Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Feeling Obtrusive in Order to Promote Self-Awareness


Before the Daughters of the Dust started, Dr. Hoffpauir warned us that the film would most likely make us feel like we were intruding on private conversations/moments of the characters. I soon realized that one of the ways the film accomplishes this feeling of intrusion is when Julie Dash creates scenes where an object of some sort is in between the viewer/camera and the character/s being viewed. For instance, in the first scene that Yellow Mary is in, Mary’s face is covered with a veil (blocking her face from view) and there are also branches in the way of looking at the entire scene. In having the viewers’ field of vision compromised, it marks a difficulty when watching the film–not allowing for easy digestion–which breaks the fourth wall because it requires the viewer to think and realize they are intruding and are not actually a part of the story. Therefore explicitly requiring the audience to become self-aware of their audience-ship.

I have been wondering about the reasons Dash decided to make the audience feel obtrusive. One of my ideas was that Dash wanted to make a statement on definitive aspects of movies. Specifically pertaining to obtrusiveness: in films the audience are asked to be passive viewers of film and are not required to be self-aware or critical thinkers. Dash, it seems, wants viewers to reevaluate their position as a viewer (or even a person) and have self-reflection.


4 thoughts on “Feeling Obtrusive in Order to Promote Self-Awareness

  1. This is a really neat observation and something I had not caught at all. It makes a lot of sense that Dash would do this intentionally, in order to make us realize as an audience how separated we are from what’s occurring in the film. And as Dr. Hoffpauir said, Dash wanted her audience to be uncomfortable and I think this separation causes/allows us to think about our discomfort.

  2. I think that both of you are completely right. Most of the time I was pretty confused about what was actually going on in the movie as a whole, but each scene individually made me really think and observe every aspect of it in a way I had never done before.

  3. What is the fourth wall that you mention?
    Additionally, it was repeated several times that if you weren’t black and you weren’t a woman, the movie wouldn’t really make sense to you, which I think has a lot to do with feeling intrusive. Oftentimes the dominant individual in a culture (white, male) it is assumed that they have a right to be in any given space and there’s a fair amount of imperialist thought. Much is the same with watching movies. We assume that because a movie has been made about a topic, we have a right to be in that story that is portrayed and to know it. I believe that this assumed right to people’s lives is subverted using the techniques that are outlined above.

  4. @kmglasgo
    I agree with all of you! Great comments/continuing of discussion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s