In 1905, as a tribute to your late mother and a statement to the determination of mothers everywhere, you lobbied to make Mother’s Day a national holiday. Years later, you famously ordered a ‘Mother’s Day Salad’ from a local tea room and dumped it on the floor to express your distaste at how commercial the holiday had become. If you were alive today to see the 2016 film Mother’s Day, you might set the theatre on fire in protest.
Mother’s Day is the latest Garry Marshall film to jam a bunch of predominately white actors into a featurette about a holiday. Mother’s Day takes place in an alternate universe where Mother’s Day holds the same cultural significance as Easter or New Year's Eve. In this world, women gather together to discuss what exciting plans they have for the Hallmark holiday while building floats for the annual Mother’s Day parade
If an entire film centered on Mother’s Day isn’t already commercial enough for your taste, Mother’s Day takes it one step further and tries to brainwash viewers into treating the day as some kind of marquee money-spending event. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize and appreciate all the sacrifices mothers make on a daily basis and agree that they should be honoured. But in current society, Mother’s Day is a Sunday reserved to give your mom a cheap and minimally sentimental card, and dinner at a slightly above-average restaurant. The fact that Mother’s Day tries to rectify this reputation is commendable -- it just goes about it in a way that completely tarnishes your original idea.
Julia Roberts plays Miranda, a Home Shopping Network star who is a bonafide celebrity in Mother’s Day’s version of Atlanta, Georgia. Her incessant push for viewers to buy mood necklaces for their mothers is a perfect example of the retail-centric nature of the film and everything you fought against. But beyond un-yielding commercialism, Mother’s Day paints women as a fragile sex, burdened by the fact that they are female. We’ve come a long way in women’s rights since you were alive but the way Mother’s Day approaches the topic would make you think you’re back in the early 1900’s.
Any instance of struggle in Mother’s Day is centered on men or family. There aren’t any representations of challenges facing modern women. Sandy, played by Jennifer Aniston, faces a conflict regarding her job, but it’s solved in a matter of minutes so she can focus on her ex’s new wife. As we’re introduced to every new character who is involved in some sort of maternal hardship – be it Sandy struggling with the fact that her ex-husband is now married to an attractive Millennial, or Jesse hiding the fact that she married an Indian man from her xenophobic mother -- it becomes increasingly clear that Mother’s Day isn’t concerned with trying to showcase the present day hurdles that face all mothers. Or, any minority mothers for that matter.
During my viewing, I couldn’t help but notice 1) all the lead actors are white and 2) any time a minority is featured, their ethnicity is used as a gimmick. Take Loni Love’s character, Kimberly, who, aside from being the only black person in all of Atlanta, is relegated to playing the token, sassy, black friend whose only motivation is to show some attitude. The same goes for Sonia, an Indian mother -- who despite living in America for most of her life -- is forced to speak in a thick Indian accent and wear a sari all day, every day.
You had all the right ideas in mind when you conceived Mother’s Day, unfortunately, our commerce-based society had other plans in store. Mother’s Day tries to rectify that by injecting some warmth into the holiday, but it ends up making things worse by sticking to a regressive mindset.