Little Fires Everywhere — set in the all too apropos midwestern suburb of Shaker Heights, Cleveland — explores motherhood from two sides of the coin. The Richardsons are a picture-perfect family, born and raised under the protective umbrella of white privilege. The Warrens — Mia and her daughter — have been forced to upend their lives consistently, struggling to find homeowners willing to rent monthly to a single black woman and her daughter.
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Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) is an enigmatic artist who fights and provides to the greatest extent of her ability — wearing her heart (as well as her expectations and societal perspective) upon her sleeve. She often puts her daughter in her place, for she understands that motherhood requires an authoritative stance without an authoritarian presence; she balances understanding and mercy with firmness.
Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) is reserved yet relentless; she has a vision for her family and is unwavering in her dedication as a provider and a source of guidance (whether or not her viewpoint is always appreciated).
Elena and Mia in ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ are perfect foils
Elena and Mia are equally matched — perfect foils for one another. One obeys the prescriptive rules set out for suburban motherhood, while striving to take a stance in the “independent woman” department via her small-town journalism career.
On the other hand, Mia Warren may have been forced into the independent woman role — seemingly a victim of circumstance who refuses to be labeled as such, carrying a dignified air of confidence and a grounded presence — marked by self-realization. Elena sacrificed her budding career to be a mother; Mia fought to have both. Who is the better mom — the one who sacrifices or the one who refuses to relinquish her own identity when acquiring the mother role?
Mia seems like a more enviable representation of womanhood, while Elena may be the more ideal representation of motherhood. Mia is accepting of individuality, and she sees uniqueness not as a flaw, but as an asset.
As an artist, Mia peers into people; her artistic inclinations rest at the base of her identity — augmenting both her interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Mia sees people, not to judge but to analyze. On the contrary, Elena is quicker to judge, and quicker to do good deeds for the sake of being …
Source:: Showbiz Cheat Sheet