Is Weeds Secretly Being Directed by Lars von Trier?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


mojo-photo-weeds-dancer.jpgDanish director Lars von Trier is nothing if not a rabble-rouser. His best-known films, Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark and Dogville have inspired both critical praise and accusations of sadistic misogyny; in each, the female central character suffers brutally, as events seemingly conspire against her, agonizing twist after sickening injustice. After watching the latest episode of Showtime’s Weeds, another half hour in which every possible thing goes wrong for our noble heroine, I wondered: is von Trier secretly manning the cameras?

That’s silly, of course, since Weeds breaks just about every rule of von Trier’s “Dogme 95” filmmaking philosophy. While Dogme’s rules dictate abandonment of “artifice” like props or music, Weeds is a regular TV show, with sets and lighting and stuff. Its dark comedy and satire (I can’t drive through Castaic any more without laughing) separates it from von Trier’s deadly serious productions. But at its center is a woman, Nancy, who is thrust into a life of crime: her husband dies unexpectedly, and she turns to a dangerous drug-dealing lifestyle to provide for her family. She’s threatened at gunpoint almost daily, a new boyfriend turns out to be a DEA agent who eventually betrays her, and a deal to protect her family from a biker gang eventually results in her whole suburb burning to the ground. On Monday’s episode, Nancy’s brother got lost on the Mexican border, an old nemesis showed up to entrap her, and just when things seemed okay, they got crazy again: her drug dealing gang installed her as manager of a maternity shop at a mall, but it turns out the back room hides a tunnel to some sort of secret gang headquarters. How much is one woman supposed to take? Is Weeds just Breaking the Waves with pot instead of sex?

Maybe a better question would be, does the horrible suffering of your female lead necessarily mean your work is misogynistic? While reviewers like Salon’s awesome Stephanie Zacharek accused von Trier of “just getting his jollies” from Dancer in the Dark (and Björk herself swore off acting afterwards), others have found von Trier’s films moralistic, rather than misogynistic, and ultimately, indictments of society. Is Weeds a morality play? Nancy has “sinned,” for sure, and in the latest episode, her “addiction” to the drug dealing lifestyle is made clear: when presented with her maternity shop assignment, she refuses at first, saying she “owes it to her family” to make the better money dealing provides, since she’s “put them through a lot.” But when you say “a lot,” you mean, “stuff that’s happened because of the dealing,” right?

So, Nancy’s a sinner, and perhaps the central question of Weeds is how much punishment Nancy will receive for her sins. However, just as in von Trier’s work, society doesn’t escape unscathed either: if Nancy is a sinner, then what about oppressive, troubled suburbia, corrupt religions, that big wall separating us from Mexico? It’s the screwed-up world that made her this way! In a sense, Nancy is made to suffer for our sins, and by watching, we implicate ourselves, fearing and hoping to see how low she’ll go, how much she’ll get hurt, and if redemption is even possible. But since there’s comedy, it’s a lot easier to watch than three hours of Björk torture. (Björture?) Von Trier should take a hint from Weeds: if he wants to teach us a lesson, maybe a few chuckles will keep us from noticing.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate