The Mom Attractor

After discussing the assumed role of a mother and maternal instincts in class, this clip of Phineas and Ferb came to mind. In this episode of the children’s cartoon, The villain Dr. Doofensmirtz builds a giant baby as a part of his plan for citywide domination, but his plan falls apart, as he did not expect “the power of the moms”. As soon as the robot baby begins to wail, every mother in the city drops what she is doing and marches across the city to the crying baby. Those in the middle of construction work, dentistry, and presentations, all leave what they are doing to stop the unknown crying baby. They all sing about being a good mom, about all of the motherly tasks they can manage, and about how they cannot resist the sound of a crying baby. All of the men and women who are not mothers look on and smile as the mothers respond. Even the giant robot mom responds, even though she cannot have biological motherly instincts.

I realized that programs like this instill in children at an early age the expected gender roles of parents. It shows that if you do not respond naturally to a baby, or if you do not intuitively know what to do in maternal situations, then you are not a good mom. It shows through the moms’ song the expectations of a woman (to act maternally and perform motherly duties), regardless of her personality, preferences, or job. The title of this episode, “The Mom Attractor”, does not refer to the giant baby, but interestingly enough, it  does anyway, as the creators of the show portray that a crying baby, human or robot, will get the absolute attention of any mother within earshot.

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One Response to The Mom Attractor

  1. ellianar says:

    I definitely agree with your assessment that children’s television instills the idea that women should naturally have a maternal instinct. One of my favorite programs as a child was The Rugrats. In general, I see this program as being a fairly positive one, as it portrays a diversity of religions and ethnicities. (Tommy’s family celebrates Jewish holidays, and Susie’s family celebrates Kwanzaa. I know that this is fairly simplistic, but I think that it’s at least a step in the right direction and progressive compared to other children’s programs.) However, when it comes to the roles of the mothers in the show, it seems to be written by someone with a 1950s mindset. Didi is the epitome of the happy homemaker. While her husband displays a variety of interests, Didi seems content to just stay at home and watch her children and other people’s kids also. She is lauded for fulfilling this role, and her role as mother defines her character. Betty, though more stereotypically masculine in appearance, also seems to have no other interests than watching her children, and this is supposed to be seen as something positive. In contrast, Charlotte, a working mother, is seen as rude and overly-indulgent with her daughter. Even as a child, I remember getting the sense from the show that I was supposed to look down on Charlotte for being too involved in her career. The show sends the message that because Charlotte is so immersed in her busy job, she barely has time to really pay attention to Angelica and just buys her whatever she wants to please her. It is clearly elucidated in the show that this over-indulgence with Angelica has led Charlotte’s daughter to be the bully while Didi and Betty’s children are the heroes. I don’t think that this is some sort of coincidence. The show clearly demonstrates that Angelica is spoiled and cruel because her mother is uninvolved and does not properly mother her. It sends a clear message to children that women should devote their time to their children. If they do not, then they will raise bratty kids, and thus they are “bad” mothers.

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