Dear Mamma Mia, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, ABBA, Colin Firth, the very foundation of the Hotel Bella Donna, the very bright and beautiful blue that is used in the promotion materials and throughout the films, TL;DR: The Amorphous Being of the Mamma Mia Cinematic Universe and all that it has been throughout my very great and very gay life,
For being a pillar of just about everything good in the world.
Because you did a lot of things right, and a lot of these things make my every day better. I genuinely remember a lot of my life in pre- and post- dichotomies, when it comes to events that happened on a turn of a dime. There’s before-and-after I decided to leave the Catholic Church, there’s before-and-after I got rejected from my “dream” college and got redirected to my “fate” college, and there’s before-and-after I saw Julie Walters perform “Take A Chance On Me.” The quality of life before and after these moments of my life are palpable in memory.
On a night of a full moon in July 2018, I decided it was finally time that I took advantage of the blessings I possessed — a Netflix account, internet connection, the fact that I lived in a timeline in which Mamma Mia was accessible thanks to the two previous things, and a will to watch Mamma Mia. (My other friend who is also gay also apparently had the urge to do the same thing at the same time, as in, watch Mamma Mia for the first time. She is several Jersey exists away from me. We didn’t speak at all about this movie before this occurred. So I take it as proof of something cosmic. I mean, the fact that queerness and the Moon are intertwined is not news, considering that the Moon is most definitely a lesbian, but now I have provided all scientific institutions with a first-hand account of how these two parts of our big gay universe are intertwined with films that star Amanda Seyfried. Mamma Mia, the moon, and being gay are the same experience.)
To all that is Mamma Mia, I have so much to thank you for. Here are some of those things in human words form. Others will be communicated by dance that I will perform around the house to your soundtracks. And as for the remainder of these bits of gratitude I will spend the rest of my life trying to decode into signals from the cosmos into comprehensible phrases.
Thank you for casting Lily James as Young Donna Sheridan. I am reminded at how good it is to be gay every time I watch this film. I think if I listen to “I Have a Dream” enough times I can enter the Mamma Mia Cinematic Universe, go back in time, and find Young Donna in Greece and become her girlfriend. If I wish hard enough.
Thank you Christine Baranski for all you’ve done for the gay community by just existing. Every time someone listens to Christine Baranski’s Tanya singing “Does Your Mother Know,” from the first movie, a baby gay gets their first rainbow vein. And thank you for saying “gay rights” in this video. Because thanks to that, I now have faith that we can get Trump out of the White House.
Thank you to Cher. Just. Thank you. Thank you. Thank. You. I’m convinced that the sun hasn’t blown up yet because of you. Because the sun is like, I want to be in a universe where Cher is. Because we all do.
Thank you to my two great pals who dressed up as Overalls Young Donna Sheridan on Halloween 2018, because even though we were on three separate college campuses, in a glorious way, we had become, in that moment, Donna and the Donnas.
Thank you to the bench I sat on outside the campus library on that Halloween morning as I played “Dancing Queen” aloud on my speaker which confused so many people but I’m sure made the Moon very happy.
Thank you to my best friend for watching Mamma Mia with me as the clock struck twelve on my 19th birthday. Thank you another college friend who watched the film with me on Galentine’s Day.
Thank you to my mom, who bought me a beautiful butterfly necklace like Young Donna’s, and who watched the second film with me when I was on fall break, and held me when I cried over the last scene of the movie. And another thank you to me, who held her when she cried too.
Thank you to my “fate” college’s housing services for providing me a Resident Assistant who was not only an incredible role model in scholarship, leadership, and feminism, but also in how to be a loving and doting Mamma Mia and ABBA fan. And for Living Council of which I was able to obtain membership and propose a Mamma Mia Movie Marathon night to wonderfully guided souls who approved of its occurrence in my dorm building last April. At least a couple people watched either one or both Mamma Mia movies for the first time that night, and that is when I knew my advocacy skills, civic engagement training, and instillation of the belief in providing resources for those who need them have come to good and effective use.
Thank you to ABBA. For understanding happiness and putting it into a song, and then another song, and then another song, and then another song, until you had a lot of songs. There was a week in first semester of freshman year where I listened to nothing but ABBA. Literally nothing else. Not even my own breathing. Just. ABBA. Because I NEEDED IT. There is something for every mood and every phase of life in their discography. I can be who I am or someone else entirely. And I can turn on their record “Oro: Grandes Éxitos” to practice my Spanish-language learning.
But in all lesbian honesty — the sincerest of honesties — I must identify some information about my personal level of fandom. Yes, I am one of those people who became a fan of Mamma Mia because of the second movie coming out and the subsequent cultural and societal explosion of Mamma Mia appreciation. Yes, it took me till the October after the second movie came out for me to watch it. No, I am not a childhood lover of ABBA, and no, I have not been to Greece yet to cry real tears into the ocean for we-all-know-who.
I am so glad I can share these films and what they mean with family and friends, with strangers and trees, with storefronts of Greek diners and my dog. It’s a story that celebrates women, that celebrates family and chosen family (especially a great collective of characters that is a mix of blood relations and dear friends), music, and, most of all, Meryl Streep. It has been there for me in my best times and worst times. It has taught me how to smile and how to laugh and how to sing again. It has taught me that life deserves to be celebrated. So thank you, Mamma Mia, and thank you, all that it will continue to be for me.
Still holding out for a Mamma Mia 3, Alyssa
(If you have not watched Mamma Mia yet: the first film is available on Netflix, and the second film is available for purchase on several programs. I paid full boat to stream this film and I would do it all over again. I would do a lot of things for Lily James.
Do you want a big gay blessing in your life? Do you want to go to Greece? Do you want Colin Firth? You want Mamma Mia. You do. I know you do because I am gay and I know that you do.)
About the Author:
Alyssa Sileo’s Thespian identity comes first and foremost in anything she carries out. As a member of the Drew University Class of 2022, she studies theatre arts, women’s and gender studies, and Spanish. She’s a proud NJ Thespian Alumni and member of their state chapter board. She is the leader of the international performances network The Laramie Project Project, which unites worldwide productions and readings of the acclaimed Tectonic Theater Project play and encourages community-based LGBTQ+ advocacy. Alyssa is humbled to serve as the 2017 Spirit of Matthew Award winner and as a Youth Ambassador for Matthew Shepard Foundation. She believes there is an advocacy platform tucked into every piece of the theatre catalogue and intends to write outreach into the canon.