Big Little Lies’ Renata: The Working Mom Monster

How Big Little Lies manages to turn the only full-time working mother into a one-dimensional, sexist cliché.

There were things I didn’t like about Big Little Lies and the absolute worst thing is its ridiculous portrait of the ”career woman”, Renata, played by Laura Dern. I loved the Celeste/Perry story, their therapy scenes in particular, the attention it got and Alexander Skarsgård and Nicole Kidman’s Emmy award are so well-deserved. But I can’t remember the last time I saw a TV show portray a working mother as such a horrific cliché with all possible stereotype traits such a woman can have.

Renata is a highly successful business woman, but apparently she is only truly happy when her husband validates her sexiness and the only thing she truly wants is to spend time with her child.

First of all yes, Renata is the only of the mothers who works full-time and it’s funny how for Jane – the struggling, single-parent mom – work is something she seems to do a bit on the side and it’s something that doesn’t occupy her mind much. Working full-time as a mother is in this show equal to making a fabulous career in a money-packed business being super-bossy.

Big Little Lies Renata
Of course Renata is not liked, which is not strange in any way since is unpleasant, arrogant, aggressive and yells at everybody at work. She seems extremely stressed out even though she has a nanny and she repeatedly questions herself about how she could choose her career over the role of being a full-time mother.

She likes to create envy and frantically entices and uses bribes to get things for her daughter. She is in a hysterical mood most of the time and the only occasion she softens and relaxes is when her husband – who is mellow, cool and a sensible dad – reminds her of how sexy she is and ensures she is properly fucked in the office restroom. Deep down we learn Renata is of course just a worried, scared mom who wished she had more time for her daughter. How sweet!

Dern is not to blame for the hopeless writing, but she does turn up the volume and the intensity of the acting leaving out any kind of nuance and subtlety

There are so many wrongs here. Renata is a highly successful business woman, but apparently she is only truly happy when her husband validates her sexiness and the only thing she truly wants is to spend time with her child. It’s like she was forced to make that career, when she would rather had stayed home pleasing her husband and nurturing her motherly instincts.

If at least she in some way seemed to enjoy her work, which I think you have to do to make a career like that, then her conflict would be more understandable. If she does not enjoy it, she could easily choose something less consuming and spend more time with her daughter. Now it just comes out very one-dimensional.

Big Little Lies Renata at officeDern is of course not to blame for the hopeless writing, but she does turn up the volume and the intensity of the acting leaving out any kind of nuance and subtlety. Renata’s hypersonic manoeuvres just get plain painful to watch and not worthy of any TV show in my honest opinion, let alone one that sees itself as a feminist success. Not that a working mother and a business woman can’t have all sorts of unattractive traits and insecurities, but please, create complexity and diversity, not sexist parody!

 

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