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1954, the Malabar Coast. British and Anglo-Indian identities blur when an English-woman with a neglectful husband births a sickly baby. Cotton Mary, a hospital aide and moralizing Anglophile who claims her father was a British officer, takes over the infant's care and, without a word to the mother, takes the baby daily to her sister to nurse. Mary moves into the English household, taking over more and more duties as she plays on the mother's fatigue and lack of spousal counsel: in effect, Mary colonizes the English household while she pilfers its stores and tells tall tales to her own family. For how long can Mary sustain her rule before the Englishwoman stands on her own feet? Written by
Bold Enough to take on a Serious often neglected Subject
This has got to be the best movie I have ever seen that tackles the madness that self hatred can bring. Yes we have seen plenty of movies in which someone has a identity crisis. But this movie actually in a very understated way shows how self hatred is a psychological illness that I believe is serious problem that people tend It sweep under the rug. It shows that a person who has lived under colonialism in India slowly slips into darkness because no matter how she tried to assimilate and to act just like the British even to the detriment her own people. She will always remain a Indian no matter if her father was white She will always remain a person she hates a Indian, a "blackie". .
As a black woman I have seen this behavior so many times. When I say that black people who act like Mary are sick white people say I am racist because to them the person I am referring to is a great person who never sees race or some other ridiculous reason. When in reality all they see is race, their race and they hate it. Cotton Mary personifies these people to a Tee. They will undermined their own people to the white man so perhaps the white man will think they are not like "those people", For example when Cotton Mary causes a lifelong servant Abraham to loose his job. She knew that the mistress of the house, Lily would not even question if this trusted person would steal, because of her self hatred to her all of "those people, blackies" steal so of course Lily would believe that too. The funny thing is that these people like Cotton Marry usually take on the characteristics of the negative stereotype, they hate so much. She was the one who was stealing.
This man lived there for as long as she was alive and when she dismissed him he said "this is my home"" , she did nothing. The little daughter was the only one in the family that had sense. So when they go back to look for him, he is gone. Disappeared, poof, just like that.
Now Mary thinks she is one of them. So to show she is a big shot to her sister and friends she steals things from the household as if they were hers and gives it to her sister and friends as gifts. it is incredible how she takes the mistress's baby to the sister she she can feed it breast milk but in the same breath call her sister all types of demeaning names. To Mary those "blackies" are only good as long as she has use for them. Just like the Brits or any colonial power treated the natives of the country they colonized.
I am not going to go into the ending but to me this his how it always ends. Reality sets in and they end up back home, ANd always for the same reason.
Someone mentioned she slowly started living in the Land of Make Believe. But I will disagree and say she was always lived there. Her self hatred led her to deny who she was. She was always crazy. Only when reality sets in does she seem to break. But I say she was always broken., but she never realized it. Only when she realized reality did she herself look it, But she always was a nut..
I find this behavior is very much a reality within communities that have been traditionally oppressed. I am Jamaican and so many times I have seen remnants of Jamaicans that actually lived under colonialism acting more like the British then the British and treating their own people like dirt.
I see it happens here in America. Where the black person or other people of color have been broken down so much that they actually believe they are garbage while aspiring to be a white person. Jewish people talk about self hatred all of the time.
This is the first movie I ever saw that came right out and tackled this problem.. I read some reviews that were not crazy about this movie and some felt that Mary was annoying and a unsympathetic character.. I can understand how people would feel that way. They most likely do not fully understand the full depths of the psychological damage colonialism or oppression had on the oppressed.
To me she was a sympathetic person because she she suffered form the illness of self hatred. Remember this movie took place in 1957. Today in the year 2006 I still see people like Cotton Mary because this illness is something that is brought down from generation to generation. All one has to do is look at the last scene with Cotton Mary and the little girl to understand what I mean.
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