‘The magic of Mamma Mia is in the unconditional love of family’

As a lifelong Abba superfan, Annabelle Leith was destined to love Mamma Mia. But the real magic of the musical is what it says about family, she writes.

'The magic of Mamma Mia is in the unconditional love of family'
Sophie and Donna in Mamma Mia! The Movie. Photo: Universal Pictures

I love Mamma Mia, plain and simple. There's no hiding it – I'm a die-hard fan. It stems from my love for Abba, of course.

It must have been passed down from my mum.

I grew up with a lot of Abba in my household. It wasn't uncommon for Dancing Queen or Thank You For The Music to be blasted through the speakers while she was cleaning the house or we were in the car – or at any other given opportunity for that matter.

I don't think there was a specific moment in my life when I realized that I loved Abba, because it's a love that's been there for as long as I can remember.

It's got to the point now where if I'm on a night out and an Abba song comes on, I'm on FaceTime to my mum within a second, and she'll dance and sing along with me wherever she is (usually by that point in the evening it's in bed waking my dad up with her singing).

QUIZ: How much do you really know about Abba?

When I was younger I was often called Dancing Queen by my friends and family, due to the fact that I was dancing at every opportunity there was, more times than not to an Abba classic. My younger sister and I would always make up dance routines and perform them to our parents during the adverts on TV.

That's probably where my love for musicals stems from. I've always loved to dance and perform. I even love to sing, even though I sound like a strangled cat, but that's never stopped me from belting out off-key notes as The Winner Takes It All begins to play.

In other words, I was destined to be a Mamma Mia super fan.

I was ten when Mamma Mia! The Movie first came out, and I still remember clear as day the first time I watched it. My mum took me to the cinema with her friend and when we got there the queue was out the door. It was so busy that we didn't even get to see the first showing, and had to wait for the next one an hour later.

Watching the film was a surreal experience. Usually in a cinema people are scorned for sneezing, let alone singing. But every single song had people clapping and singing along to their hearts' content, including me of course, maybe even a little too loud. The power of the film really struck me, the way it was so uplifting and so joyous, I completely fell in love with it and how it made me feel.

My mum and I loved the film so much that we went to see it again with our Swedish family when we went over to visit, we simply could not get enough of it.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the Abba reunion

I got the DVD when it was first released and it was all I watched for months. It got to the point where I could quote the movie almost word for word – I probably still could now. I would watch it every night until I fell asleep, I loved dozing off to the chatter and the music.

A whole decade has now passed since Mamma Mia hit our screens, so I think it's fair to say that my excitement levels are through the roof for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again to be released in cinemas in just a week's time.

Will it be as good as the original? I can't see how it wouldn't be. I have always been able to rely on Mamma Mia to lift my spirits and put a smile on my face no matter what mood I'm in, and I'm hoping the second one will do just as good a job at that.

I was lucky enough to get to go to the Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again press conference in Stockholm to represent The Local Sweden, and to be just two metres away from the cast of the film and Abba's Benny and Björn, yes, Benny and Björn, was completely overwhelming but amazing at the same time.

Needless to say my mum was completely jealous. Speaking of which, we'll be going to watch the new film together of course. The shared love we have for Abba and Mamma Mia makes it even more special to go and watch it with each other.

I remember being in the cinema and watching the scene where Donna, played by Meryl Streep, helps her daughter Sophie prepare for her wedding day in the original film. Donna was singing Slipping Through My Fingers, and, through her tears, my mum leaned over, took my hand and whispered to me “I hope one day when it's your wedding we'll get to do the same, if you'll let me” and smiled.

Whenever I watch that scene now I always think of the relationship between my mum and I and how similar it is to Donna and Sophie's, and it makes me feel so happy, appreciative and lucky to have a mum as wonderful as mine.

And I think that's the magic of Mamma Mia. Though of course it follows the typical story line of a girl loving a boy, it also has such a huge focus on the unconditional love of family, in particular between a mother and a daughter. And that, to me, is beautiful. 

Annabelle Leith is a journalism student at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, currently doing a summer internship with The Local Sweden in Stockholm. Follow her on Twitter here.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


‘The Sweden Democrats no longer need to worry about how they appear’ 

The Sweden Democrats spent years distancing themselves from their extremist past, but recently the far-right party has edged back closer to the fringes of the nationalist movement, says Expo Foundation researcher Jonathan Leman. 

‘The Sweden Democrats no longer need to worry about how they appear’ 

When the Sweden Democrats entered the Riksdag for the first time in 2010 they were isolated and shunned by all other parties. In 2014 their share of the vote grew and the establishment parties cobbled together the so-called December Agreement to keep the Sweden Democrats at bay. 

By 2018 the sands of Swedish politics had shifted again. Months after the election that September the leader of the Christian Democrats, Ebba Busch, ripped down the cordon sanitaire that had surrounded the Sweden Democrats when she shared a meatball lunch with its leader Jimmie Åkesson. The Moderates, then the biggest party on the right, soon followed suit and the party that had emerged in 1988 from the ashes of the racist Keep Sweden Swedish movement was finally in from the cold. 

This centre-right embrace kickstarted a new approach from a party that for years had publicly washed its hands of the more extreme elements of the broader nationalist movement, says Jonathan Leman, a researcher with the Expo Foundation which monitors and exposes far-right extremism in Sweden. 

“The Sweden Democrats no longer need to be worried about how they appear so that they can be accepted. Because once the door is opened to them by parties who are willing to cooperate with them, their worry about appearing racist or extremist becomes rather a worry of appearing politically correct or not radical enough,” he tells The Local’s Sweden in Focus podcast (out Saturday, March 11th). 

By re-building the bridges it had previously burned with Sweden’s complex and influential network of right-wing alternative media outlets the party could neutralise a potential enemy and re-connect with the grassroots nationalist movement. 

“These alternative outlets are either a friend or a foe. As a friend, they will sort of pave the way for you, they will attack your political opponents. And as a foe, they will give you a headache. So I think it’s a calculation that ‘we can get away with the closer relation with this alternative media environment now.’” 

In 2022 the Sweden Democrats became the biggest party on the right of Swedish politics, with a voter share of 20.5 percent, and Leman says he’s worried that the three governing parties’ reliance on support from the Sweden Democrats means they are reluctant to express criticism when the party oversteps accepted boundaries. Like many other countries, Sweden upholds a principle that politicians should stay at arm’s length from decision-making in the cultural sphere: they help establish the framework but agree to stay out of day-to-day decision making. 

But what happens when a party refuses to accept this principle? And is there cause for concern when, as happened recently, Sweden Democrats at the local level move to block cultural events like drag queen story hours, or a Lucia procession fronted by a student who identified as non-binary?

“I think it’s very worrying. And I think that this sort of relative silence from the other parties in the Tidö cooperation makes it even more worrying,” says Leman. “I think it encourages SD to move forward with this sort of culture war, this sort of war they’re waging on constitutional democracy or liberal democracy.”


Tune in to Sweden in Focus on Saturday to hear more from Jonathan Leman on why the Sweden Democrats espoused the idea of “open Swedishness”, how far its anti-racist zero tolerance policy stretches, whether the party’s links to pro-Kremlin sections of the alternative media sphere represent a security threat for Sweden, and how the party will navigate a balancing act between the centre-right and extreme right as it seeks to further broaden its appeal to voters. 

Follow the podcast: Apple | Spotify | Google