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I like a good movie musical just as much as the next person. Well, I might love and obsess about them, but that’s beside the point. Musicals cross boundaries in terms of genre by including elements of drama, mystery, romance, history, reality, science fiction, and so much more. However, musicals also cross boundaries when it comes to society. Ask any millennial about Hamilton and they will rave about its ability to make history exciting and relatable by incorporating modern hip hop and rap. Dear Evan Hansen explores the everpresent realm of suicide and social anxiety. Be More Chill delves into sexuality and technology. Yet, I have only mentioned modern musicals. Do musicals from even ten, twenty years ago hold the same socially-disrupting abilities?

This is where Mamma Mia! comes in. My friends and I constantly argue about its applicability to the feminist movement. For example, Donna, the leading lady in the musical, proves time and time again that she doesn’t need a man to help her raise a child. On top of that, she runs a business all on her own, pursues her passions, and ultimately, follows her heart, no matter the cost. Her daughter, Sophie, follows in her mother’s footsteps, never feeling the need to get married young. She would rather travel the world and experience life before making such a major commitment.

In spite of these strong female protagonists, some aspects of the musical contradict feminist ideology and values. One song in the film, “Money, Money, Money,” explicitly states that life would be easier if there were a rich man to take care of women, specifically Donna and her friends. The song continues this theme until the very end, the last words being “It’s a rich man’s world.” On top of that, Donna ends up with a man in the end and instantly seems significantly happier and less stressed.

Despite further reflection, I still can’t decide if Mamma Mia! is a feminist movie. But I can say that Mamma Mia! does break the social norm and demonstrates female empowerment. The themes of the musical inspire me to pursue my passions, and I know I should not let restrictions or what other people think get in the way. It may be a “rich man’s world,” but that’s not going to stop me from being ambitious and taking on roles that will make a genuine change for someone, somewhere. I can take care of myself, but it’s also not wrong to want help and company along the way. What matters is that all people are treated equally, with everyone’s ambitions viewed as equally valid. 

There are many things in this world that I do not know, and I am learning everyday what it means to empower all people. I may be naive in holding the views that I do, but I can say one thing for sure: musicals explore our society more than I thought, and if I want to learn more about the ways of this world, I need to watch Mamma Mia! more often.

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