If you want a good life, you better be compliant
by hhuey1 on November 25, 2013 - 8:19pm
Socialization is an important part of a successful, or even just pleasant, life. For those who are able to accept and internalize the norms of the group, no matter how bad the circumstances, social life will be a tolerable. For those who struggle to accept them, the group disapproval will make life seem like Hell. Now add in immigrants who have left everything behind to start a new life in another country. Social acceptance becomes drastically more important when you need more experienced members of a group to help you transition into a new life. The films My Beautiful Laundrette (Frears, Bevan, & Radclyffe, 1985) and Black Girl (Sembene, & Zwoboda, 1966) feature main characters who struggle to become successful, happy and to adjust to the norms of their new groups.
Omar, the main character in My Beautiful Laundrette (Frears, Bevan, & Radclyffe, 1985), was a Pakistani teenager trying to establish himself in England. His uncle took him under his wing and introduced him to other Pakistani men who had made successful livings in England by lying, cheating and stealing. His father, Hussein, was once a well-known journalist in Pakistan, but he did not follow in the footsteps of the successful men and became poor. Omar quickly internalized that the only way to be successful in England was to be a crooked businessman. Omar worked hard to keep the men in the group, especially his uncle, happy with him as he learned the ropes of business. He began his association with the group by complying with everything the men told him to do. Eventually he took all of his knowledge and began to lie, steal and cheat for himself. Most importantly, he kept his deviant behavior, his homosexual relationship with a boy named Johnny, a secret because he knew the disapproval and trouble it would bring. Omar even agreed to marry his female cousin to appease his father and uncle while he established himself. His behavior could have risked all he worked for.
The main character, Diouana, from Black Girl (Sembene, & Zwoboda, 1966) on the other hand could not accept the norms of her new home, and did not hide her deviance. The culture shocked she was experiencing was paralyzing and did not allow her to accept her new life. Where Omar was eager to adjust to the new social life, Diouana was emotionally indifferent and eventually fought against it. Her Madame attempted to turn her into a maid, and in some aspects a slave, in France after having hired her as a nanny in Africa. Diouana did perform some of the actions of a maid, but to a minimum. She worked slow paced, and her Madame was rarely happy with her performance. Diouana’s flaunting of her deviance only made the situation worse. Her fancy dresses, well-kept hair, and nice heels did not comply with what a normal maid would wear. Instead of just acting in a defiant way, she had material possessions that symbolized her defiance and deviance. She simply could not will herself to make something good out of an awful situation. Her behavior and appearance were clear defiance of her employers, and in the end Diouana could not adjust or appease her employers, choosing instead to commit suicide.
Omar and Diouana both struggled with the expectations forced upon them as immigrants trying to build a new life. Omar worked to internalize the norms and expectations quickly, and chose to hide any deviant behavior for fear of losing his progressing status. Diouana resisted attempts to change her into what was accepted in her new situation, and flaunted her deviance. Unfortunately, the feelings of being trapped and dependent on her employers ended up getting the best of her. The willingness to cooperate made the difference. The final scene of My Beautiful Laundrette (Frears, Bevan, & Radclyffe, 1985) featured a “happy”, or rather not-unhappy looking Omar with Johnny. Diouana did not make it to the end scene of Black Girl (Sembene, & Zwoboda, 1966). Compliance, internalization and the absence (or near absence) of deviance defined the outcome of these two films and of the two immigrant main characters.
Frears, S. (Director), Bevan, T. (Producer), & Radclyffe, S. (Producer). (1985). My Beautiful Laundrette [Motion Picture]. United Kingdom: Channel Four Films.
Sembene, O. (Director), & Zwoboda, A. (Producer). (1966). Black Girl [Motion Picture]. Available from New Yorker Films, 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 409, New York, NY 10010.