Screen Time

A Bad Moms Christmas and Daddy's Home 2 are bad movies

Films about struggling moms and toxic masculinity should challenge traditional gender roles, not applaud them.

Recent Hollywood films about families at the holidays will convince you that home is the last place you want to be at Christmas. A Bad Moms Christmas and Daddy’s Home 2 suggest that family is a stew of noxious gender tropes, preening perfectionism, and soul-crushing competition.

As a working mom juggling the daily grind, I was probably the intended audience for A Bad Moms Christmas, but I couldn’t recognize myself or anyone I know in it. The franchise (there was Bad Moms in 2016) is written and directed by two men, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who imagine women trapped in overwhelming social expectations of perfection. Since no one can meet the goal of having and doing it all, all moms are really “bad moms.”

The first Bad Moms movie coats this genuine cultural dilemma in platitudes about eternal maternal love and speeches about less homework and more fun. By the end of A Bad Moms Christmas, however, it is pretty clear that a bad mom is one who gets wasted and en­gages in random acts of vandalism. In the first movie, the bad moms trash a grocery store; in the new one they trash a Santa display at the mall. These are cartoonish women, barely rising to the status of meaningful human beings. The films don’t challenge the structures that trap moms in outdated gender ideals—unsupported by maternity leaves—and in a culture of sexual objectification and harassment.