"Yes, of course, the mammy did exist—once. For at least two centuries she was an institution of the Old South. Even today—here and there—one can be found. But today the Old South as we knew it is disappearing and mammy is rapidly passing away with her. Today—mammy has become largely a fiction—a museum piece of slavery days. Yes—it's true that mammy—the epitome of the patient, contented slave—doesn't live here any more!"Older Than Radio, Subtrope of Ethnic Menial Labor, Mammy was born in the the Deep South of Antebellum America, but continued to be a presence for a century after the American Civil War and is also "popular" in Cuba. During slavery, she was largely resigned to her enslavement, perhaps even finding Happiness in Slavery. After she gained her freedom, Mammy continued to serve as a menial domestic to whites, and continued to aspire to little higher. In her freedom, she may have also moved north, although her position and character is largely unchanged whether she lives in rural Georgia or Chicago. Physically, Mammy is generally obese, middle aged or older, and generally has zero sexual flavor about her: a white mistress was supposedly secure that having Mammy about the house was no threat to her husband's fidelity. In terms of character, Mammy is generally poorly educated, but has abundant common sense and is competent in her domestic duties. She is servile toward the whites, but may be an Apron Matron toward her own family, or even toward her masters' children if they have placed her in authority over the kids. Her earthy common sense may, if her white masters or employers become sufficiently zany, lead her to become the Only Sane Man of the household and develop some characteristics of a Sassy Black Woman, perhaps even being driven to deliver a Whoopi Epiphany Speech. Compare Magical Negro and Almighty Janitor. May also be the maid of a Maid and Maiden duo. The Other Wiki has a page on the archetype here. The white family she works for may fall under Bad Boss or Pointy-Haired Boss, but don't expect the story to call them on it. If the story is set in Texas or California, she might be Hispanic or Native American. In the Northeast, she might be Irish, and in the Midwest Swedish or Norwegian. In stories set in The Raj she might be Indian or Chinese (and more likely than not referred to as Ayah or Amah, respectively). The term "Mammy" is also an extremely common name for one's mother in Ireland (like Mom in the U.S) heavily featured in Brendan O'Carroll's Mrs. Brown's Boys.
— New World A-Comin' (1944 radio series), "The Negro Domestic"
open/close all folders
- Aunt Jemima from the Quaker Oats Company's brand; was originally a character from Minstrel Shows. Her new design nixes the "Mammy" imagery, giving her a natural hairstyle and pearls to insinuate that she's a homemaker.
- Mrs. Butterworth, the pancake syrup mascot. Since the 70s, she's only been shown as the animated bottle in an attempt to tone down the inherent racism of the stereotype.
Anime & Manga
- Ella from Sonic X is apparently supposed to be one but the English dub paints her as Hispanic.
- South African cartoon strip "Madam and Eve."
Films — Live-Action
- Parodied in The Campaign, which features an Asian maid who is forced by her boss to talk like this, only occasionally slipping up/dropping it for her regular American accent.
- Beulah from "Leave it to Beulah," a Show Within a Show in the film C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America.
- Bubba's mother (and her mother before her, and so on) from Forrest Gump. At least until Forrest gave her Bubba's share of the Bubba Gump Shrimp company; after that, she hired a white woman to be her "mammy".
- Hattie McDaniel made a career out of playing these kinds of roles, including Malena Burns in Alice Adams, Fidelia in Since You Went Away, Callie in They Died with Their Boots On, and most famously as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. She's also in Disney's Song of the South. She played a mammy for Shirley Temple's character in The Little Colonel. In Saratoga her character says she'd go after Clark Gable's character if only he were the right color. When asked if she felt degraded taking so many gigs as a domestic, McDaniel replied, "Why should I complain about making $700 a week playing a maid? If I didn't, I'd make $7 a week being one."
- The grandmother in Grown Ups.
- The "sassy" maid, Minny Jackson from The Help primarily, but the whole movie is about the black maids.
- Delilah in both film versions of Imitation Of Life, but especially the 1934 original. The 1959 version by Douglas Sirk is in fact a Deconstruction. In both versions she is the best friend of Bea and they raise their children together. Unlike most "mammy" type characters she has her own storyline and character development.
- Gussy from Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.
- Annie in It's a Wonderful Life, with a healthy helping of humor and genuine affection toward and from her employers.
- Eulabelle from the B-movie The Horror of Party Beach. She's condescended to by most characters and the hero goes the extra mile by putting on a Southern Gentleman patois exclusively when speaking to her. She's also the only main character with any real personality or charisma, and every time the plot stalls out, it falls to her to go back and give the starter cord another tug.
- In Hallelujah! Zeke's mother is actually called Mammy, and she looks and dresses the part. But it's subverted to some extent as she is the mother of a family of poor cotton farmers, not a servant to a white person.
- Inverted in White Man's Burden, which is set in an alternate America where blacks are the dominant ethnic group and whites are the minority. Wealthy businessman Thaddeus Thomas has a white live-in maid who otherwise fits the physical description of being older, overweight, and servile exactly.
- Missouri, Randy Bragg's housekeeper, from Alas, Babylon.
- Big Lannie from the Dorothy Parker short story "Clothe The Naked".
- Ruby from Patricia McCormick's Cut.
- Mammy Jane in Charles W. Chesnutt's The Marrow Of Tradition.
- Castalia from Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is an examination and subversion. Yes, she's an obese (300 pounds), middle-aged to elderly domestic servant. But, as it turns out, she taught herself to read while still a slave (and reveals this fact while insulting her injured mistress after the plantation house burns down), raises minks, is the female protagonist's lover, and definitely does not qualify for Happiness in Slavery. (She also claims to have been born a princess in Africa, and Lucy relates a story that Castalia told her of her enslavement, though the princess bit is likely Unreliable Narrator.)
- Cook from Old Tin Sorrows is essentially a fantasy-world version of this trope, although she's a half-troll rather than dark-skinned.
- Henrietta "Henny" Beech from Petals on the Wind hits every single cliché, except she's mute.
- Aunt Jemima from The Rapture of the Deep
- Ruth from Summer of My German Soldier.
- Possibly Calpurnia from To Kill a Mockingbird
- Aunt Chloe from Uncle Tom's Cabin
- Deconstructed in Kindred by Octavia Butler. The mammy-esque slave Sarah finds what happiness she can, but beneath that facade is bone-deep rage and pain over a lifetime of servitude in which all but one of her children were sold away from her. It's presented not as surrender but as one of the ways that the plantation slaves weather unendurable horror.
- Nel from Gimme a Break!.
- Florence from The Jeffersons totally subverts the trope: She's thin, works for a black family and is extremely outspoken and sassy, especially toward George.
- Betty Draper of Mad Men grew up raised by her family's black housekeeper and then hired one for her own children.
- Florida from Maude, and, to a lesser extent, her reprise of the role in Good Times.
- The titular Mama from Thats My Mama.
- Berta in Two and a Half Men is a subversion of the typical Mammy: while she is a competent housekeeper, obese, and full of common sense, she also takes shortcuts, does drugs, and insults the main characters. Oh, and she's white.
- Raj and Dee's mother in What's Happening!!. Could also apply to Shirley.
- Scream Queens (2015) had Ms. Bean, a sorority housekeeper given the nickname "White Mammy", who was ordered to say "I don't know nothing about birthing babies" by sorority president Chanel Oberlin.
- Louanne in Boardwalk Empire, maidservant to the Commodore. He's abusive and racist towards her, and she eventually tries to poison him to death with arsenic. It's also revealed that he had left everything to her in his will, but it's unclear if she knew about that, and Jimmy destroys the will.
- Beloved Belindy from Raggedy Ann, and Dinah in the books.
- Celie from The Colonel's Bequest. The game is set in 1925 on a former plantation.
- Subverted by Lenora "The natural born mama" from Pokémon Black and White. She's not a mammy in personality or profession (she's an archeologist), but definitely by character design. Part of the reason she drapes her apron (which makes her look rather round) over her back instead in the US release (revealing a slimmer but still much more full bodied figure than the standard Pokemon woman). The apron was also edited out of the anime and the Pokémon Adventures manga in the US. Also probably part of the reason she was the one of the replaced gym leaders in the main story of Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, and the only one that can't be battled outside of the World Tournament.
- The aptly named Macha from Chrono Cross, which is odd given the lighter complexion and lack of African features in her children.
- In Drawn Together, prolonged exposure to Captain Hero's X-ray vision causes Foxxy to develop a brain tumor on her stereotype gland, turning her into a Mammy, which makes her a target for the Bureau of Cartoon Political Correctness.
- Classic Disney Shorts:
- Old Aunt Delilah in the Disney cartoon Figaro and Cleo (voiced by the same actress as Mammy Two-Shoes).
- A Mammy was seen in the Silly Symphony short Three Orphan Kittens and the Pluto the Pup short Pantry Pirate. In Three Orphan Kittens the Mammy is about to throw the kittens out into the cold when the white child she's watching insists that they keep the kittens.
- Mammy Two-Shoes from the Tom and Jerry shorts. Note that Mammy Two Shoes is never shown to be servile to white people and is never seen taking orders from whites either. In fact, by all indications, it's her house that Tom and Jerry are shacked up in.
- Audrey's housekeeper from Little Audrey. Quite a Fair for Its Day portrayal, since even though she's a bit harsh on Audrey, she plays the role as the Only Sane Man, plus she's always right at the end.