Reviews

Weeds

David Swerdlick

Weeds is clear about its stance on getting stoned.


Weeds

Airtime: Mondays, 10pm ET
Cast: Mary-Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Nealon, Tonye Patano, Romany Malco, Hunter Parrish
Network: Showtime
Amazon
Doctors smoke it/ Nurses smoke it/ Judges smoke it/ Even the lawyers too.
So you've got to legalize it/ Don't criticize it/ Legalize it, yeah, yeah/ And I will advertise it.
-- Peter Tosh

Weeds is clear about its stance on getting stoned. Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) is incredulous when her friend Celia (Elizabeth Perkins) informs her that their neighbor "Jesus-Loves-You Judy loves her hillbilly heroin." It's a gloves-off slap at recovering OxyContin junkie Rush Limbaugh. That's where we are right now in Anywhere, U.S.A. Everybody's doing it, and the only question is -- who's fronting?

Nancy has recently lost her husband to a heart attack, suffered while he was out jogging with their youngest son, Shane (Alexander Gould). Watching Shane watch home videos of his dad on the camcorder, we see that Mr. Botwin was a laid back, caring father, and his family misses him. Struggling to maintain their comfort-plus lifestyle, Nancy has become the main supplier of quality herb in the Southern California town of Agrestic. The town is more or less one giant pre-fab subdivision, full of McMansions and drive-through Starbucks. According to the series' theme song: "And there's doctors/And there's lawyers/And business executives/And they're all made out of ticky-tacky/And they all look just the same."

Nancy knows something about what goes on below this pretty surface. When her 15-year-old son Silas' (Hunter Parrish) 15-year-old girlfriend Quinn (Haley Hudson) asks her point blank, "Mrs. Botwin, can we have sex in your house?" she says no. Not because she's against adolescent sex per se, but because she's concerned they aren't ready for the consequences of their actions, and because Celia, Quinn's mom, doesn't want to see her daughter become a "teenage slut." And when Nancy walks in on the high schoolers getting it on, all she can do is blurt out, "Nice. The two of you ditch school to fuck in my guest room." Quinn doesn't miss a beat: "Don't you see? Technically, we're not under your roof." Sure enough, they are positioned directly under an open skylight.

Some people think of such dilemmas as the fine print in the hierarchy of needs. Others call it "moral relativism." Either way, these are the kind of value choices (and rationalizations) we make, and Weeds embraces them. Ostensibly about a weed-selling suburban MILF, Weeds is about societal baggage in the post-Raich era. Nancy, a good mom and resourceful provider, is the show's delicately balanced center. Not only is she guiding her sons through the post-traumatic stress of their father's premature death, she also takes pains to insulate them from her professional occupation. That's not to say that Weeds condemns her illegal activity. Rather, it includes enough references to Ambien and Prozac to underscore the idea that ours is a medicated society, and marijuana is only part of that pattern.

Weeds' humor is found in its presentation of the day-to-day absurdities of contemporary suburban life. Nancy's best customer Doug (Kevin Nealon) is also her accountant and city council representative. His oblivious suburban guy banter makes Nancy a little edgy as they fumble through a transaction in the parking lot near the field where her son is playing soccer. When Doug finally catches on and asks, "Are we cool?," she fires back, "We're cool when you pay me." For her, it's not an adventure, it's a job.

A slightly older, semi-doppëlganger version of Nancy, Celia is facing her own difficulties. She has daughters instead of sons, and unlike Nancy, she can't seem to find the right blend of carrot and stick to keep them from hating her guts. She's still married, to Dean (Andy Milder), but she barely wants him anymore. Celia tells Nancy, "I really want to fuck around on Dean, but the thought of having to put one more cock in my mouth is just too depressing." Desperate Housewives wishes it had dialogue like this.

For all its progressive intent, Weeds is still subject to blind spots. Nancy's suburban Odyssey is regularly interrupted by trips to inner city L.A. for re-ups. Her wholesaler is the salty, wisecracking Heylia (Tonye Patano), who doles out street knowledge while weighing and bagging cannabis at her kitchen table: "Bitch, I can eyeball an ounce from outer space with my glasses cracked." Somewhere to the right of Florida Evans and the left of Condoleezza Rice, Heylia is occasionally cartoonish. Although the comparison of two mothers from two different worlds trying to make it is obvious, Heylia also appears something of a ghetto primer. Her crew includes her son Conrad (Romany Malco), who's trying to fix up his "hooptie" (translation: jalopy), Vaneeta (Indigo), all about Nancy's designer shoes, and Keeyon (Tyrone Mitchell), trash-talking his way through a game of dominoes. The show might be trying too hard to be down.

Still, Weeds turns drug dealer stereotypes on their heads. People are getting high in the 'hood, but they're also getting high in the 'burbs. There was a time when suburbanites had to cross the tracks, or the interstate, or take the A train to get to their weed retailer of choice. This seems to have been largely because the typical dealer didn't fit in with the surroundings of many of his clients. But in the last decade or so, delivery has become the preferred business model for a lot of folks. You're less likely to ask if your local weed guy is Black or White, and more likely to ask "Is he cool?" Nowadays, if you're a college student, you buy from another student. If you're a barfly, you buy from the bartender. And if you're a stay-at-home mom or a town councilman, you buy from Nancy.

Ambitious and smart, Weeds makes the point that the Bill Mahers and Ricky Williamses of the world have making for some time now -- getting high is not just the province of stoners, surfers, and thugs. Nancy embodies the link between Nino Brown and Ray A. Kroc, bringing the supply and the demand closer together, while building something for herself, one satisfied customer at a time. Isn't that the American dream?

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image