I enjoy the film Mamma Mia in a visceral way. Watching it is just a completely joyful experience. So why is that? Why do myself and so many other women respond to this movie in such a powerful way? Artistically, it is far from the best film I have ever seen, yet it has worked its way onto my desert island list.
Last night, watching Mamma Mia with the girls had me thinking about this and I have a theory. Mamma Mia taps into the same hunger as The Davinci Code: a longing for the divine feminine. Both of these are flawed works, but they are so phenominally successful, I believe in part, to demonstrating the value of the feminine.
Mamma Mia is not a religious film. Most of the emphasis is on women's relationships with other women, and with themselves; the men are there to move the story along. Corny as it is, the scene where Meryl Streep plays pied piper while singing "Dancing Queen" is a celebration of the divine feminine. I know it's schmaltzy, but watching all of those women throw down their toils and responsibilities to run along and celebrate the dancing queen inside of each of them moves me. The film tells us that each of us has something that is strong and beautiful and independent, but it also craves connection with others on own terms.
It is directed by Phyllida Law, and the woman's touch shows. The interactions between the women ring true in a way that is uncommon in most films directed by men. Even's the film's sense of humor seems more feminine to me.
A lot of digital ink has already been spent on The Davinci Code, so I won't spend much time here. It's fair to say, though, that much of its worldwide success can be attributed to people being curious about or enamored with the idea of women having an important role in religion. There is a hole in male-dominated religions, and people responded in droves when even an over-hyped pot-boiler of a novel acknowledged that there was something to fill that hole.
Hopefully, we will see more art that either overtly or indirectly deals with the feminine as a source of inspiration and strength and spiritual comfort.