Discover more from Close-reading the reruns with Phoebe Maltz Bovy
When the main character on Twitter is a summer fruit
Everyone was talking about Peach Mom, Peach Comic Mom, something with a peach. I saw memes mocking it but did not know what the “it” was. until I did. I like peaches. I spent $580234890 on them today at the farmer’s market. (More on farmer’s markets in maybe its own upcoming post, because reasons.) In 2018, a woman named Mary Catherine Starr blogged about her plight as, it would seem, one of two contributing adult household members in her nuclear family. Back then, you see, it was the fashion to refer to all angst women experienced within the home as emotional labor. That stopped being the fashion in 2020, with “Karen.”
Anyway now Starr creates comics and sells merch about being an overwhelmed mother of young children with (per the comics, if not exactly per her explanation) a layabout husband. One who works outside the home as a lawyer and cooks dinner, or did these things in 2018 (maybe now he’s writing verse poetry and ordering takeout, I have no idea). But the gist of the comics is, the woman is Mrs. Martyr, her husband, a selfish ass who has barely even met his own kids. The peach comic, since memeified, has a woman saving “the last ripe peach” for her darling children, juxtaposed with her husband seeing that same peach and deciding to put it in his own smoothie.
Close-reading the reruns never misses a meme except when it does. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
(Am reminded of a Basil line from “Fawlty Towers,” where he says that “not puréeing your loved ones” is difficult.)
People (like three of them, on Twitter) seemed to want my take on Peach Mom, and while I may be podcasting on this as well, for now…
The MomLife comics pose exactly the same ethical conundrum as autofiction,* no more, no less. She’s writing about real people, kind of, but as part of a persona, an act. And judging from the online hatefest she’s received, maybe people do not get this? Because there’s apparently a lot of men’s-rights fury on behalf of the husband, and a lot of suggestions that if she’s so unhappy with her husband she should get a divorce.
Which, look, would I myself want to be the spouse of someone whose career/gimmick/side hustle was making comics about how awful I was? I would not. But nor would I want to be the subject of a my-wife’s-the-worst ‘novel’ written using real names. To ask whether all of this is upsetting to the husband is the wrong question because to most people it would be.
No, the question is, is she a sharer of dirty laundry or an art monster? Let me rephrase that, as she’s clearly both. Which one is she more?
Because I’m not persuaded that this woman’s life, as she fictionalizes it even, is rife with sexism. It seems like a traditional-gender-roles marriage that she opted into and finds frustrating. But there is an element of sexism in the way her creation gets interpreted. People don’t seem to get that it’s a comic. They interpret it as a direct, filterless window into her darkest inner thoughts.
Some of this is maybe because she’s a woman, but it’s also the feminity of the genre. These are not comics to be like traded by comic book nerds. They are online comics, on Instagram, in full-on basic-bitch, chain-bookstore-home-decor aesthetic. Comics whose natural purpose is to be reposted on mom forums on Instagram or Facebook. It’s art but it’s not Art. It’s a style of comic about getting nods of recognition from All The Moms who feel put upon. It’s there to elicit “It me” or “Relatable” or “I’m in this photo and I don’t like it.” It’s for the proverbial wine mom who thinks Hillary was wronged and somehow personally identifies.
That said! Starr also comments on these social media posts, and does so in a way that suggests the comics are in fact HER FEELINGS about her own very real marriage and family. Which is… either extremely elaborate performance art, or a sign that it is not misinterpreting things to treat her and her persona as identical.
That said, said. Lena Dunham would do this in interviews, but she still could kind of claim ‘persona’ because her own brand of privileged-white-lady art was a few key notches higher-brow.
*Think Knausgaard, Philip Roth, a ton of French writers who were all on my qualifying exam list for autofiction but whose names elude me wait no one was Serge Doubrovsky, who is not Serge Gainsbourg but rather a writer and academic who once taught at NYU which may or may not have been why I was guided towards his work.
Close-reading the reruns hovers seamlessly between 1992 and 2022. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.