Garry Marshall is a director known for making feel good movies and sweet romantic comedies. While this weekend’s Mother’s Day, his third ensemble cast film based around a holiday, looks, from all outward appearances to be yet another in this series, it appears that not every character in this one is quite so loving and friendly. The original script for the film, apparently, required character actresses Margo Martindale to use the slur "towelhead," but she refused to do so.
Margo Martindale is frequently cast in movies and TV, and due to her strong Texas accent, the southerness of her character is often a key part of their identity. Such is the case in this weekend’s Mother’s Day where she plays the mother to characters played by Kate Hudson and Sarah Chalke. Mom and dad surprise their kids with a visit, only to discover their daughters have been keeping secrets from them. One is married to an Indian man, and the other is married to a woman. The reason the kids didn’t tell their parents the truth is because their parents are a couple of stereotypical southern, homophobic racists. In fact, the script called for both parents to refer to their new son-in-law, as a "towelhead" but according to the Huffington Post, Martindale decided the word only needed to be said once, so she let her on-screen husband, Robert Pine, be the one to say it.
I said, ‘Too many ‘towelheads.’ I bow out.’ He did it instead. It’s OK, he can handle it. I couldn’t handle it.
One of the more difficult parts of acting has to be when you’re supposed to do or say something that you would have a real problem doing normally. Playing a racist character has to be somewhat strange for most people, especially when you’re using some terrible language. Just saying words like that feels wrong, even if you’re playing a character. Margo Martindale admits that to some extent the southern stereotype her character represents is "absolutely true" though she also knows plenty of people from Texas that her character would not represent. In the end, it probably was no great loss to the script to remove one slur. The word still gets used, which drives home the information necessary about the character that uses it, and we’re sure Martindale’s character Flo doesn’t need to use the word herself to get properly painted with the same brush.
Still, it is a Garry Marshall movie, so we assume that by the end of Mother’s Day horizons are broadened and everybody lives happily ever after. Everybody is just so damn adorable.
While there are plenty of times that actors have to do the uncomfortable thing to tell the story properly, it probably wasn’t too necessary in this case. One less slur in the world isn’t a bad thing.