If ABBA and feminism had a baby, she would be named Mamma Mia. It’s been ten years since I sat in a theater with ABBA songs playing on the surround sound system, but “here we go again” with its sequel of a similar name. Since the original film’s release in 2008, strides have been made in the empowerment department as far as women are concerned, and Mamma Mia delivered a refreshing bolster to that movement. It was a piece of non-judgmental fresh air.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a time-hopping sequel, which at times makes it more of a prequel. The original film centers around Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) inviting three of her mother Donna’s former romantic interests to her wedding, in an effort to figure out which one of them is her father. The invitations are sent without Donna’s (Meryl Streep) knowledge after Sophie finds her diary from the year she was pregnant with Sophie. The same diary makes quite a few appearances in the sequel as we travel back to 1979 and watch Donna fill its pages. Here We Go Again finds Sophie preparing for the grand reopening of Donna’s hotel a year after her passing, discovering along the way that she’s more like her late mother than she ever could have imagined.
Neither the first film nor the sequel set out with a feminist agenda, but the principles are there. Female sexuality is celebrated without objectifying the characters; no one is punished for expressing that sexuality. The women don’t dress or act demurely, but are instead silly, outdoorsy, and as sexually assertive as the male characters. The concept of “love is what makes a family” is as equally apparent in this second film as it was in the first. Sophie is surrounded by the love of her three potential fathers and her mother’s dear friends.
Aside from walking away from the film with “Dancing Queen” playing on a loop in my head, I couldn’t help but feel incredible joy. It was a celebration of femininity, strength, and sisterhood. How could any woman not be inspired after seeing a film in which the creatives are all women over the age of 50, the cast is made up of mostly women, and the female costume designer (Michele Clapton) keeps the strength of the characters at the forefront with the choices she made in dressing them? It should also be noted that it’s based on an original musical written by a woman (Catherine Jonson) and was directed on stage by a woman (Phyllida Lloyd).
The plot isn’t a heavy one, and it’s the very definition of a “feel-good” film. Rather than relying on a weighty plot to grab you, Mamma Mia relies on its heart and the message that it’s okay to be a woman. Donna doesn’t live a perfect life, but she lives a good life and makes her dreams come true without the help of a man. She’s a woman who is independent and determined that she’s going to raise a child alone, but she also opens herself up to love when it comes along. The characters celebrate being women at every stage and age of their lives, and they depict female friendship beautifully. These women have lived full lives, enjoy being a little naughty, and have a lot of energy.
To add to all this wonderful feminine energy, Cher joins the cast of the sequel as Donna’s mother, Ruby Sheridan, who’s been an absent mother and grandmother while pursuing a successful singing career. Based on the introduction of Ruby, it makes sense that Donna was a woman who did what made her soul shine. It doesn’t hurt that Cher, as Ruby, is platinum-maned and delivers “Fernando” flawlessly.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again satisfies the craving that we all have for a little light, a lot of love, and some escapism. So, dust off your platform boots, crank up some ABBA, and go celebrate women!
Mallory Moser is a freelance writer