West German Film Ali: Fear Eats The Soul

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Germany may have lost its colonies in 1918, but colonial fantasies persisted throughout the Weimar Republic, National Socialism, and especially the post-fascist era. Colonial fantasies, by which I mean the desire to form manipulative relationships with people of color, are still present in white Germans today. The 1974 West German film Ali: Fear Eats the Soul provides unparalleled insight into the nature and implications of these fantasies. Written and directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Ali portrays a fictional romance between the title character and Emmy, respectively a Moroccan guest worker and an older German widow, as well as the prejudice that they face. Ostensibly, Fassbinder’s film could be interpreted as a critique of this all-encompassing…show more content…
On one hand, propaganda portrayed these occupying soldiers as rapists and monsters, but on the other hand, white German women fell head over heels for them. Similarly, the Nazis have gone down in history as ruthless murderers of everybody who didn’t belong to the pristine “Aryan race,” yet African-American athlete Jesse Owens was met with standing ovations at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Moreover, the degree to which he is sexualized in Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia is undeniable. So how can we reconcile Germany’s simultaneous hatred and love of black people? The answer is colonial fantasies. White Germans, once at the top of the colonial hierarchy, were now powerless due to their defeat in the First World War. They wanted to return to a time of empowerment, so they kept people of color close to exploit them, bringing life to their collective memory of colonialism. Specifically, German women were susceptible because they were the most powerless, plagued by “the dominance and the ‘boringness’ of White German men” (Partridge 75). While men could dominate women as a way to feel powerful, women could only dominate people of color. In that way, racism was a result of
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