This month, in honor of Literary Mama’s special focus on stepmothers, I tried to get Ben to watch The Sound of Music with me.
He wasn’t so interested, but still, I wound up seeing the film in a whole new way.
Here’s an excerpt:
Hollywood movies from Cinderella to Stepmom typically represent stepmothers as problems, or much worse, but The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965) is the only film I’ve seen that solves the “problem” of a woman by turning her into a stepmother.
We first meet Maria dancing in green mountain fields high above the city of Salzburg; she’s dwarfed by her landscape (as she will be dwarfed by buildings, institutions, and situations throughout the film), but carefree as she sings. She doesn’t look like a problem, just a joyful young woman reveling in the beautiful countryside.
Tolling bells call her to attention and she races down the mountain only to arrive at her convent home late for Mass, again. The nuns have already been singing, “How do you solve a problem like Maria,” and before long the wise Reverend Mother, one of the film’s several childless mothers, arrives at her answer: send Maria away from the abbey to serve as governess to seven unruly, motherless children.
“Really?” asked my son Ben, when I told him the story of Maria and the von Trapp children. Despite my best efforts to entice him into watching the film with me, he kept wandering out of the room, more interested in his new Lego set than the singing and dancing on screen. But the idea of the pretty young Maria in charge of seven kids stopped him in his tracks.
He stared at the screen as Maria, a victim of the children’s prank, bounced up from the pinecone left on her seat. He turned to me slowly and asked, “Is she a grown-up?”
Read the rest of the column here, and let me know what you think!