Push or Pull? Weeds Crosses the Border

Curator's Note

The first three seasons of the Showtime series Weeds focus on a middle class widow and mother named Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker), who, in order to hold onto her house, sells pot to her neighbors in the affluent suburbs of Southern California. These early seasons examine middle class suburban life in order to offer satirical observations about consumerism and success in the U.S. The fourth season begins with Nancy moving her family to a beach community near the U.S.-Mexico border. This border becomes central to the series’ development as Nancy and her friends and family become involved in moving drugs, weapons, and humans into and out of the country.

While many narratives present the border as a barrier intended to define and separate nations, Weeds takes a very different approach, emphasizing the porous nature of the border and focusing on its function as a link between two nations, highlighting the variety of ways that people and products move back and forth across the politically drawn line. Nancy drives across the border with drugs concealed in her car, while her friend Celia travels to Mexico to purchase drugs that she cannot get at home. Nancy’s brother-in-law Andy and friend Doug decide to work as coyotes, smuggling immigrants through the desert, while Nancy’s business associates transport drugs, weapons, and prostitutes through an underground tunnel that connects Tijuana with San Diego.

Weeds depicts all of these border crossings as driven by the desires of those living in the U.S. Most of the illegal border traffic results from either the demand for drugs or cheap labor, both of which are clearly established in the series’ first three seasons, or the desire for individual financial success, which is relentlessly celebrated as a key component of The American Dream and which motivates the actions of Nancy, Doug, Andy, and eventually Nancy’s two sons. Unlike many border narratives from both the entertainment and political realms, which suggest that outsiders are to blame for pushing illegal substances and individuals into the country, Weeds shows how middle class lifestyles in the U.S. are largely responsible for pulling illicit traffic across our southern border.

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