The Mammy As A Archetype

Decent Essays
African Americans have consistently been the target of cinematic and television comedy. Considering African American women, the Mammy has emerged as an icon throughout the 20th century, representing the foil to American white women (cf. Atkinson, 2004: 3). Having its roots in antebellum Southern America, the Mammy “was an important figure in the socialization of white Southern children” (DelGaudio, 1983). Considerably, various depictions of the Mammy present her performing arduous domestic duties in the household of their slave owners. Therefore, the Mammy replaces the white lady in educating and taking care not only of the white children but also of the home (cf. Jewell, 1993: 38). In their work, Jennifer Bailey Woodard and Teresa Mastin stand…show more content…
Therefore, she enjoys high prestige in terms of human values, why she is more or less a respected person in the Caucasian family to which she belongs. Nonetheless, the Mammy archetype is filled with paradox. On the one hand, she surely enjoys independence and embodies positive attributions such as kindness, benevolence, and reliability. On the other hand, as Parkhurst states, she is, inter alia, tyrannical, possessed with a temper, and harsh. In her work, Julia S. Jordan-Zachery argues, the Mammy needs aggressiveness “in order to maintain the status quo, in her relations to other slaves to prevent their co-optation of her” (2009: 37). Further, she clearly has to display authority over other slaves in order to protect the white family of any probable danger, particularly from other blacks. However, the Mammy would never show her harshness and aggressiveness towards the white family. Thus, she “is constructed as fiercely independent, aggressive and powerful, [but] all within limits” (ibid. 38). By means of her tyrannical manners, she positions herself above African Americans, particularly above African American
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