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5 Movie Rules Broken by Ma

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I’ll be the first to say that as a huge fan of horror, thriller and suspense genres, I was excited about the movie, but wasn’t sure if it would be scary or suspenseful. After seeing it, I walked away as a fan of what I hope to become a cult classic. There have mixed reviews, landing a 57% on Rotten Tomatoes and 73% from google users. The reason I believe Ma was intriguing is because it defied many film tropes we see repeatedly. I’ve fleshed out the top five tropes the movie Ma dismantles in hopes that you’ll support the film staring Octavia Spencer Luke Evans, Juliette Lewis, Missi Pyle, Allison Janney, Diana Silvers, Corey Fogelmanis, McKaley Miller, Dante Brown, and Gianni Paolo. *Minimal Spoilers* The Magical Negro

Michael Clarke Duncan played the classic “magical negro” role in the 1999 film “The Green Mile”

The most played out trope in film involves a Black wise person that comes into a non Black persons life and gives them the strength they need to save the day. Meaning, the Black person could’ve just been the hero. It’s a cheap way to highlight race relations in film and television that promotes lazy story telling and unrealistic character arcs. Ma was not trying to save the teens in the film. Her intentions were of her own self interest from the start. I have to admit, it is extremely refreshing to see Black characters that exist for purposes other than supporting non Black characters in fiction.

Trope Examples

Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) in The Shining (1980)

Mr. Bloom (Scatman Crothers) in Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) in Ghost (1990)

Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman) in The Shawshank Redemption (1994)


A scene from the movie, ‘The Help,’ with Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer.

Similar to "The Magical Negro" trope, the Mammy trope involves a nurturing Black woman, typically large and darker skinned, catering to the needs of white people. This trope in film is most detrimental because the history of mistreatment of Black women throughout slavery, reconstruction, and in labor jobs during Jim Crow. Because of this history, society often depicts large Black women as non threatening and extra careful with fragile white counterparts. When I saw the trailer for Ma, the first thing I thought was “Octavia Spencer as the villain? But how?” After seeing the movie, I appreciate the point it made, either intentionally or unintentionally, that the ideas we have about Black women often come from a place of racism and oppression. We need opportunities to dismantle stereotypes. Why not start by making Octavia Spencer a vengeful bad-ass?

Trope Examples

Mammy, played by Hattie McDaniel, Gone with the Wind (1939)

Ma Soupswill, Rare, Grabbed by the Ghoulies (2003)

Minny Jackson, played by Octavia Spencer, The Help (2011)

The Damsel in Distress

The role of Maggie was effortlessly played by Actress Diana Silvers. In the movie, the teen has a love interest as well as two male friends that hang out at Ma’s. One of the things I enjoyed about her character is that she didn’t rely on those male characters to make decisions when Ma started being strange to say the least. The movie was centered around female relationships, otherness, and revenge.

Trope Examples

* See almost every other movie in history* The Virgin Dies Last

There’s a long-standing horror trope that virgins die last. Typically the bad guy picks people off one by one starting with the most promiscuous and/or obnoxious characters. Aside from underage drinking and foul language, the teens in Ma really weren’t so bad. No one in this movie was Satan himself, but no one was morally superior either.

Trope Example

Sydney, played by Neve Campbelle , Scream (1996)

The Final Girl

Without spoiling the ending, there was a spin on the final girl trope in the movie Ma. It was subtle nod to this trope but left the door open for interpretation. Who knows, maybe a sequel is in the works.

Trope Example

Judith Myers, Halloween

Go see Ma and let me know your thoughts!

5 Movie Rules Broken by Ma

By Hybrie Jenae


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