Little Boxes on the Hillside

December 3, 2011

Dirty Hands

(Potential spoilers below)

Following the death of her husband and the ensuing financial problems, Nancy Botwin, the main character of the TV show Weeds, begins to sell marijuana in order to support her family. The problem of dirty hands is described bluntly as doing something that is wrong in order to something that is right. In this case, Nancy does something wrong—selling illegal drugs—in order to do something right—supporting her family.

Nancy’s initial role as the local pot dealer in the suburban town of Agrestic quickly blossoms as she expands her business. As Nancy’s criminal activity intensifies, her two sons, Silas and Shane, become increasingly involved and affected by her affairs. Both of her sons eventually drop out of school and join Nancy’s operation. In addition to the wrongdoing of selling illegal drugs, Nancy’s actions have an arguably negative effect on her children. Her new occupation deprives Silas and Shane of a normal childhood and education and also somewhat forcibly introduces them to her world of crime. Probably the most extreme example of this is Shane murdering someone in order to protect the family. If Nancy had found a normal job and kept Shane in school, it’s highly unlikely that he would have murdered someone.

Shane with his murder weapon: a croquet mallet.


So, in relation to the problem of dirty hands, do you think Nancy’s actions are justified as they allow her to financially support her family? Or do you think Nancy’s actions do more harm than good and that she should get a normal job?




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3 Comments on “Little Boxes on the Hillside”

  1. cchevat Says:

    As a person who religiously watches Weeds, I will be the first one to say how crazy Nancy Botwin is. In the beginning of the series, Nancy’s weed dealings do not seem to have the biggest impact on their children’s lives, it just allows to keep living the lifestyle that they had previously. The first sign when the weed dealing becomes out of hand is when Silas, the older son, begins to resist and rebel against Nancy due to the fact that she is partaking in illegal actions. This type of rebellion later rubs off on Shane even though at the beginning of the series he still was innocent and was unaffected by what Nancy was doing.
    As the series progresses, there are many times when Nancy could have easily stopped dealing drugs and turned her and her family’s life around by taking on a normal job and resorting back to a normal suburban life. But this is when Nancy is heavily influenced by her own self interests and the lifestyle that being a weed dealer has given. When this shifts is when the Botwin situation changes from being one of dirty hands, to one of selfishness. At the beginning she was doing these things for the sake of her family but then she becomes too involved in the actions she was taking which then lead to a lot more turmoil for her family instead of backing out and turning their lives around.

  2. Brian Hall Says:

    It’s difficult for me to come to a conclusion in this particular situation; I’ve watched up to the 7th Season, and still haven’t decided what I would do in Nancy’s situation. Certainly her initial decision to sell weed is fairly easily justifiable as it doesn’t really harm anyone. The problem is that when one sells drugs, there are ALWAYS going to be consequences (and I don’t mean small quantities to your friends, but rather bulk selling for serious profit). Nancy is not particularly bright, though she has incredible luck and excellent people skills which serves her well and is the convenient excuse Cohen uses for how she gets out of what should realistically be endgame scenarios. Her choices eventually are made out of sheer necessity (especially after Esteban enters the picture), so it’s tough to really judge her for anything she does after that point.

    Realistically she should have moved out of Agrestic to a lower income area, made sure her kids graduated and went to community college, and found a job as a secretary or something of the like to support her family (3 years at Berkeley have to be worth something). Wouldn’t make for much of an interesting show on the other hand, as real life is boring.

  3. Michael Zanger Says:

    In addition to being arguably one of the greatest shows of all time, Weeds has questioned the concept of stealing and committing crimes because there is no alternative. When a mother is living the American Dream and suddenly experiences financial woes due to the death of her husband, the bread-winner of the family, I believe she doesn’t have an obligation to maintain that lifestyle. But this is her choice. I think the media portrays Americans as losers if they cannot meet a certain level of living and people are afraid of becoming “that person”.

    The show becomes more economically realistic further in the seasons when they can barely afford a new york city apartment (though it is rather large) as things hit the fan. But to maintain a 5,000 square foot house in Southern California on a drug-dealing budget (marijuana, nonetheless), is unrealistic. Not that I have experience….