Anyone who’s been a mother knows our identities shape-shift from pregnancy and changing diapers to helping our high-schoolers navigate AP classes. With Reese Witherspoon’s Elena and Kerry Washington’s Mia, the characters’ contrasting parenting styles, and the resulting friction, spark flames on Hulu’s “Little Fires Everywhere.” Fans of the show often pass judgment of its lead female characters, especially how they measure up as women – and, ever more so, mothers.
In the scenes set in the 1990s, the popular melodrama’s “present,” Elena and Mia are frequently portrayed as opposites. Well-dressed white homeowner Elena is a married mother of four. Denim jeans-wearing African-American renter Mia has one beautiful daughter, no partner, and a big chip on her shoulder.
Last Wednesday’s bombshell Episode 6, “The Uncanny,” flashes back to the ’80s. It reveals that Mia became a surrogate mother to pay her Manhattan art school tuition and fell for her female professor Pauline (Anika Noni Rose). When faced with tragedy, she flees to California, keeps the baby – and risks everything for the rootless path that brings Mia and the teenaged Pearl to Shaker Heights, Ohio.
Meanwhile, mother-of-three Elena has returned to work at the Shaker Heights paper. She immediately discovers she lost a coveted promotion while on maternity – and a fourth kid’s on the way. The unwanted pregnancy leads her to tell her husband that four kids is a lot more to handle than three. Prophetic words that smolder through all eight episodes as it underscores Elena’s conflicts with her youngest, daughter Izzy. While she quits her career, she resents the heck out of it.
In our poll asking who’s the better parent, a whopping 56% say both are equally bad and good as a parent. It’s a wash. As one commenter wrote, “They are both crappy moms.” What they share is that they can be selfish – and stick their noses in other women’s business when they should be monitoring their own kids’ struggles. And, yet, in one intimate scene after the next, they both demonstrate authentic love for their kids – or, in Elena’s case, three out of four of them.
Elena rates as the better mother for 13 %. Her career sacrifice, decision to keep the fourth pregnancy and maintaining a stable home factor are in her favor. Whatever her faults, including undercutting Izzy, and sneaking off to romance her ex, no one identified her as a terrible mother.
The more controversial Mia got 21% support as the better mother. Team Mia recognizes she’s a badass with a sexy low-key vibe. She’s a role model committed to her creativity – and that of her daughter. However, 10% identify Mia as a terrible mother. Her dope-smoking makes her seem sketchy. She’s dishonest with her daughter, particularly about the girl’s father – and her breach of their surrogacy agreement. Those lies comes back to bite them, making both vulnerable to Elena’s manipulations.
The show also pits Witherspoon against Washington in the Emmy race. In the fiercely competitive TV Movie/Limited Lead Actress category, Reese currently has the edge in fifth place with 9/1 odds, while sixth-place Washington is close with 10/1 odds. It’s no slam dunk with Regina King (“Watchmen”) as the frontrunner followed by rising Cate Blanchett (“Mrs. America”) and “Unbelievable’s” Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever in third and fourth place.
Who’s really the best mother? We may have to wait until the eighth and final episode to know for sure.
Be sure to make your Emmy nominations predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before the nominees are announced on July 28. And join in the thrilling debate over the 2020 Emmy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our TV forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.