Mammy: Mainstay of the Family or Fictionalized Caricature

Gone With The Wind Poster

Image by ZacharyTirrell via Flickr

If you’ve seen the movie, Gone with the Wind, you’ll probably agree that one of the most endearing characters is that of Mammy, Scarlett’s outspoken but loyal house servant/slave.  The movie Mammy seems to rule, not only the other slaves, but also the master, mistress and their children.  Her advice is sought-after and everyone relies upon her to keep the household running smoothly.  In fact, sometimes it seems she is more Mommy than Mammy.

After doing some research, I discovered that the character of Mammy (and mammies in general) is really a figment of the imagination of writers, movie directors and an entire advertising campaign set in motion to serve the political, social, and economic interests of mainstream white America both before and after slavery ended.  However, since this is a post about the parenting skills and traits of the characters in Gone with the Wind, I’ll comment on Mammy as she appears in her role in the movie and leave the issues of slavery and its ramifications to the experts in that field. 

So what type of “parent” is Mammy?

1.     She gives unconditional love…even when she is scolding, we know she REALLY loves her charges…and they know it as well!

2.     She sets rules and expects them to be followed, but is willing to negotiate in order to enforce those she deems most important.  In one of the first scenes in the movie, Mammy is insisting that Scarlet eat her breakfast before attending the barbecue and festivities because it was a social disaster for a young lady to eat too much in front of others.    But Scarlet wants to enjoy the barbecue and doesn’t care about social etiquette.  She also wants to wear a dress that is too low cut for an afternoon party and so Mammy tells her that she can wear the dress with a shawl over it IF she eats her breakfast.  A bribe, perhaps, but isn’t that the same as when we tell our children they can have their dessert IF they finish their dinner?

3.     She is concerned for the safety of her “children”.  When Scarlett decides to go to the city to try to get $300 from Rhett Butler to pay the taxes on the plantation, Mammy insists on accompanying her to make sure no harm comes to her.

4.     She is willing to admit when she is wrong.  Mammy’s opinion of Rhett undergoes a big change when she sees what a loving and caring father he is.  By wearing the red taffeta petticoat Rhett had given her years before, she is declares her approval of him and even tells him that she had misjudged him.

 

Parents have a difficult job, no doubt about it.  What parenting tips did we uncover from this examination of the characters in Gone With The Wind?

  • Give your children unconditional love and be supportive in all situations
  • Set rules and be consistent about the rules and the consequences for breaking them
  • Lead by example and be willing to admit when you are wrong
  • Be respectful of their opinions and attentive to what they have to say
  • Encourage them to have friends and get to know the parents of their friends
  • Help your children learn to set goals and follow through on reaching them
  • Instill a sense of hopefulness in your children
  • Provide a safe environment for your children
  • Spend time with your children, joyfully participating with them in various activities
  • Encourage your children to try new experiences and master tasks and skills

It was fun looking at these characters with a parenting state of mind.  I hope these last few posts provided some entertainment and also some useful parenting tips.

6 thoughts on “Mammy: Mainstay of the Family or Fictionalized Caricature

    • Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed the post. It was fun to look at those characters from Gone With The Wind and check out their parenting skills.
      Regarding the GFC, yes, I don’t have that set up…I guess I should try to figure it out. 🙂 Thanks for following me 🙂

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  1. Mammy was not only a figment of the imagination but a tough act to follow. 🙂 Your tips though are excellent!
    Parenting is such a huge responsibility that sometimes people forget that we must parent our children even as we love/indulge them. 🙂
    E

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    • Thanks for always paying attention to what i write 🙂
      Yes, you are right…just like the old Virginia Slims commercial that showed the woman, jugglling career/maintaining home/being romantic date for her husband…all with a frying pan in one hand…oh yes, and a cigarette in the other. I HATED that commercial…it made me feel I could never do it ALL and be as perfect as she was. 😦

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      • I hear you… it made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough and why the heck was I so tired after trying. LOL!
        A good friend used to say, “I wonder what else she’s smoking!” 😉 🙂
        Going back to those old commercials, I liked the Charlie fragrance girl! Remember her? 🙂
        E

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