Study Guide

Chicago Mama (Queen Latifah)

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Mama (Queen Latifah)

Big Mama's House

Matron Mama Morton is "the keeper of the keys. The countess of the clink. [And] the mistress of murderers' row." Yup: Mama is a prison warden who doubles as a talent agent.

For one thing, all phone calls have to go through Mama, and she charges a pretty penny for each ring. "Fifty bucks for a phone call!" Velma says. "You must get a lot of wrong numbers, Mama." But Velma pays. Everyone pays. In the prison system, prisoners have no choice but to do what the warden says.

Considering the sapphic double-entendres of Mama's song, "When You're Good to Mama," the way she flirts with the prisoners ("Aren't you the pretty one?" she says to Roxie) and the way Velma gives Mama a shoulder rub makes us wonder if money isn't the only thing exchanging hands here. These lines and scenes recall cheesy women's prison movies like Caged Heat.
Other than helping the girls out—if you can call it "help" when it's really a form of coercion—and providing some comic relief, Mama doesn't really have a storyline. Her biggest transformation comes when she gets Roxie's iconic haircut, irritating Velma who would much rather see Mama be #TeamVelma than #TeamRoxie.

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