“The Sound of Music” is an all-time classic. Growing up with the musical, specifically the film version with Julie Andrews as Maria, a nun who loves to sing, laugh, and embrace nature, the songs have just always stuck with me. For the rest of the nuns in the convent, she is a problem that needs to be solved. She is sent to assist Captain George von Trapp and his seven children as a nanny. Set against the backdrop of the rise of Nazi extremism, the children learn to adore Maria and so too does the Captain. Stacy Wolf in her book, A Problem Like Maria, argues that The Sound of Music can be read as having queer elements. Wolf does not believe Maria is a lesbian. In fact she argues that ‘the lesbian’ is never present in the film. However she does see how the audience can be inclined to believe that Maria is one. Wolf discusses how ‘the lesbian’ can be found in the “performative signs of body, face, voice, gesture, character, or narrative” (Wolf 37).
Julie Andrews’ character, Maria, both abides by stereotypical gendered constructs, but also goes against them. She is seen as motherly and caring, but on the other hand she also has such strong will and is fearless. In the opening scene she runs around in the outdoors. Being the first character an audience is introduced to, she runs in to the frame with arms outstretched and proclaims, “the hills are alive with the sound of music.” There is a strong sense of the divine conveyed as Maria is framed as being surrounded by the sky. The negative space around her and the camera angle from low to high adds to the suggestion that there is a divine quality to Maria. The real problem however, is that “Maria has chosen the wrong path for her life” (Wolf 3). Wolf believes her destiny was to always be a mother. This can be associated with the inner conflict Maria suffers between defining who she is and what her desires are.
Femme refers to a feminine lesbian, a definition that brings in both the notions of gender and sexuality. Maria goes against gender stereotypes; she owns the story from the moment the audience sees her and in fact she has the most number of solos as well. Wolf focuses primarily on the lyrics Maria sings, however the physicality of her movements needs to be examined as well. When dancing or striding, she moves with a sense of direction and purpose. There is something to be admired of and even intimidated by Maria’s physicality because they mean that she is opening herself to the world around her. Rather than playing a stereotyped role of a woman being submissive, she contests the ways von Trapp treats his children.
A Problem like Maria: Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan, 2002. Print.