While watching Momma Mia I noticed many scenes that exemplifies a feminist message and advocated for feminist ideals, but many of these scenes were later negated by classical hollywood narrative choices that made the overall message of the film difficult to understand. One of the first feminist messages the film had was evident within the scene when Donna led the women of the island in a dance number that was set to the tune of Dancing Queen by Abba. In this scene Donna rallies the women of the island and gets them to all dance on their own, an act that I perceived to be a statement to the men that women do not need a male in their life in order to be happy. I thought that this dance number, along with Sophie’s gesture of having her mother give her away at the wedding, was suppose to convey that Sophie and Donna were doing fine on their own and didn’t need a patriarch in the family to provide for and financially support them, but this idea is completely tossed aside at the end of the film when Sam proposes to Donna and she accepts his proposal. To me this was obviously necessary because in order to make a film appealing to fans of the romantic comedy genre you as a filmmaker have to implement a happy ending that gives the audience hope and leaves them feeling happy when they leave the theater, but by doing this the filmmaker negates the earlier message of being self-reliant and instead promotes the idea that having a patriarchal figure within a family is the only way for a family to be whole.
Having said that there are characters in the film who retain their feminist values by turning patriarchal constructs like the male gaze on its head by taking back the power from men and proving that they are in control. One character who does this is Tanya. During the Does Your Mother Know dance number Tanya is being pursued by the young bar tender on the island and the way he is shot serves to make him and the men who dance on the beach the objects of desire that Tanya teases by toying with their emotions. This scene is important because rather than being a scene in which men gawk at a women they find attractive it becomes a scene in which an older worn gets a man to chase her around and in doing so she retains the power within the scene because the gaze shifts from her to the man.
One thought on “Momma Mia and Feminism”
I also made a similar connection of Donna and her daughters independence depicting the theme of self-reliance at first, however, it began to fade even before the revelation at the end. I sensed this was not the underlying message in the film as Donna became anxious and flirtatious around the guys which relayed the notion of her attachment to the opposite gender. I would be interested in analyzing the directors original intentions for the film and seeing what his goals were for the work. If what you said about the Hollywood influence and giving the people what they want is accurate, it’s a little disheartening to think that what could have been a powerful and progressive theme was overthrown by the desire to please the public. As much as I anticipated the ending, I do agree that without it moviegoers who seek a surface level interpretation of the film would be disappointed which may have tarnished the films success.