Weeds and the Subservient Woman

Over the past few years, Weeds has impressed me with its ability to recreate itself.  The show has, for the most part, retained its core set of characters, even as it has left Agrestic for Ren Mar and Mexico.  It has lost a number of excellent actors in these moves – Romany Malco and Tonye Patano come immediately to mind.  It also has endured a number of listless characters – those played by Mary-Kate Olson and Matthew Modine, for instance – as well as subplots that didn’t really lead anywhere valuable or even particularly interesting – the whole Majestic thread of Season three was one long dead end, it seems to me.

But Weeds is resilient.  Jenji Kohan, creator of the show, hasn’t been afraid to blow everything up and start again – as she did at the start of Season four with the move to the San Diego/Tijuana border.  The same holds true with some of the characters. Celia Hodes, the character played by the wonderful Elizabeth Perkins, has suffered a long-running series of setbacks since reigning over the town of Agrestic in the first season or two.  But Celia always finds a way to get back up off of the floor.  Andy Botwin likewise seems to have little sense of shame – he has been willing to abase himself repeatedly over the past few years for drugs, money, and/or sex.  But he’s also seemingly grown a set of principles and is no longer as pathetic as he once was.  (Though let’s face it – the way he was masturbating in bed while lying next to Nancy was pretty foul.)

All of which leads me to wonder something.  Just why does Nancy Botwin, the character played by Mary-Louise Parker, continue to debase herself?  I understand that at the beginning of the show that she had to find a way to provide for her family and that is what led her to sell drugs.  This was one of the most interesting elements of the show – how might one propose drug-dealing as a viable and credible way of putting food on the table, that is for a white suburban mom?  I can even see how logically this led to the elements of seasons two and three, as she tried to make a go of it, operate independently, and perhaps even grow her business.  And I can see why she took off for Ren Mar, with its chance of a new life.  But I guess it was a few weeks ago, as I watched her character have sex with Esteban that seemed as much rape as it did some type of rough sex, that I began to wonder when she would say enough is enough?

Having sex with men with power isn’t a new turn-on for her; it was certainly there when she had sex with Sullivan Groff, developer of Majestic.  Is she unable to change, to grow, to gain self-esteem and a sense of self that isn’t defined by or through a subservience to men?  Or is it that she might be able to, but just isn’t willing to.  Because it seems to me that she continues to operate in that position, five seasons along into the show.

Then I wonder why the female Kohan has created a show centered around a woman who ultimately is strikingly subservient to men sexually, economically, and emotionally.  Forget Andy Botwin, who is clearly a mess and often a much maligned and humiliated character in the show – the truly pathetic one is Nancy Botwin, the lead character.

As a sidenote, sadly, this situation complements the series of photos that Esquire recently published of Parker in which she is portrayed working in a kitchen wearing only an apron and baring her breasts and ass.


Why would Parker – an established, award-winning actress – acquiesce to posing in this way?  Is this about anxiety about her ability to look sexy at age 45?


Did she feel this was a wise career move?  Or does she somehow imagine this gives her control over her own sexuality, or at least the representation of it?


2 Responses

  1. Not only has Nancy not evolved over the past 5 seasons; she has devolved to a point where Weeds is painful to watch. At the start of the series she was a naive and spoiled widow attempting to keep her family afloat the best way she knew how. Now she’s a terribly selfish and entitled person who is detached and indifferent towards her family.
    It’s obvious the character suffers from low self-esteem and some form of traumatic stress syndrome though it’s unclear if these mental conditions are supposed to be solely attributed to the dealth of her husband or if they were present when he was alive as well.
    The sex scene with Esteban was clearly rape. If Nancy had protested and tried to escape I don’t believe he would have let her go. That’s rape. I don’t know what Jenji Kohan is attempting to say about the status of women in society by having Nancy marry her rapist but I have to assume there is an underlying message there.
    Regarding your sidenote: I don’t see why Mary Louise Parker’s decision to pose partially naked in a magazine is comparable to what is happening with her character. Some actresses are comfortable with nudity and others are not. I truly believe she sees it more as a form of artful expression than some kind of personal debasement. Allowing your naked body to be photographed can be a statement of pride and self-acceptance whereas allowing a man to use and abuse your naked body is a statement of self-hatred.

  2. Thanks for the comment. It was a really disturbing scene with Esteban, and certainly makes her cuddling lately with him really upsetting.

    I certainly can see instances where nude photos can originate from pride and self-acceptance, but why the setting of the kitchen and the cooking theme? That literally puts women back in the kitchen and seems to remove them/delimit their sense of power, autonomy, and agency – serving the man and the family. Compared to the portrait of Julia Child that has been so prevalent lately, which seems to be about self-expression, achievement, and artistry, Parker’s photo spread seems to me to show a much different type of female role in the kitchen – one of servitude and sexual allure.

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