‘Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au Bon Dieu?’ ( ‘What have we done to deserve this?’) is a French comedy released in 2014, which puts a comic twist on the hot topic of racism and interracial marriage in 21st century France. This comes in the form of two French Catholic parents struggling to accept their three sons-in-law, who are of different religious and racial origins; here, the vast array of clichés and stereotypes mixing around the dinner table emphasises contemporary racial tensions. The plot becomes even more comical when Laure, the final daughter to be engaged, introduces her fiancé Charles, a French African, which in turn causes hostility between the fathers of the betrothed couple.
The film is hugely relevant to modern French society, considering the mix of different races and cultures in larger French cities, such as Paris or Marseille. For example, it was claimed in 2011 that Muslims made up an estimated 11% of the French population whilst in 2005, North Africans made up 5.8%. Thus, in such a multicultural context, the main appeal of this film is the way in which serious and difficult racial questions are confronted in a truly light-hearted manner; it does not mock such topics, but instead mocks any form of narrow-mindedness which is still found amongst the more conservative older generation.
For instance, at one family gathering in particular, the Jewish son-in-law offers the Catholic parents the circumcised foreskin of their grandson in a trinket box, which makes them amusingly uncomfortable. Only after a small fishing incident and a shared stint in a police cell for the African and Catholic fathers do the two eventually bond, and accept the marriage of Laure and Charles, thus uniting the two families and offering us a much needed breath of fresh air…
By Lucy Harkins
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham