Sunday, July 13, 2008

'Mamma Mia!'s Modern Morals

Went to see the Mamma Mia film the other night, the polar opposite of the last movie we saw (There Will Be Blood), and had fun evening out. It's the kind of film where you have to decide 90 seconds in (when the first character breaks into song), whether you're going to jump in and enjoy it, or find the whole thing completely cheesy.

It's a PG, which was pretty marginal, and I was struck by a note in the credits. During the film, one character is seen wielding a cigar, and so the credits had a disclaimer that any smoking in the film wasn't supposed to encourage people, and was very bad for you etc. etc.

We're all pretty used to the tobacco warnings now - the one in my local says something about a slow lingering death - but what struck me was the lack of warnings about anything else. One character looks vaguely alcoholic, another is a serial divorcee and sexual predator, and broken families seem to be the order of the day. The whole plot hinges around a girl who doesn't know who her father is, and invites the 3 potential candidates to her wedding. Her hope is to find out which one of the 3 men her mother slept with 20 years ago (in the space of a month) hit the jackpot.

Call me old fashioned, but most of this stuff is worse for your health than smoking, yet we never see health warnings advising us not to sleep around, encouraging us to have stable relationships before having children, etc. We seem to be straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel - or perhaps smoking a Camel - and kidding ourselves that we really are concerned about people's wellbeing because we're tough on smokers. Except that the cigar coincided with a gorgeous blue sea, sunshine, yachts and a Greek island, and the smoking disclaimer was tucked away at the end of the credits. So we're not that concerned, really.

It was a fun film, and lots of people will enjoy it. But it's significant that we don't bat an eyelid at a movie which has everything but a happily married couple, and treats this as normal. Even the couple who are supposed to get married think better of it and head off for the sunset together to explore the world. It seems bizarre to be basing any kind of serious social comment on a film like this, but it's a prime example of how we have normalised family breakdown. Sure it takes away the stigma of being a lone parent, but it's actually pretty desperate. Some fatherless kids can escape with a song or a dance, others suffer for it.

1 comment:

  1. Good review, David. I agree. We have normalised family breakdown.