful, and sharp and every dad is a fat, stupid slob, the message of Mars Needs Moms is strongly matriarchal. Women do the heavy lifting; men are absent, aloof, or ancillary. Unfortunately, this message is played out in large demographics in our culture, including the suburbs. We are bearing the brunt of the reality.
To be fair, the moms portrayed in the movie are good moms, moms who believe in actual discipline combined with unconditional love. Creepiness of the animation aside, I liked the mom in this story. She’s just doing a great job . . . just mostly by herself. And, the extreme of her situation is shown in the Mars part of the story, where the dads have been removed entirely, women are drafted into service of the planet, and “nanny bots” downloaded with good earthly mother wisdom “rear” the “hatchlings.”
Worthless dads, moms away from home, and state-run nannies rearing the kids. Huh. Nah. That would never happen here.
But I digress. Simply put, I was a little ashamed at myself for not catching what the movie was saying right away. Yes, theoretically if there was life on Mars, they would need moms, just like Earth kids do. But they need dads, too.