On television and in movies, motherhood is often portrayed as the Holy Grail. Something women should strive for and then love everything about once a baby arrives. Netflix's The Letdown is not anything like that. Like, at all. In fact, its depiction of motherhood is so real, it's hard not to wonder if The Letdown is based on a true story.
The Australian sitcom was written by Sarah Scheller and the star Alison Bell, who plays Audrey in the show. The show opens with Audrey sitting in her car in a dark parking lot when a drug dealer knocks on her window, mistaking her for a late night customer. But she's just put her 2 month old Stevie to sleep and offers to buy the cheapest drug he has available just for the privilege of not having to turn the car on and waking him up.
In just the first episode, we see that Audrey's friends, family, and her husband have all failed her a little bit. She's exhausted, breastfeeding, and her husband is well intentioned but tuned out. "What should I do, pick her up?"he calls from the nursery when he goes to check on the crying baby.
Her childless friends can't relate, so she ends up in a new mom's group, with basically every type of mother you can think of. While they might be judge-y, her connection with the group becomes the focal point of the show, even if she can never remember to take the baby out of the car. The show is heartbreakingly funny and very real. So is it based on a real story or not?
Scheller and Bell told If.com.au, "The inspiration for the pilot came about through our own personal experiences with new motherhood, but I guess more specifically it was after my own ill-fated encounter with a local mothers’ group that the idea began to percolate."
The group is the best part, probably. There's the mom with all the answers, the mom who runs her own company, a stay-at-home mom, the single mom trying to get a little help, and the very unsympathetic, straight-talking nurse who runs the whole thing. Scheller and Bell just knew their stories had to be told:
We wanted to explore the less stereotypical other notions of motherhood, such as not living up to expectations and what that meant for a woman and for her relationship. We already knew that motherhood is an obliterating experience for a woman, but what about when it is for her partner, her mother and closest friends?
So, while it might be dramatized, the show is definitely based on real experiences and feelings. On Reddit, viewers are relating so much to the show. One user wrote, "I watched every episode today! It was so nice to be able to watch a show that I could relate to. There really aren't that many shows or movies out there that depict what really taking care of a baby is like." Another added:
...with a 12 week old it’s hitting uncomfortably close to home. That scene where she’s crying on the bus and looks down to see her baby happily peering up at her, and she starts smiling through her tears...man, that moment is the most accurate representation of new motherhood I’ve seen yet.
Many others have also taken to Twitter to express how much they are loving all the diversity and honesty within the narrative.
If you don't have kids, it might make you think twice about the whole thing. If you do, it will make you wish you had Audrey's phone number to give her some much-needed love. It's a funny show, but it really portrays parenthood in a way that we don't often get to see on screen. Bell said that they wanted it that way, and to not make it too light of a comedy, because it would "kind of betray the truth."
She added in an interview with The Australian, “The material, the situations lend themselves to comedy because there’s so much indignity and unexpected stuff, and that’s always great for comedy. So there’s the subject matter and also the need to lighten the trauma.”
I mean, when do you hear people call parenting a "trauma?" Or see people shamelessly buy noise canceling headphones for sleep training? Whether you're going through the newborn stage right now or never plan on doing it at all, The Letdown is definitely worth watching. Although be warned — it does get very real, but that's kinda what makes it so great in the first place.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.