‘Who do you love the most, Emily or me?’
Confirmed to release a third season in the near future, a TLC favorite, “I Love a Mama’s Boy” brings back more unhinged standoffs and heated debates. The show follows multiple pairs of couples, aging from late twenties to early thirties, who are about to enter the next stages of their lives – marriage or lifelong commitments. In front of them, however, lies a controlling mother who attempts to interfere with the majority of their great life decisions and a dependent MAMA’s BOY. In short, “I Love a Mama’s Boy” is a perfect guilty pleasure for a Thursday night to satisfy your demand for uncomfortable family dramas.
A majority of the show pokes fun at the absurdity of the proximity between mothers and sons through minor feuds between the mother and the girlfriend. The show features, for instance, Matt, who brought his mother Kelly to a lingerie shop for his girlfriend Kim, and ended up paying for two identical seductive, leopard-patterned lingeries — the other one for his mother. In Illinois, Annette insisted on having a mother-son dance at her son’s wedding with a hot, passionate tango routine, leaving her husband, daughter, and future daughter-in-law, Justina, watching awkwardly as they practiced. Very often, the sons are too timid to stand up to their mothers, upsetting their girlfriends. Throughout their upbringing and until now, their dependence on their mothers does not seem to decline. On the other hand, multiple mothers demand undivided attention from their beloved sons and feel threatened by the presence of the girlfriends to whom the men are committed. They guilt-trip the boys and turn them against the girls, emotionally blackmail them into giving them more attention, or delude themselves into believing that the girlfriends are “not good enough” for their sweet – pampered – baby boys.
One of the show’s highly-discussed couples has to be Shekeb and Emily from Atlanta, Georgia. Shekeb comes from a reserved Afghan Muslim family, and Emily is Korean American. Their struggles stemmed solely from the possessive nature of Shekeb’s mother, Laila. Laila had always wanted her son to marry an Afghan woman, and, never wanting to disappoint her, Shekeb did marry one when Laila was diagnosed with breast cancer. This marriage soon fell apart due to incompatibility, yet Laila did not give up. She repeatedly verbally abused Emily both in private and public occasions, calling her a “pig” when Emily brought her a cake for her birthday. As a gesture of apology for her hostility, she invited Emily and Shekeb to meet at a restaurant, only for them to find Laila sitting with a young Afghan woman who she casually introduced as Wagma. Laila was clearly trying to set her up with Shekeb. Upon learning that Shekeb was seeing someone, Wagma left out of awkwardness, apologizing for accepting the invitation. On the other hand, Emily stormed out in rage. Shekeb faced the difficult decision to follow his girlfriend or stay with his mother. In the series, the mamas’ boys are almost always put in this very same position. On one hand, the woman who gave him his life, and on the other, the woman for the rest of his life. Laila’s most well-known quote is an epitome of this difficult choice, “who do you love the most, Emily or ME?”
A common aspect of the household of a mama’s boy is the lack of physical presence of a paternal figure. Seeing a dominant mother and her abnormally close relationship with her son may lead the audience to assume that the father is no longer around, for he is seldom put under the spotlight. In fact, most of the fathers ARE also living under the same roofs. They are often either ignored or choose to stay distant, possibly intensifying the toxic mother-son relationship.
The mother-son relationship dynamic is strongly characterized by the son’s heavy dependence on the mother and an aggressive mother taking advantage of her son’s vulnerability. When a girl comes into the life of a mama’s boy, she automatically imposes a threat to the mother — a sign that she is not the sole important woman in his life. The consequential hostility creates tension between the mother and the girlfriend, but the dependent son can often be too timid to choose the side of his girlfriend, especially when the mother chooses to emotionally blackmail them. Such is the recurrent pattern that runs through the whole show. Watching the toxic mother-son interactions, the girlfriends are not only bewildered but more frustrated by the fact that they are never getting the support from the boys in a war with their mothers, prompting them to leave the relationship for good. As long as the mamas’ boys refuse to stand up for their future partners, it seems like they are unlikely to continue to the next stages of their lives.