Women should be able to decide how many kids they have – even if it means eating a couple to cut down the numbers. At least, that’s how being a mom works in Isabella Rossellini’s latest series for the Sundance Channel. “Mammas” takes a look at mothering through the lens of bizarre animal behavior. In one of the recent episodes, Rossellini, daughter of famous Hollywood actress Ingrid Bergman and herself a model, actress, and director, dons a furry hamster outfit and cheerfully advocates devouring her own newborns.
The short film opened with Rossellini standing in an imaginary jail, apparently imprisoned for eating her babies. “I am not a monster,” she declared. “Yes, I killed my babies. And ate them. But it was my tenth child – I was exhausted! If I had been a hamster, it would have been considered natural.”
After transforming into a hamster in a dream sequence, she said defiantly, “It’s me who decides how many babies I can raise!” She then reenacted giving birth to ten hamster babies, before deciding that eight babies was “plenty.”
“How am I going to feed them all?” she cried despondently. Selectively sorting through her offspring (“This one has long legs. It will run fast!”), she picked the two smallest runts of the litter and chomped them down without hesitation. “It’s a good morsel to recoup some vitamin and protein that I lost during childbirth. It gives me strength to take care of the other babies … Eight is enough,” she explained, unsympathetically munching the last hamster munchkin.
“If I were a hamster, I would not be in prison,” she complained unhappily at the end of the hamster dream segment, “I would not have been considered a monster, but a good administrator of my strength, abilities, and resources.”
According to an interview, Rossellini intends for the series to challenge the “conventional idea” about motherhood, and finds animal behaviors – in which she is currently earning a master’s degree – a good medium for such a challenge. In the series she acts out the parental activities of multiple creatures including a cuckoo, a toad, and fish, and a wasp, and certainly does not follow traditional understandings of being a mom. Released just in time for Mother’s Day, Rossellini’s short skits defy human standards of motherhood so far as to view killing one’s children, even by cannibalizing them, as not only perfectly “natural” but also as resource-efficient parenting.
At least she’s consistent; Rosellinni’s new series is only the latest in her record of shows about repulsive or gruesome animal sexual activity. In “Green Porno” and “Seduce Me,” the actress’ previous series on the Sundance Channel, she re-enacted the “unconventional” and “scandalous” sex lives of creatures in short segments written and directed by Rossellini herself. As for this newest show, “Mammas,” the SundanceChannel.com’s description of the series was all praise, calling it a “fantastical” and “weirdly delightful” examination of “the different ways … maternal instinct is put into action in nature.” Even New York Times fashion blogger Ruth La Ferla, who overall seems to laud Rosellini’s new series, admits that the show takes “a crazily irreverent look at what it means be a mom.” Predictably, however, the series is a hit at liberal site Jezebel, where Laura Beck called it an “exxxtremely high concept webseries” and “about as amazing as you'd expect.”
On the other hand, the show comes at a particularly tasteless time – no pun intended – for American audiences. In the wake of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s murder trial, people may have had their fill of grisly atrocities surrounding newborns. As the gavel comes down on Gosnell’s conviction, Rossellini’s dehumanizing approach to motherhood and her fantasies about the anthropomorphic cannibalization of babies strikes a nasty chord. If Rossellini thinks eating her babies is part and parcel with natural motherhood, then the more “conventional” and traditional views of motherhood might be … well, slightly less unappetizing.