Nancy Botwin, TV’s worst mom?

In Season 7, we're less inclined to believe that the "Weeds" matriarch does anything for her family

Topics: Character Study, Television,

Nancy Botwin, TV's worst mom?Mary Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin

Ah, motherly love. It comes in all shapes and sizes, and as we know, there’s no such thing as being a “perfect” mom. Unless it’s your mom. In which case, yes, she’s perfect.

And she’s got a little less competition for Mother of the Year these days, with Nancy Botwin, Mary-Louise Parker’s character from “Weeds,” out of the picture. A lot of critics have been down on the show for several seasons, arguing that it jumped the shark when the family left their theme-songy town of Agrestic and went on the run. But drug lords, babies, border control, jail and New York halfway houses aside, the real problem with “Weeds” is the protagonist’s motivation.

Nancy starts dealing marijuana in small quantities in suburban Agrestic simply to keep her sons in the lifestyle they are accustomed to after their father’s death. It makes sense, before we get to know Nancy better, that she wouldn’t don a secretary’s outfit and try to get a job. She just wouldn’t be making enough money. So she enters the dangerous world of suburban pot dealing while her suppliers, Heylia James and her cousin Conrad Shepherd, never let her forget what petty white girl troubles she had.

Over time, though, we learn something about Nancy — not only does she not want to work, she loathes the term “job.” She takes them only out of desperation (like when her family’s on the lam, say, or as a front for a drug-running tunnel from Mexico to the United States) and spends most of her time sniffing out potential weed-related interest in her co-workers.

Even now in Season 7, after a three-year stint in prison (doing time for her son Shane, which does win her back some mom points), she is desperate not to work. Even if it means going back to jail, Nancy would rather smoke her own supply and have sex with an arms dealer than go out and find work like her halfway house demands.

In last night’s episode, we see Nancy forced into a corner — she either gets a job or her bitchy sister Jill gets custody of her baby Stevie — and immediately she scores a cushy assistant job at Doug’s new law firm. The very first thing she does? She rats out the building’s current dealer using the firm’s copy machine and gets caught by the CEO.



But hey, it’s all for her kids, right? Nope, not since Season 2, when her rushed marriage to a DEA agent to protect herself and eliminate Agrestic’s less savory competition put her kids into harm’s way. Or when her desire to get back at a local bike gang leads to the whole damn town burning down, and the family being forced on one of their many road trips.

When Shane got shot in the arm, when Silas was beaten up, when both sons were kidnapped by her other husband (Tijuana’s mayor and drug boss) Esteban’s gangs … Nancy was duly concerned about all these things, and even willing to take the blame. But there is nothing like Nancy Botwin’s tears to soften even the most hardened criminal’s heart, and more often than not even the audience ends up siding with Nancy as she plays momma wolf once again, completely forgetting that she’s the reason her sons need saving in the first place.

What’s completely baffling about Nancy’s character is that she’s been given multiple chances to go straight, to buy out of the game, with enough chips left over to make her Agrestic home seem like a hovel. She could have kept up that mall storefront ruse that Guillermo provided her. She could have moved to Copenhagen the first time Andy suggested it. She could have not told the DEA about Esteban’s drug tunnel and lived a rich and happy life with her healthy children. (Though how long that would have lasted is debatable.)

Instead, it’s become obvious that the only chemical Nancy is hooked on is adrenaline — and she’s a junkie. She’d sell her kids down the river in a heartbeat if it meant some dangerous scenario and a couple of attractive men. Spying, double-dealing and adventuring can be dirty work, and there is a reason that guys like James Bond and Indiana Jones don’t have families. But let’s face it: No matter how sexy Nancy is, she’s no James Bond when it comes to pulling herself — or her family — out of tricky scenarios.

Drew Grant is a staff writer for Salon. Follow her on Twitter at @videodrew.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>