'Ta mere, ta race': filiation and the sacralisation and vilification of the mother in banlieue cinema



Johnston C (2008) 'Ta mere, ta race': filiation and the sacralisation and vilification of the mother in banlieue cinema. Glottopol: Revue de Sociolinguistique en Ligne, (12), pp. 200-211.

The absence of figures of paternal authority from the diegetic space of most banlieue films has been commented on by critics and scholars alike over the past decade. The relationship between this cast of predominantly male urban characters and their mothers has, however, less frequently been the focus of analysis. It is this mother-child (and primarily mother-son) relationship which will be examined in this paper, examining the simultaneous sacralisation and vilification of the maternal figure which emerges onscreen. This analysis is particularly relevant given the renewed focus on the concept of ‘filiation’ in contemporary French sociopolitical debate, highlighted by the work of sociologist Eric Fassin. Fassin sees this trend emerging initially from debates regarding the evolution of family structures in contemporary France, which have their origin in discussions surrounding same-sex unions. However, he also underlines the ways in which the centrality of filiation and filial relationships resonates across debates on ethnic, gendered, and sexual identities in the metropolitan French context. Taking banlieue cinema as a cultural site in which these three strands of identity come into contact – and often conflict – this paper will examine the depiction of the maternal figure and the filial relationship in a small selection of key banlieue films. The paper will demonstrate the ways in which these banlieue mothers often represent diverse spheres of cultural and national reference but will argue against the oft-presented reductive reading which sees them primarily as traditional figures confined to a domestic setting. Particular attention will be paid to the ways in which the ‘nique ta mère’ insult – and others based on the same model – illustrates the complexity of the maternal role in banlieue film, at once vilifying and sacralising both the mother and the filial relationship.

French cinema; banlieue cinema; Mothers onscreen; Filiation; slang; Motion pictures France; Mothers and sons Drama; Motherhood Social aspects

Glottopol: Revue de Sociolinguistique en Ligne, Issue 12

Publication date31/05/2008
PublisherLaboratoire LIDIFra, Université de Rouen
Publisher URL…2_16johnston.pdf

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Dr Cristina Johnston

Dr Cristina Johnston

Senior Lecturer, French