Mamma Mia Multimodal Madness

Over the years, tagging my friends in memes on Facebook has become one of my favorite past times -they leave me laughing out loud almost every single time. After reading Guide to Multimodal Projects, this phenomenon made a little more sense to me. This article describes multimodal texts, or texts that use many modes of communication to get their message across, and why that is important in examining different texts.


This summer, I saw Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again! In theaters. Twice. Mamma Mia was the first musical I ever saw live, and I have been jamming to the soundtrack (along with other ABBA hits) ever since. So, when my friend tagged me in the below meme on Thursday afternoon saying “I feel like you have already been tagged in this,” I found it extremely fitting:

When thinking about multimodal aspects, the first two modes that come to mind are the linguistic mode, which considers the use of language, and the visual mode, the use of pictures. Looking at the linguistic mode alone sets the scene for what is to come. “When my friends pass me the aux cord” on its own does not mean much — it is only completed by the visual mode of the clearly non-photoshopped picture of the Pope holding up the Mamma Mia soundtrack. Thinking about it a little more, spatial mode, the physical arrangement of the text, really helps deliver the hilarity of the meme as well. If the Pope were just holding the CD next to him, the text would not be as funny as it is with him holding it in the air, like a truly praised item (which, in my mind, the genius work of ABBA is).


After being tagged in this meme, I was on a HUGE Mamma Mia kick. Listening to it on my way to class, at the gym, and getting ready in the morning…it feels like there is an ABBA song for any and every mood! So, on Friday, I decided to watch some of my favorite clips from the two films. I have always been a fan of musicals, but it wasn’t until Saturday night when I realized how multimodal they truly are. For the purpose of this blog post, I will refer to a scene that made me audibly sob in theaters, where the protagonist from the first Mamma Mia, Donna (Meryl Streep) appears for the first time in the film, but it’s not really her, it’s (SPOILER ALERT!!) her ghost (?) singing with her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), at her child’s baby naming. It is a beautiful moment between the two. Here is a link of a video someone recorded of the movie screen (Is this legal?).


The first two modes that stood out to me here are the linguistic and the aural, which focuses on sound. The two women are singing ABBA’s My Love, My Life, a song about two people loving each other so much that they can see themselves in each other, unable to find the words to explain their love. The slow, light tune of the piano paired with the slow, light tune of Streep and Seyfried’s voices plus the emotional lyrics conveys a feeling of love and passion. However, the scene would not be as moving if it weren’t for the gestural mode, which refers to movement and body language, as well as spatial mode. Streep spends the first half of the song slowly walking towards Seyfried, and then about a minute with the two of them in each other’s arms, and the rest is Streep slowly walking away into the “light” – a use of visual mode. All of these together show how much these two care for and love each other, that they do not want to let go. This, combined with the audial and linguistic make for a deeply emotional story, even if you don’t entirely know the background information. See the emotional turmoil below. 

Musicals have always been such a large part of my life. I have always felt connected to them more than I do with TV or movies. Maybe it’s because of their superior usage of different types of modes. Or maybe it’s just because I just like to belt out the songs in the shower.

3 thoughts to “Mamma Mia Multimodal Madness”

  1. Your take on multimodality is really amusing and unique! Musicals themselves could be seen as multimodal projects, so seeing the different ways “Mamma Mia” manifests in your life, and the different modes it embodies, is an interesting framing. I would argue that along with linguistic, visual, and spatial modes, the image of Pope Francis utilizes the gestural mode of communication. You can see and extrapolate meaning from his placid facial expression and his hand placement, which can be identified as physical gestures.

  2. I love this blog post because I also love Mama Mia (although I’ve yet to see Mama Mia 2 and need to…). It’s so true that musicals are a great example of a multimodal text; the words, actions of the characters, and mood of the songs all work together to contribute to the message of the show. I think the meme you posted is hilarious, and it is a perfect example of a multimodal text. Without each component, the photo and the caption, the meme wouldn’t serve its comedic purpose because one mode wouldn’t make sense without the other. Great job exploring different aspects of your love for Mama Mia to delve into multimodal projects!

  3. I never realized memes are the most common multimodal works. Your analysis of how the humor of the meme doesn’t come through if the image or the text is missing is accurate and thorough. The analysis of Mamma Mia is also great. Musicals are a unique multimodal form of story telling and that’s why they come across in a different way than other mediums of story telling. This opened my eyes to how multimodal pieces do not have to be complex and long, they can be as simple and short as a meme.

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