The Baroness, Max, And Me; A Mother Deconstructs The Sound of Music
This is a guest post by Mai Spurlock
When I was a little girl, watching a classic movie like The Sound of Music was a treat we enjoyed once a year. Back then television reruns were the only way to see movies after their original release. Our whole family stayed glued to the tv while Fraulein Maria sang her heart out to seven adorable children in the Austrian Alps.
I loved the adventures that Maria had with the children and longed to join in. Each year I focused on a different Von Trapp as the most interesting girl in the film. Tiny Gretl, who got her finger stuck in the tea, was my first favorite. Then it was cheeky Brigitta with her love of reading and her dreamy eyes. And who could forget Liesl dancing in the gazebo with her proto-fascist boyfriend Rolf? Liesl’s exuberant “yippee” after her first kiss made me wonder what would happen to me the first time I fell in love.
Now in the age of Blu-ray players, I can watch this with my daughters whenever we want. The songs are still as catchy, the production design as beautiful, and the lederhosen as tight. My 6-year-old has the same reactions I did at that age. She especially loves Julie Andrews with her heavenly soprano and gentle but firm demeanor. But now, somehow, I am all about the Baroness— the very adult girlfriend of Captain Von Trapp. Elsa has amazing clothes, a sarcastic sense of humor, and her witty best friend Max. They watch bemused as Maria cavorts with the children and coaxes the stuffy Captain into singing and dancing. Elsa’s one liner telling Max that she should have brought her harmonica is classic.
The baroness’s actions, which seemed so diabolical when I was little, appear more logical to adult me. Sending the Von Trapp children to a top boarding school? Par for the course for upper class children of that era. Elsa does fail miserably in her one attempt to play catch with the children. But I think if I were visiting a friend with seven children, I might sit in the shade and have pink lemonade and strudel too. (Since that is pretty much what I do during cookouts, it isn’t that sinister.)
Maria is a hard act to follow – she runs and cavorts with endless energy, sings beautifully and is completely adorable. And as a friend pointed out to me, all aspects of Maria’s sexuality have been completely sublimated. Her hair is cropped like a little girl’s, and her dresses are a similar cut and length to the Von Trapp children— while the world-wise Baroness is all about couture suits and ball gowns. If a twenty-something governess (dewy) eyed my fiancée, I would probably send her back to the convent too. And would I ever hire an angelic, yet buxom, temptress to run my fiancée’s household? N-E-V-E-R
Every now and again I wonder what happened to the Baroness after the Von Trapps escaped Austria. Did she join the resistance and wear exquisitely tailored army uniforms with a little beret tilted at just the right angle? Did she and Max flee Vienna with all of the artists and intellectuals? Whatever her fate, I am sure she landed on her feet. Anyone who remembers the scene where she “breaks up” with Georg can see the lady knew how to make an exit. And for all you Georg and Maria shippers out there, I do not suggest that the movie should have a new. I am just saying that adult me might rather sneak into a convertible with the Baroness and Max for cocktail hour, than stay home and sing about my favorite things.
Mai Spurlock is a writer, painter, procrastinor and mom. She live in Topanga Canyon with her husband, daughters, pets and lots of wild creatures.