Mamma Mia! sign / Andrea Dantz / Flickr.com.
A girls’ night is not complete without the perfect movie. There’s nothing quite like a glass of wine, some chocolate, and a good rom com. But often watching a fun movie means setting aside a lot of critical thoughts. Like, why would Elle Woods ever put up with Warner and his misogyny? Why does He’s Just Not That Into You think women making the first move is a bad thing? Why is female power portrayed negatively in the Devil Wears Prada? Rom coms can be outdated to a cringey level.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is different. The film moves on from the outdated romantic tropes of the 90s and creates a new breed of rom com. It is a celebration of women rather than a shaming. To find happiness, the characters don’t have to take each other down.
The movie celebrates female sexuality. Donna sleeps with three men and no-one condemns her. Everyone respects that she can choose who to have sex with. And nothing about that choice reduces her worth as a person, the way that so many outdated movies seem to suggest. If James Bond can sleep with different women every movie, there’s no reason Donna can’t be celebrated for the same choices.
Not only is there some much-needed respect for female choices and a celebration of sexuality, the film flips tropes on their heads. Older women (hello Tanya) are able to express their sexual desires and make the first move. Sky makes sacrifices for Sophie’s career, rather than the other way around. Cher, who plays the perpetually absent grandmother, is not shunned for being a ‘bad’ mother or focusing on herself.
A lot of ABBA’s songs were problematic as hell. It’s not hard to see the sexist, women-need-men themes in Gimme Gimme Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) or lyrics like “In her lonely bed / Feeling stupid, feeling small / wishing she had never left at all” (from One of Us). Does Your Mother Know, sung by a man, is creepy. Like, really creepy. But when Tanya sings it in the first Mamma Mia film to a young man who is obviously attracted to her, the lecherous and patronising tone of the song becomes empowering. It says: older women can be attractive and have fun.
Rather than taking problematic songs literally, Mamma Mia centres on women. The characters, women and men, support each other regardless of their romantic situations. Their friendships consist of a lot more than talking about men. When Donna and Rosie are attracted to the same guy, it doesn’t get in the way of their friendship. The female friendships are authentic.
Most importantly, the filmmakers seem to understand women. This is not a movie written by men who think women are obsessed with men and nothing more. The trailer alone passes the Bechdel test – so it’s already a whole lot better than the majority of movies.
Of course, the movie is fun. Viewers get to belt out a whole lot of 80s hits and have a great time. But it’s nice to know that behind the shots of Greek islands and one very attractive cast, Mamma Mia is not hiding a problematic message. Watching Donna’s story play out on screen is an affirmation that women can live their lives however we want and no one can stop us.Support Villainesse