Pop Pedestal: Paula Small from Home Movies

Paula, an animated woman with purple hair

Welcome back to Pop Pedestal, the series where we pay tribute to pop culture personalities we admire. For this round we're celebrating Paula Small, the too-laid-back-for-words mom from Home Movies.

Pedestal Profile: Paula (voiced by Paula Poundstone in the first season and Janine Ditullo after that) inhabits the incredibly small world of Home Movies, often finding herself navigating the awkward bits of life that revolve around her hyper-creative son Brendon (voiced by Brendon Small), his friends, or the omni-present Coach McGuirk (voiced by the glorious H. Jon Benjamin).

Admirable qualities: Paula's character doesn't fall into many of the tropes of the harried single mother in pop culture. Instead, Paula, like her son Brendon, presents herself as remarkably self-assured, and often finds herself showing or telling Brendon the ways of the world. When Coach McGuirk bungles a date in the first episode, Paula gracefully blocks any possibilities of a second date after realizing the incredibly uncomfortable position she might put herself in by dating her son's man-child soccer coach. After McGuirk tries to appeal with a romantic getaway (to a ranch in Nevada?) she passes off the phone to her son and continues on her day's work.

Paula encourages Brendon's creativity and restless growth, but more importantly she's supportive of her son's ambitions and goals and doesn't try to impose her ideals on him (except when she tries to star in his movies). Check this quick back-and-forth between mother and son:

PAULA: Someday, Brendon, you're going to be with a woman, or a man, who likes you just for you.

BRENDON: Or both. Who knows, mom. I'm young. Don't start forcing roles on me.

Paula's openness with her son has created a kid that's bright, snappy, and well beyond his years in terms of wit, and their relationship seems to be much the better for it.

Her influence: A YouTube fan noted the similarities between Paula's in-progress romance novel and Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series. Movie possibilities?

That's not all: Home Movies explored mental illness in an episode of the first season ("I Don't Do Well in Parent-Teacher Conferences") where Paula discusses her obssessive-compulsive disorder, reflecting voice actress Paula Poundstone's real-life OCD diagnosis. I find the show to be treading on some thin ice with the are-they-laughing-with-or-at-us? portrayal of Paula's experiences at a parent-teacher conference, but they let the character speak about her condition for herself, and otherwise don't make it much of an issue. If you have any thoughts on the matter, I'd love to hear them.

Think of her when: You're giving advice to someone with confidence beyond their age. Paula grounds Brendon's ego with her honest advice, and their discussions elevate their relationship to one you'd imagine between two middle-aged people. Act calm, be sensible, and always have at least a year's stock of purple hair dye.

Previously: The Honorable Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, Downton Abbey Badass, Brad Williams and Jane Kerkovich-Williams from Happy Endings

by Mac Pogue
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6 Comments Have Been Posted

Holla to Paula

Paula Small is my role model. I'm so glad to see her on Pop Pedestal!

Great choice!

I love Paula. I'm still a while away from having children, but when I do, I hope that I'm half the mother she is.

She was hilarious when it was

She was hilarious when it was Paula Poundstone just talking on the phone all the time, and she only got better. Also, in an unrelated Home Movies moment: http://youtu.be/6F6oa1Qt6BE

Big Fan!

Great post- I love Home Movies. Bitch is at its best when the articles focus on feminist successes or point to positive examples of women in pop culture. As a long-time reader and lifetime feminist, I hope Bitch will keep series like this one running.

I love Home Movies and Paula!

I love <i>Home Movies</i> and Paula! Thanks for posting.

I love this show and Paula's

I love this show and Paula's character! I thought of the conversation between her and Brendon that you mentioned once when I was at a restaurant and overheard a woman telling her 6-ish year old son "Someday when you have a girlfriend or a boyfriend you'll understand" in a very casual and matter-of-fact manner, it made me smile :)

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