Kate Stone

Kate Stone

Why Mama Fratelli is a Comedy Icon

When it comes to female characters there appears to be an odd belief that there are few examples of them in comedy, specifically examples who could be held up as comedic role models. I seem to have some extra time on my hands right now and rather than rearrange my wardrobe I have decided to dedicate an essay each to the fictional girls and women who deserve more recognition for their comedy.

One of the drawbacks of growing up in a house without knowledge VCR programming or TV schedules was that I very rarely saw films in full. I think I’d started menstruating before I realised TV broadcasts were not ‘a surprise’ but accessible information. Honestly, a rather unsatisfactory but tantalising epic could be made if you cut together all the films I have not seen the beginning of. One of these films was, until recently, The Goonies. This meant I had missed a large chunk, as it were, of this week’s comedy icon Mama Fratelli’s story.

Mama Fratelli is pretty terrifying, this middle-aged mother of three does not exude maternal warmth and has no qualms with threatening to cut a child’s tongue out. Why would she? She is the head of a criminal operation, she’s a BOSS.

Played by character actor Anne Ramsey, Mama Fratelli was a monster mother unlike any I had seen before. Often when we see women of similar position and status she balances out her evil nature with feminine wiles, which she uses to persuade and cajole her helpless male minions to do her bidding.

But in The Goonies Mama Fratelli is a grotesque, leading car chases, killing FBI agents, offering questionable liquids to kids and pulling the mother card only when she needs her son Sloth to save her. All whilst wearing a beret and pearls, a beautifully ridiculous costume.

It is so alien to how we usually see women on screen and hugely entertaining to see an older woman being so badly behaved, rather in the vein of Absolutely Fabulous’s Eddy and Patsy.

What adds to Mama’s cartoonishness is her willingness to believe, along with the Goonies, in One Eyed Willy and his treasure. Any other adult would have dismissed Chunk’s story of pirate booty, just as Dorothy Gale’s elders dismiss any talk of Oz. Is it greed that drives Mama to believe, or beneath the murder, tough talk and threats is Mama still connected to that childish need for magic in her life?

I realise it is also necessary for Mama to hunt out the treasure else the film would be awful short. But it’s also what creates sympathy for this monstrous mama, which in turn makes her actions oddly clownish and turns her into just as much a legend as One-Eyed Willy.

If you have a character you’d like to suggest for this, then tweet me @funnywomened

Read why Sister Mary Patrick is a comedy icon here!

Read why Dionne Davenport is a comedy icon here!

Read why Megan Bloomfield is a comedy icon here!

Read why Miss Piggy is a comedy icon here!

Read why Aunt Hilda is a comedy icon here!

Read why Maddy Magellan is a comedy icon here!

Read why Elizabeth Cronin is a comedy icon here!

Read why Jane Lane is a comedy icon here!

Read why Lisa Landry is a comedy icon here!

Read why Dorothy Zbornak is a comedy icon here!

Read why Anne Shirley is a comedy icon here!

Read why Wednesday Addams is a comedy icon here! 

Read why Marmalade Atkins is a comedy icon here! 

Read why Tracy Beaker is a comedy icon here! 

Read why Daria Morgendorffer is a comedy icon here! 

Read why Anastasia Krupnik is a comedy icon here! 

Read why Helga Pataki is a comedy icon here!

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