Mamma Mia and the Mother-Daughter Connection by Katie M. Deaver


A couple of weeks ago I went to see the new Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! movie.  In addition to being a fan of movies inspired by musicals I also loved the emphasis that was placed on the mother/daughter relationship in the first Mamma Mia and had heard that this new installment would continue to focus on that relationship.  It definitely didn’t disappoint!

This second movie takes place five years after the original Mamma Mia, and roughly a year after the death of Donna Sheridan, with Donna’s daughter Sophie preparing for the grand reopening of the Hotel Bella Donna.  This second movie also features lots of flashbacks where we are able to see a young Donna arrive at the island of Kalokairi as well as see how she first meets Sam, Bill, and Harry, her daughter Sophie’s three possible fathers.

As one might imagine, even if you aren’t familiar with the movie there is a lot going on, but the part that I found most intriguing was the very end of the movie.  At this point Sophie has given birth to her own baby and is bringing the child to the church to be baptized.  During the ceremony Donna’s spirit is there at the font with her daughter and new grandchild and you could feel this amazing sense of connection and love between not only three generations but across the lines of physical and spiritual presence and space.

This part of the movie brought to mind a picture and book excerpt that I recently came across on social media.  The book excerpt is from Layne Redmond’s When the Drummers were Women, where she writes, “All the eggs a woman will ever carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month-old fetus in the womb of her mother.  This means our cellular life as an egg begins in the womb of our grandmother.  Each of us spent five months in our grandmother’s womb, and she in turn formed in the womb of her grandmother.  We vibrate to the rhythm of our mother’s blood before she herself is born, and this pulse is the thread of blood that runs all the way back through the grandmothers to the first mother.” This text was accompanied by the beautiful “Triple Goddess” by Amy Haderer.  Haderer describes this work as the three stages of womanhood, Mother, Maiden, and Crone, and says that it “is also characterized by the waxing, waning, and full moon… the tenderness of maidenhood, the fullness and fertility (either physically or metaphorically) of motherhood, and the wisdom and foresight of old age are an inspiration to all no matter where you are in your life.”

I absolutely love the feelings of intergenerational, female connectedness that these words and this visual art inspire.  My mother, and grandmother and I have always been close and I love that there are scientific, biological contributions to this closeness, but I also feel this close intertwining connection with my step daughter.  While it may not be biological in the same way, and perhaps we will have to work to keep that connection in different ways than a biological mother and her child might, I can tell that it is there.

I also appreciate how Redmond’s words connect each of us all the way back to the first mother.  While I was raised and still identify as a mainline Protestant Christian I have never been able to imagine God as a gendered be-ing.  In fact, when I briefly pursued becoming a pastor my candidacy committee found it hilarious that my physical description of God centered around the concept of a sparkly cloud.  Though I still don’t understand God as a gendered being I love this image of the old woman as she seems to be embracing the entire earth, or perhaps all of creation, in what seems to be a peaceful and fully content and centered way.

Whether through spirits or souls across a baptismal font, or through the first mother of us all creation I love the connections that these movies, words, and works of art represent.  And I love the feeling of peace, power, and strength that they inspire.  May these moments of connections, to one another and to something more, given us the strength and passion we need to carry on.

 

 

Dr. Katie M. Deaver, earned her Ph.D. in Feminist Theology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Deaver holds a B.A. in Religion and Music from Luther College in Decorah, IA, as well as MATS and Th.M. degrees from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Her dissertation explored the connections between the Christian understanding of atonement theology and the prevalence of domestic violence in the United States. Her other areas of interest include the connection between power and violence, sexual ethics, and working toward the elimination of the oppression and exploitation of women and girls around the world.

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Categories: Aging, Ancestors, Art, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Foremothers, Gender, General, Love, Motherhood, Pregnancy, Relationality, Relationships, Women and Art

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14 replies

  1. I’ve loved the original “Mamma Mia” movie and have watched it at least once a year, and now the sequel just blew me away. I’ve cried and cried during the movies and listening to the sound tracks. How deeply we who have not had such a deep, loving mother-daughter bond still yearn for it, even after years of therapy. Thank you for the information about how we were not only formed in our mother’s womb but in our grandmother’s. That helps with the sense of connection and love down the generations and into my own heart and body. And thank you for the wonderful art of Amy Harderer. By the way – I think your image of god as a sparkly cloud is delightful and very profound.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comments Betty! It is so nice to hear that others are so moved and influenced by the movies and music as well! And thank you… its nice to have my god image appreciated :-)

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  2. So moving to read this post on my late mother’s birthday. Mamma Mia! Here we go again is playing at my local cinema. I will make a note to see the film. Thank you!

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  3. Wow, I loved learning that we are so biologically tied to our maternal grandmothers… I definitely had a sense of that relationship as a child with my own grandmother,

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    • Thanks Sara! Ever since I saw the graphic and quote on social media I just haven’t been able to stop thinking about how awesome it is! Gives me chills! :-)

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  4. Thanks for writing this. I love musical theater more than nearly anything else. I have seen Mamma Mia on stage a couple of times and have the first movie and a performance at the Hollywood Bowl on DVD. I’ll see the second movie as soon as I can.

    I studied drumming with Layne Redmond a few times when she came to Long Beach. She was a brilliant drummer and teacher. One day I told her that she must have as many hands as a Hindu goddess because her drumming was so complex. Yes, her book is excellent and, yes, we are, so to speak, our own grandmothers.

    Thanks again for writing this and stimulating such fond memories of both the ABBA music and Layne’s drumming.

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    • Thank you so much for your comments Barbara! That is awesome that you knew Layne… I can’t put the book down it must have been truly a gift to be able to drum and learn with/from her! How wonderful!

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  5. Wonderful post, Katie. I guess I’ll have to check out “Mama Mia! Here We Go Again!” I don’t remember if it was Layne Redmond or some other feminist spirituality author from whom I learned (many moons ago) that the egg that formed half of my being resided in my grandmother’s womb for a while. This fact has always reinforced my feeling that the Maiden/Mother/Crone is a “natural” trinity for us, something that is immediately relate-able. It has always been important for me to add, that the Mother as a symbol of a phase of life can be read as either physical or metaphorical (for e.g. creator of innovative medical devices, poetry, baked goods, music, etc.). It’s amazing to me that Mother (biological or otherwise), perhaps THE most formative person in all of our lives, is still conceived of (pun intended!) by certain parts of our culture (even within Wicca or paganism) as a constricted metaphor, limited to physical reproduction. That’s certainly not the way our ancestors viewed this archetype. Mother was the creatrix of the entire universe, and so Her creativity included everything. In viewing this archetype as limited to the physical, we reinforce the patriarchal understanding of the mother. She’s powerful! She’s the source of everything!

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    • Thank you so much for your comment Nancy! Yes… I love the understanding of mother that you unpack in this comment… there are so very many ways to live out and experience the understanding of mother. Love this!

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  6. Believing God does not have a gender does not exclude the need for images that imagine God as female especially given that Biblical religions imagine God as male most of the time. At minimum it makes girls and women feel in the image of God.

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    • Absolutely! As I said, gendered images are not helpful for me personally, but that most definitely doesn’t mean I don’t see and acknowledge their value.

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  7. So delightful the sense of celebrating our path of spirituality, regardless of any particular religion, or even any particular god form. Nevertheless there is within us the capacity to open up into a magnificent awakening. Maybe and probably within the realization we experience, there is truly a unique and yet within its depth a universal understanding, and thus providing an amazing spiritual enlightenment and profoundly deep understanding.

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