Week 2 Day 2 Discussion Question 4

If Lora is punished for privileging professional success over maternal obligation, how and why is Sara Jane punished in the film?  In your view, does the film have coherent racial politics?

2 thoughts on “Week 2 Day 2 Discussion Question 4

  • February 21, 2022 at 2:13 pm

    Lora is in fact punished for prioritizing her professional career over her maternal obligation by her own daughter Susie both directly and indirectly. In a fit of hysteria once Lora confronts Susie for her love for Steve (Lora’s fiancee), Susie remarks that despite the privileged life her mother has given her, the one thing she lacks is her mother’s love and attention. Susie feels that Annie, has been a surrogate mother for her. Annie is Susie’s caretaker and confidant; so much so that Susie is able to confide in Annie about her feelings for Steve. Indirectly then, Lora is punished because she pursued her career and had to forego being the mother figure in Susie’s life. Lora also was punished in another way because he seems that she had to wait nearly over a decade to be able to pursue her true love for Steve. Lora had dismissed him for years to further her career in show business. Lora admits at one point in the film that she is indeed unhappy, presumably because she lacked a real mother-daughter relationship with Susie and did not have true love in her life.

    Sara Jane is also punished in the film – both physically and emotionally. Sara Jane is punished for pretending to be something she is not – for lying. Her mother, Annie, even remarks how this is sinful. In imitating being a white girl and young woman her whole life, Sara Jane destroys her relationship with her mother and inflicts a great deal of pain upon herself. Sara Jane experiences this pain in a few scenes: when she runs out of her classroom crying when Annie shows up to her school thus embarrassing her, and most brutally when her boyfriend finds out that her mother is black. He confronts Sara Jane and beats her. Sara Jane eventually runs away to California and performs there in vaudeville shows – much to her mother’s disappointment. Annie becomes sick with both worry and sadness for her failed relationship with Sara Jane. When Annie goes out to visit Sara Jane one last time, their meeting is interrupted by a friend of Sara Jane’s, so she lies to her friend and tells her that Annie is her mammy. This is a heart wrenching scene that strips Annie of her motherly status and demotes her to a mere servant in Sara Jane’s imaginary childhood. This is evidently a painful scene for Sara Jane as well. We see how Sara Jane is ultimately punished by her lifetime of sinful behavior when she throw herself on her mother’s coffin and weeps. Sara Jane inflicted this punishment on herself.

    The film does have coherent racial politics, which I think is most evident in Annie and Sara Jane’s complicated relationship. Particularly in the aforementioned scene where Sara Jane lies and says that Annie is her mammy. Sara Jane is ashamed of her mother and her upbringing. We also see racial politics at play when Sara Jane’s boyfriend calls her mother the n-word. Annie and Lora had an unconventional household make-up living together with their 2 daughters, and no matter how much Lora and Susie treated Annie as an equal, it seemed that Annie could not escape her racial identity (which she was interestingly continuously reminded of – not by Lora and Susie but rather her own daughter, Sara Jane).

  • February 20, 2022 at 9:31 pm

    Sara Jane is ultimately punished in the film by herself and her internal struggle with accepting her racial identity. She is punished by her mother’s race and skin tone although Sara Jane can pass as white. Sara Jane struggled from the moment she met Susie until the day her mother, Annie, died. After meeting Susie, Sara Jane was introduced to a different lifestyle with a new school, new opportunities, and new people to meet and lie to about her identity. Sara Jane is embarrassed about her race and takes it out on her mother numerous times throughout the film saying things such as “Why do you have to be my mother?” Annie is so heartbroken about Sara Jane’s actions and words and wants her to stop lying, but Sara Jane cannot see a life for herself where she was not white.

    Later in the film, when Sara Jane has a new, white boyfriend, she struggles with the constant thought of her future with him being ruined when he finds out her mother is black. Because of this fear, she lies to him and everyone around her. She tells people she is rich and has strict parents when meanwhile she just wants to keep her identity as white because people will believe it as that’s what it seems from the outside. She says “I do not want to have to apologize for my mother’s color” and “She can’t help her color but I can, and I will”. These toxic thoughts filled her brain for years and ultimately led her to escape home and move to New York, working scandalous jobs for men. Sara Jane wanting to pass as white forever and telling her mother to stay as far away from her as possible ends up being the cause of Annie’s death. Annie was overwhelmed with shame and sorrow after dealing with Sara Jane’s struggles and meanness for all those years.

    In my view, I do think the film has coherent racial politics and shows a real, dark period of time in our country for black mothers that still is relevant today. After seeing what felt like an insider view on Sara Jane and Annie’s relationship, I am truly moved and saddened by the rawness and vulnerability of this movie.

Leave a Reply

Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.