Fantasy Vs Reality
by dbent2 on November 20, 2013 - 9:10pm
Ousmane Sembene’s Black Girl (1966) focuses on a young black girl named Diouana from Dakar, Senegal who moves to Antibes, France to work for a rich French couple. Throughout the film, the theme of reverse ethnocentrism, racism/discrimination and culture shock are prevalent throughout the film. The black girl otherwise known as Diouana experiences reverse ethnocentrism, which is a type of ethnocentrism, in which the home culture is regarded as inferior to a foreign culture. When Diouana moves from Dakar, Senegal to Antibes, France she envisions the cosmopolitan lifestyle which she was promised by the French couple. She believed she would live a better life in France working as a governess in comparison to her lifestyle in Senegal. However, upon her arrival in Antibes, France Diouana is forced to adjust her cultural view, which entails the importance of family and tradition. Under the mistaken assumption that she would be employed as a governess to the rich couples three children, Diouana quick learns that she has to cook, clean, babysit and do laundry. She is isolated from her friends and family and works without a stipend. She is ridiculed by her employer and seen as invisible. She is forced to work as a full servant instead of the governess position she imagined.
Discrimination denies people equal opportunities to achieve socially valued goals such as employment or education. In Diouana’s new country she is constantly made aware of her race and is often mistreated by her employer. Because of her employment status as a nanny she isn’t looked at with authority instead she is looked down upon as if she is less of a human. With Diouana’s illiteracy she is basically trapped inside the employers house and only sees a smidge of France lifestyle through the window, although she was misled into believing she would live a better life in Antibes, France. The only times Diouana could leave the house was for shopping and not for herself. The constant verbal abuse by her employer and treatment as a slave really took a toll on her life and even made Diouana consider committing suicide as the only way out. Diouana envisioned France as a Mecca of beautiful people and a land of opportunities and is disillusioned by her imagination and her reality. The film portrays her old life in Dakar, Senegal before and after her employment in addition to her monologues that contrast to what is being shown on screen.
In Antibes, France Diouana experiences culture shock which is the strain that people from one culture experience when they must reorient themselves to the ways of a new culture. In Senegal she wears an African mask, which is part of her culture, and her French employers tries to diminish the importance of her culture. When Diouana tries to leave she packs her bags and the French employer and Diouana fight over the mask, which holds value to Diouana. When she finally regains the mask, the Monsieur pays her and she breaks down crying because she finally feels the full impact of her isolation from society.
In the film Black Girl (1966) Diouana experiences a plethora of dehumanizing acts. From the life she mistakenly thought she’d live in France down to her isolation and discrimination from her employers, Diouana experienced a lot. While living in Antibes, France Diouana gives up a lot of her culture in order to somewhat blend in to French culture. Diouana is ridiculed and seen as less then a human in the eyes of her employer, which inevitably led to her committing suicide. This film explores many sociological terms in example, discrimination, reverse ethnocentrism and culture shock. Ousamane Semebene’s Black Girl (1966) depicts the hardships Diouana faces in her attempt to live the better life she was promised.
Sembène, O. (Director). (1966). Black Girl. France / Senegal: New Yorker Video