The Big Picture in Waitress

On February 2, I saw Waitress.  And it really should come with a viewer discretion is advised warning.  At least then I’d know what I was getting into.

I had a panic attack because Jenna’s relationship with Earl was eerily familiar; it was basically the marital version of my relationship with my mother.  All of the signs of abuse were there:  physical violence, financial control, and verbal abuse are just a few.

Even though it was hard to watch – it was an out-of-body experience wherein I found myself thinking “What the fuck am I watching?” – I freaking love it because I can relate to Jenna. Other reviews, however, only mention the abuse in passing when they talk about how great the show is.  Don’t get me wrong, it is great, but I’m here to unpack the pervasive theme of an abusive relationship.  Let’s analyze some songs, shall we?

From the get-go, the audience knows something is off about Jenna’s relationship with Earl, because in a normal, healthy relationship, Jenna would be excited to find out she’s pregnant.  We only begin to see the true extent of the abuse during “You Will Still Be Mine”.

Remember my clean shave

Back in our old days?

We were just kids

I had my six string

And you had your own thing

Though, I don’t remember what it is

Earl wants to reminisce about the beginning of their relationship.  The truth is, he doesn’t care enough about her to remember what she cares about, and he’s only focused on himself:

Man, what a whirlwind

So much is happening

And mostly to me

We’ve come such a long way

No turning back now, babe

You’re my family

In fact, during the scene, Earl tells Jenna, “You better not love that baby more than me”.  Earl can tell Jenna “You’re my family” all he wants, but it’s not about loving her.  It’s about control.  He thinks just because they’re married, she can’t leave and he should be the most important thing in her life.

My mother is like this as well.  She’s jealous of my friends because I go to them for advice.  Once, when I mentioned how important Emily Blunt is to me, she said “Moms are more important”, which doesn’t even make much sense.  While Emily Blunt isn’t my mother, she does have two girls of her own.

“Bad Idea” is another song that really struck a cord with me.

Heart, stop racing

Let’s face it, making mistakes like this

Will make worse what was already pretty bad

Mind, stop running

It’s time we just let this thing go

It was a pretty good, bad idea

Wasn’t it, though?

I feel like my whole life is one giant bad idea.  My mother doesn’t have a nice thing to say about anything I choose to do.  Sometimes, you gotta double down on what makes you feel good.  I knew taking on the Spanish minor was a risk, because I was burned out.  I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I knew something was wrong.  However, I also knew Spanish was the thing that made me feel better, so I couldn’t give it up.

“She Used to be Mine”

I’d write about specific lyrics, but I can’t choose.  This song hits me with a ton of bricks.  It’s about Jenna remembering who she is and trying to get back to that confident place.  In college, I knew who I was.  I found myself.  My whole self.  Everything felt right, despite the mistakes I’d made along the way.  Since I’ve been home, I’ve had to fight every day to hang onto the shreds of dignity I still have.

Even though it was hard to watch, I’ve been able to process all of this, and I really appreciate Waitress.  Because it showed me that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Jenna found her way out, and so will I. In fact, later that same week, I got a job. Things are definitely looking up.

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