Sister Krone and The Impossibility of Mammy in The Promised Neverland

By Dante Chavez ’23

Major: English; Minors: Creative Writing, Computer Science

Brief Description: From racist caricatures to minstrel shows, the black figure has been subjected to various forms of torment and ridicule in American media. However, many people are unaware of the effect this media has had on the way black people are depicted on the global scale. One example of these potentially harmful depictions comes from the Japanese animated television show The Promised Neverland in the form of the seemingly loyal and dependable house servant Sister Krone. This essay explores the significance of the similarities and differences between the character of Sister Krone and aspects of the long-established Mammy stereotype while also putting the character in conversation with Toni Morrison’s Jazz with a comparison to the Mammy figure in that text, True Belle.

Contributor Biography: Dante Chavez ’24 is a current junior at Washington College majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and minoring in Computer Science. He is from Baltimore, MD and currently works on campus at the Rose O’Neill Literary House as the Social Media & Marketing Intern. He enjoys and likes to think critically about all types of media from books to TV to video games and would like to take what he’s learned at Washington College to create his own piece of media one day.

The following was written for ENG 471: Images of Black Men & Women 

  1. Introduction

            Since being brought over to the United States through the slave trade, Black people have endured a rich history of being the subject of ridicule in American media. This pattern can be observed as early as the start of the 19th century with the original drawings of the coon-like Jim Crow caricature and has been solidly maintained through the production of minstrel shows, racially charged cartoons, and other racially discriminatory content. In fact, stereotypes created by these depictions have become so pervasive in American media that it has become quite easy to pick any contemporary Black figure in American pop culture and view them in relation to one of these stereotypes as evidenced by the range of topics that have been and are being covered in the Black Men & Women in Media class here at Washington College. While analyzing how Black people are depicted in American media is important, as has been traditionally done in this class, analyzing how other cultures depict Black people in order to get a better sense of the how Black people are seen in a global context is also prudent.

            One way to analyze this is by looking at Krone from Toshiya Ono and Kaiu Shirai’s 2019 anime The Promised Neverland. In this show, children are bred and raised on farms until they reach the ages of six to twelve. Once they reach the age of six years old, they must begin taking IQ tests where achieving the lowest score among their peers means getting shipped off to be fed to demons that live in the outside world. Until that day comes, children are taught that they can live peacefully within the confines of a seemingly idyllic orphanage and grow up alongside their friends under the care of their ‘Moms.’ If girls live until they are twelve and are considered worthy enough, they will be faced with two options: they can die or begin training to become one of these ‘Moms’ who gives birth to children, raises them, and then knowingly, sends them off to their deaths.

            Krone has positioned herself as one of these “Moms” after years of training under the tutelage of the demons. As a “Mom,” she is granted a sort of immunity as long as she looks after the kids she is in charge of and remains subservient to the demons, and therefore, the role of the submissive and motherly Mammy becomes the perfect persona for Krone to take on to better her chances for survival. In order to “live in the best way [the farm] has to offer” (“011145” 2:36), Krone’s ultimate goal becomes to embody the stereotype as best she can by usurping her boss, Isabella, to become the sole overseer of the Grace Field farm. However, in her quest to become the perfect Mammy, she ironically proves why the existence of true Mammies is such an impossibility. Krone’s actions to achieve this fallacy demonstrate a cutthroat, desperate and ruthless desire to make her vision a reality that directly contradicts the qualities of a Mammy. Krone’s betrayal of the stereotype while seeking to embody it suggests that the idea of a true-to-form Mammy is inherently flawed as it is indicative of not just a complicity, but an active participation in the atrocities that come with the systems that aim to invoke that stereotype.

  1. Reading the Image

Krone makes her first appearance at the end of Episode 2, “131045”, when she is introduced by the other mom Isabella as an aide brought in to help her with her duties as a “Mom.” To the kids that don’t know the secret of the orphanage, this introduction is innocent enough as they assume this means helping Isabella cook, clean and look after them in other ways. Yet to the potential escapees that know the true nature of the farm, the introduction of Krone as a second adult to oversee the children serves as a warning that Isabella is on to them and will take all the precautions necessary to stop them. This immediately sets Krone up as a significant antagonistic force that the protagonists have to find some way to deal with if they want to escape from the farm. In fact, Krone makes for quite the large obstacle in every sense of the word.

In figure 1, Krone depicted as a young heavy-set muscular Black woman but in figure 2, where she is supposed to appear as a more trustworthy figure, she is drawn with a thinner, gentler shape. However, her occasional smaller size seems to be the only thing that wavers from this pattern of bigness. Her nose and lips are always drawn big, making her stick out from the rest of the characters whose mouths are always simply drawn as thin lines. These features are sometimes especially accentuated in scenes where Krone is depicted as a symbol of fear for the children. All of these, when compared to the other characters, make Krone a hulking presence. Another element that adds to Krone’s fear factor is her ragged old doll that she keeps in her room and confides all her plans to. Her hair stands out from the others who have straighter hair while hers is curlier. Lastly, Krone is never seen in any outfit besides her farm-issued maid getup, even eventually dying while wearing it in her last appearance in the show.

Figure 1: A screenshot taken directly from the show (Twitter).

Figure 2 (right): A promotional poster showcasing the most prominent characters. Krone can be seen displaying her best smile in the top left (Wikia).

            Krone’s personality is also integral to her full image. Krone is constantly plotting the quickest and easiest route to achieve her goals no matter what the cost is for anyone else. Her original plan was to “capture the children who know the secret and report [Isabella] to the higher-ups” all while “pretend[ing] to obey [Isabella] and then, when she least expects it, take her position away” (“181045”, 6:13). Krone knows this would lead to the deaths of the captured children, but doesn’t think twice about it as long as it can guarantee her survival. When this doesn’t work, Krone makes a deal with the potential escapees that she “won’t stop [them] if [they] make a run for it” (“011145”, 2:57) as she claims that Isabella will be the one that takes the fall if they escape. However, later in the episode while alone and giddily musing to her doll about what she’ll do once Isabella’s job is hers, she admits that one of her first actions will be to “ship out those brats too” (“011145”, 19:33), revealing that she has stuck by her original plan all along and is willing to even betray the trust children put in her if it serves her interests. When all of this underhandedness is combined with the fact that because she is still alive, she has accepted a life of sacrificing children as food to save herself, it becomes clear that Krone is an incredibly merciless and immoral character that is not meant to be trusted.

  1. Interpreting the Image

            When solely Krone’s appearance is taken into account, it would be hard not to see her design as some sort of reference to the stereotype. Mohn defines the Mammy as “a middle-aged or an elderly Black woman” who is “overweight, or even obese, with large breasts” with clothes “indicating her servitude” (Mohn). Though Krone is younger than the typical Mammy, she satisfies the other two of Mohn’s qualifiers in her large muscular frame and signature maid’s outfit. As Mohn points out, both of these elements of the Mammy figure are “meant to show her servitude and make her less attractive” (Mohn), and this has the same effect on Krone with the addition of making her more intimidating. All of her large, Black features are in “contrast to the Victorian views of white beauty” (Sewell 310) which prioritizes smaller, fairer skinned women. As a result, this element denotes a certain unattractiveness, and therefore, an asexuality in her character. Her large figure also makes her a dominating presence whenever she’s on the screen as she dwarfs the rest of the characters, especially the children whom she uses her size against to get information out of. Meanwhile, her maid outfit offers no glimpse of her skin aside from her face and hands, making no part of her body stand out from the others while also bringing to mind all the tasks of homemaking a maid is expected to do: cooking, cleaning, and even looking after the kids. When considering that the Mammy is also an “expert in the home fill[ing] any role that [the masters] needed in the house” (Sewell 310), Krone’s signature maid outfit really becomes emblematic of the Mammy stereotype.

Despite all of the elements that point towards the stereotype in her design, Krone herself couldn’t be further away from the Mammy character. First, as mentioned earlier, Krone’s constant scheming to overtake Isabella and capture the escapees is evidence of her treacherousness which is very unbecoming of an aspiring loyal Mammy. As soon as she is alone in the house, she begins plotting with her doll about how she’s going to “capture the targets, snitch on [Isabella], and then immediately, ship the kids out for processing” (“181045”, 6:20). This disloyalty upon her arrival to the farm contradicts the Mammy’s willingness to do anything to please their master by revealing Krone’s ambitions to be something greater than just Isabella’s servant. In the next episode, Krone demonstrates her general lack of morality by attempting to get one of the kids, Gilda, to betray their friends and reveal who knows the orphanage’s dark secret. She tells Gilda that she “will let [her] off the hook if [she] cooperates” (“291045”), essentially advising her to betray her friends in order to live longer. Ultimately, the strategy doesn’t work as Gilda continues to feign ignorance until Krone dismisses her, but it shows that Krone is not above attempting to use the children as weapons against one another in order to achieve her goals. This act betrays the Mammy’s reputation as a good source of moral advice as a character morally twisted enough to try to get children to get their friends killed is clearly incapable of giving that kind of advice. Her extreme moral shortcomings and constant deception are ruinous enough to the image of the perfect Mammy Krone aspires to be.

However, these two faults in her Mammy facade pale in comparison to Krone’s most glaring subversion of the Mammy stereotype: her ruthless attitude towards children. Earlier in the same episode where she tries to solicit Gilda for information, she is dressed down by Isabella. To blow off some steam, Krone marches upstairs, grabs her doll, rips its head off and stomps on it until plush begins to seep out its sides. Though this is not an actual child but a mere representation of one, Krone still goes against the notion of the Mammy as the harmless “safe” Black person who could sometimes be overlooked” (Sewell 312). By all means, Krone inflicts violence, and one could even go so far as to say a brutal death upon this image of a child, something the all-nurturing Mammy would never dream of doing. The most striking proof of her ruthlessness towards children comes in the form of her controversial hallmark: the caricaturesque faces that she makes. At many points throughout the show, Krone’s facial features are exaggerated to make her appear scary or visibly insane. One of these instances occurs in episode

Figure 3: Krone finds the children during a game of tag (“181045”, 18:23)

Figure 4: Krone overhears the children discussing their plan (“311045”, 19:57)

three, during a game of tag. After having just arrived at the farm, Krone asks if she can play tag with the kids in order to get to know them better. Her real objective is to intimidate the children who are conspiring to escape by making the face shown in Figure 3. Here, she is showing off to all the children that no matter who they are, she will find the conspirators and have them killed. This happens again when Krone overhears the conspirators talking about their plans to escape in Figure 4. In this case, Krone knows that she now holds their lives in her hands and doesn’t hold back in gloating about that information when she makes this face. In both episodes, the lips are drawn bigger, the eyes are wilder, and the hair is more spread out and detailed. While out of context, these faces make Krone appear clownish and harken back to the racially charged caricatures of the past where Black women’s facial features were similarly accentuated, it also makes Krone appear even larger than she already is by spreading out her features. The animators use this aspect alongside sudden peaks in the show’s ambient music to add a more menacing and horrific tone to her character that resists the more caring and comforting image of the Mammy. When Krone not only fails to protect the children but also puts them in danger, she abandons the prime characteristic of the Mammy: her motherhood.

  1. Synthesizing the Image

Toni Morrison’s Jazz offers an entirely different version of the Mammy figure in the form of Violet’s grandmother True Belle who abides more closely to the traditional standards of the Mammy. True Belle matches the Mammy stereotype more than Krone as she is an elderly and compassionate Black woman with whom “the little girls fell in love right away” (Morrison 99). However, whereas the traditional Mammy “cares for a white family at the expense of her own” (Mohn), True Belle actually loves her children and grandchildren very much. She “left her cushiony job in Baltimore and, with ten eagle dollars stitched separately into her skirts to keep them quiet, came back to a little Depot called Rome in Vesper County to take charge and over” (Morrison 99). True Belle leaves her great job in Baltimore at her own expense when she is called on to help take care of her struggling family. Not only that, but she does so with enough dedication to stitch enough money for them to survive into her clothes so as not to be robbed on her way there and enough initiative to completely take over the mothering duties for her daughter. True Belle takes on all of this responsibility on her own and of her own volition. This is how True Belle subverts the Mammy stereotype. No one forces her to take care of these kids. Instead, she does so out of a genuine love for her family disproving the stereotype’s allegation that Black women cannot love without being made to by white masters.

Sister Krone’s character raises a different kind of subversion of the stereotype. Instead of resisting it with love towards her own children as True Belle does, Krone resists it with her overt callousness towards all children which challenges the nature of the supposed love that exists between Black women and white children under slavery. She uses the children of the farm more as tools for her own gain. Her previously mentioned use of Gilda as her own personal spy is one of these cases, but she does this again in a private meeting with the conspirators. She tells them everything they want to know about the farm and their world as it is in order to gain their trust, however, she glibly answers their questions throughout the meeting to establish her power over them. She coldly and robotically answers their questions, only offering the bluntest of answers when she can, keeping them at an arm’s length. When asked if she’s ever seen the outside of the farm, she quickly retorts “Not once.”, and then when asked where the farm is located, she simply says “No idea.” as she continues to step towards them (“011145”, 10:13). When the meeting ends, she hysterically laughs in their faces, revealing that through their blunt demeanor, she has learned a “lot of interesting things during (their) talk” (“011145”, 11:41) such as the fact that they already knew that they were being tracked, yet asked anyway. Her laughter reveals Krone’s real reason for making an alliance with the conspirators: to find out how far along they are in their plot to escape. Norman, one of the main conspirators, puts it best when he says:

“If (Krone) really wanted us to escape, then she would have quietly helped us. The only reason she’s showing us her cards is to try to gain our trust. It’s all so she can get solid evidence of our rebellion.” (“011145”, 4:51)

He sees right through Krone’s attempt to sway them in order to get them to leak what they know. Even when the kids’ hands are forced and they have to rely on her to not report them, she treats them like pawns to be moved around in her war against Isabella. Krone never really treats the children as what they are, but like livestock to be tended to and kept at an arm’s length so as not to get too attached until it is their turn to die.

True Belle, on the other hand, takes genuine pride in her ability to care for those put in her care. Nowhere is this more clear than in her lovingly recounted tales about the “wonderful” Golden Gray and “how clever he was and how perfect a gentleman” (Morrison 142). Though Golden Gray’s origins start out bleak as the disowned and disgraceful son of a Black slave and a white woman, True Belle looks past this darkness and aids the woman in raising him just as good as any other child. True Belle essentially tells the girls that while she was in Baltimore, she dedicated her life to the development of Golden Gray, recounting how “they bathed him three times a day”, and going so far as to note “how the G on his underwear was embroidered with blue thread” (Morrison 142) surely by either her or Golden Gray’s mother. This kind of dedication towards another’s child is reminiscent of aspects of the Mammy stereotype, but it once again subverts it as True Belle is not forced to love Golden Gray in the way she does if she was under a white master. For his mother and True Belle, Golden Gray naturally becomes the “light of both their lives” (Morrison 139) because of their genuine love for him. It is also worth mentioning that the stereotype is subverted through Golden Gray’s race as he is half-Black and half-white. The fact that Golden Gray is looked after just as ardently as the Mammy’s white child assignment removes white children from the pedestal that the Mammy stereotype puts them on as the only children worth being loved. On top of that, Golden Gray is equally raised and adored by his white mother and True Belle which shows that Black love is just as valid and powerful as white love. In fact, True Belle is capable of a Black love that is so strong that when wondering about why her mother might have taken her own life, Violet suggests that “maybe it was…knowing her daughters were in good hands, better hands than her own, at last” (Morrison 102), grimly suggesting that since her mother knew she could never take care of her like True Belle did, she removed herself from the family dynamic entirely. Even after what must have been this devastating loss, True Belle continues to nurture her daughter’s children with dedication as if they were her own. She raises them with love, “pouring mustard tea on the girl’s cuts and bruises” (Morrison 101), tending after their every need to remind them that there is still someone left to care for them though their mother is gone. Through her dedication to raising Golden Gray and then raisingViolet and her sisters even after her daughter’s demise, it becomes clear that True Belle is willing to take on great sacrifice of her own goals and identity if it means that children can grow up with a source of hope in their lives as opposed to a childhood filled with grief.

When faced with the same dilemma of giving up on her own goals to grant happiness to children who would otherwise be in misery, Krone defiantly refuses to extend her hand to help despite her ultimate goal to be seen as the perfect caretaker, opting to look out only for herself. Krone’s mission is to become a mom in order to “live in the best way (the farm) has to offer” as “even if it’s fake, being a mom means you get to feel human” (“011145”, 2:39). Becoming an official “Mom” will allow Krone to oversee children as if they were her own and at least live what she sees as a somewhat normal life within the walls of the farm. Though she reveals this to the kids after she overhears them talking in order to, as Norman said, to “show (them) her cards to try to gain (their) trust”, it is her true goal and she doesn’t compromise it for anything, not even when it means that children could die if she doesn’t. When she finds what she thinks is evidence that can take down Isabella and hence allow her to ship the conspirators off to become food, she doesn’t hesitate to rush back to her room and excitedly ask her doll “how (she) should make (her) next move?” (“011145”, 19:20). Her focus on her dream is indicative of her complete abandonment of the kids’ needs and desires as she never considers the possibility of actually helping the kids to escape or finding some other way to make life better for the kids. The reason behind this intense drive is revealed in Krone’s death scene. When she is about to die, her life flashes before her eyes and a speechless montage is shown that explains how Sister Krone got here. During the montage, Krone turns twelve years old, learns of the secret behind the orphanage and begins training to eventually become a “Mom.” Soon, her initial bewilderment turns to grim acceptance of her new reality as a “Sister” after as a result of being socialized and subjugated under the demons (“021145”, 5:48). This is likely when she started to aspire to become a “Mom” as now that she physically cannot leave due to a chip that will stop her heart if she does, her best option next to death is to fully realize her potential as a “Mom” that knowingly offers her children up as food. After wrestling with this adapt-or-perish environment for a bit, Krone likely faces this bleak realization as she begins to excel in everything the demons are training her to be good at from knitting to wrestling. Her realization mirrors a similar realization faced many Black women in slavery who were the targets of the Mammy label: that she needs to do what she can to survive. Hence, the tragic story of Krone fights the Mammy stereotype in a perpendicular way to how True Belle fights it. By fully illuminating the brutal context from which it was born, the Krone’s story reminds the viewer that these subjugated women had no choice but to adapt to the role of the loyal house Mammy lest they face death.

  1. Evaluating the Image

Overall, Krone as a character is an attempt to dispel the myth of the Mammy stereotype. Though the context is fictionalized through the use of demons in place of white slave owners, Black women were socialized and subjected to believe that their only use and main objective in life was to be loyal to their masters and raise white children. Krone is a tragic reminder of this as she once had so much ambition for life as a little girl before it is ripped away from her upon the realization that she has been living on a farm that featured her as the product for the past twelve years. This ambition becomes refocused as a sick desire to become one of the lucky few “Moms” that raise children that were just like her before eventually feeding them to the demons. Her mission, born out of a desperate plea to stay alive, has a fatal flaw. Its goal is to become a symbol of genuine love in a system that asks those same symbols to commit horrible acts against that which they are supposed to love. Ironically, in her quest to “feel human” as she puts it, she is supposed to and does lose her humanity through the callous actions she takes to get there. This inherent flaw with her vision is reflected in her final speech when she realizes she “had no chance of winning this from the start” (“021145”, 5:17), hinting that Krone is just as trapped as the kids are within this system of subjugation. No matter how Krone tries to work within the system to adapt to the role they want her to adapt to, she and the viewer are ultimately reminded that she is no more valuable to the demons than the work she is meant to do as is often the case with oppression. As she dies, she confirms her tragic subversion of the stereotype by wishing for something a true Mammy would never wish for: freedom. Addressing the kids, she yells to herself, “You brats better succeed, you hear me? You’re great at tag so run away, escape! Survive this and then, destroy this awful world we live in!” (“021145”, 8:31). This proves that Krone would never have wished to take on the Mammy role in the first place if given a real choice. Had she not feared for her own life, she would’ve been fighting right alongside the kids to tear down the society of the world they live in and chase her own real ambitions instead of simply adapting to the Mammy role out of necessity.

Though Krone opposes the Mammy stereotype in such a tragic and powerful way, her overall image is still problematic for Black women as the most memorable part of her character is the crazy caricature-like faces that she makes. These get spread around in memes people make when discussing the show and out of context, they add to the gallery of racially charged cartoons that already exist. Animation has a specific power to “get across a message very clearly and powerfully, partly because of its tradition of satire and caricature, and the concealment of aggression within humour” (Koltarz 22) potentially perpetuating racism through exaggerating the features of a targeted group of people as a “sophisticated representational weapon” (Koltarz 22). Similarly, Krone’s features are exaggerated, but this is for the purpose of making her appear as a threatening and menacing figure which offers its own troubles. However, when taken out of context and converted into humor, this image can potentially become problematic as it is now up to the viewer and the meme creator to decide where the punchline lies. Does it lie in a quality specific to the character or an aspect of the race? If it is the second one, it can harm the image of that race and perpetuate the image of a Black people as wild and uncouth. This issue is especially accentuated by how African American Women are perceived in Japan now. In a study done by Asia Bento, a Ph.D. candidate at Rice University, it was found that 91 out of 208 blogs about traveling to Japan written by Black women reported some kind of racially charged encounter whether it be staring, a general discomfort with their presence, or a direct aggressive encounter with a citizen. These incidents point to a certain “hypervisibility” (Bento 550) that is experienced by African American women in Japan. It is because of this that the Sister Krone image can potentially become harmful and compound upon the issues already faced by Black women in the country today.

  1. Conclusion

Although the character of Krone actually does work to resist a harmful stereotype of Black people by illustrating why such a label could never be truly met in the first place, the image itself when separately read from the show becomes a harmful racial caricature of a population that is already hyper-visible in the country the image stems from, making Krone a tragic character on-screen and off. On screen, her original ambitions are dashed and replaced with the grim inevitability of death in subjugation. Though she tries her best to conform to the standards set by her captors, she is cruelly killed when her ambition to be the best becomes a “problem” (“021145”, 4:50) as put by a higher-up before she tells a demon to kill her. Off screen, her tragic story is overshadowed by the more iconic images of her as she wildly chases after the kids or grins wide-eyed and baring her teeth like an animal ready to pounce. Though Krone’s story is one that highlights the dehumanizing nature of subjugation, out of context, these images of her can put her on par with the Looney Tunes’ All This and Rabbit Stew or Don Raye’s Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat in terms of the racial damage they can do. The Promised Neverland subverts the Mammy stereotype by weaving a character arc that highlights the tragedy of being trapped in subjugation, but ultimately, does harm to the image of African American women by going too far with the form in which they did it.

Works Cited

Aniplex of America. “Ready… Set… Go! 🏃Here Comes Sister Krone on Episode 3 ‘181045’ of the Promised Neverland Tonight at 3:30 Am on Toonami! 😱😵.” Twitter, Twitter, 19 Jan. 2020,

Bento, Asia. “How African American Women Experience Hypervisibility in Japan and South Korea.” Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, vol. 26, no. 4, July 2020, pp. 550–69. EBSCOhost,

Kotlarz, Irene. “‘The Birth of a Notion.’” Screen, vol. 24, no. 2, Mar. 1983, pp. 21–29. EBSCOhost,

Mohn, Elizabeth. “Mammy Archetype.” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2020. EBSCOhost,

Morrison, Toni. Jazz. Vintage Books, 2004.

Ono, Toshiya and Kaiu, Shirai. The Promised Neverland, Season 1, episode 3-7, Fuji TV, 11 Jan. 2019.

Sewell, Christopher. “Mammies and Matriarchs: Tracing Images of the Black Female in Popular Culture 1950s to Present.” Journal of African American Studies, vol. 17, no. 3, Sept. 2013, pp. 308–26. EBSCOhost,

“The Promised Neverland (Anime).” The Promised Neverland Wiki, Fandom, Inc. , 2019,

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