A Critical Examination of Cultural Influences in the Film Bend It Like Beckham Essay Example
A Critical Examination of Cultural Influences in the Film Bend It Like Beckham Essay Example

A Critical Examination of Cultural Influences in the Film Bend It Like Beckham Essay Example

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  • Pages: 6 (1400 words)
  • Published: October 18, 2017
  • Type: Analysis
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The movie ‘Bend it like Beckham’ strongly resonates with me as it portrays the struggle between Western and Indian civilization, something which I can personally relate to. The character ‘Jess Bhamra’, a first-generation Australian-born girl with Indian heritage, perfectly personifies this struggle. I have experienced firsthand the challenge of maintaining two very different cultures that often clash.

‘Bend it like Beckham’ tells the story of an Indian girl whose ultimate goal in life, much to her parents’ disapproval, is to play professional football. As Jess embarks on her journey of self-development in a cross-cultural space, she befriends Jules, another football enthusiast, who convinces Jess to join the local women’s football team. This friendship offers an interesting perspective on Western culture by showcasing the struggles Jules faces, some of which are similar to Jess’ own.

In the movie, Jess’ parents,


who have diasporic identities, are well-intentioned but sometimes overbearing in their expectations for Jess to uphold her traditionally Sikh family's responsibilities. The film raises thematic aspects of etic-emic differentiation, including the role of women, homosexuality, stereotypes, cross-generational behavior, and integration through relational theory. All these themes are highlighted through the clash of cultures portrayed in the movie.Jess in the movie attempts to maintain her sense of individuality in an overly protected Indian society. The film extensively examines the roles of women in both Western and Indian cultures. Jess expresses discomfort in conforming to the traditional role of a Sikh woman as prescribed by her parents, which becomes a recurring source of unrest throughout the movie. Her ethnocentric parents believe that becoming a lawyer and marrying someone within their own community is the key to happiness, a belief that

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is somewhat naive. As noted in Article one of Part A, Asian culture highly values loyalty to family and respect for elders. Jess's Western ideals of personal choice and fulfillment are overshadowed by these cultural values. This is evident in a conversation with her Western teammates, who question how she can accept an arranged marriage. Jess casually replies, "It's just culture," showing that she is bound by the Indian cultural practice of arranged marriages. It should be noted that the mistakes made by Jess's parents are not malicious but rather a way to protect her from unfamiliar Western influences. The film also reflects on the societal commentary regarding the roles of women in Western culture. Interestingly, the Indian-born writer, Chadha, explores this aspect as well.The manager and manufacturer of the movie choose to analyze the societal concepts surrounding the impact of a women's football team in England. Due to the absence of a professional English women's football league, it can be assumed that football is not considered an appropriate activity for women. This belief is reinforced by Jules' mother, who holds traditional English views on the role of women in society. Throughout the movie, she expresses disapproval, stating "Nobody's going to go out with a girl who's bigger muscles than him!" On the other hand, Jess' mother follows the Indian tradition of women as housewives and comments, "What kind of family would want a daughter-in-law who could play football but not cook?" These views are similar, with only slight differences based on the specific contexts of the two women. Article four of Part A also perpetuates generalizations about women's societal roles. Adams et al. (2010)

acknowledges that women in Spanish society are often seen as home-makers and speculates that they may be more suited to polychronic environments. The broader Western culture also contributes to the team's isolation due to associations with femininity. This is evident when Jess argues that "Indian" girls do not play football and Jules comments pointedly, "It's not just an 'Indian' thing."How many people support us? The Misses clearly want an equal relationship with the men's team. The concept of homosexuality is addressed in this movie, even though it is still considered taboo in Indian society. Director Chadha makes a statement by portraying the West as more knowledgeable but equally disapproving. This can be seen through Jules' mother's excessive paranoia, mistaking the friendship between Jules and Jess for something more. When confronted, Jules exclaims, "Mom, just because I wear trackies and play sports doesn't make me a lesbian!" The casual nature of this conversation and the level of homosexuality awareness in Western culture is contrasted by Jess' grandmother's comment, "Why did she call Jess a lesbian? I thought she was a Pisces." Her obvious confusion between homosexuality and astrological star signs highlights her lack of knowledge and cultural ignorance. Emphasizing the taboo nature of homosexuality in Indian culture, Chadha introduces Tony, Jess' childhood male friend, as a homosexual character. Jess' reaction to this news depicts her as a typical first-generation non-resident Indian, a result of cultural conditioning. Her shock is evident as she exclaims, "But you're Indian!" as if indicating that homosexuality simply does not exist in Indian culture.Jess quickly recovers and demonstrates a greater understanding than her own grandmother or Jules' mother. She tells Tony that

she is fine with him admiring David Beckham. While Chadha aims to challenge and oppose stereotypes, the movie still presents the prevailing stereotype of Indian communities being seen as conservative and backward. Jules' mother unknowingly reinforces this stereotype in her initial encounter with Jess by making statements such as, "I assume your parents will arrange a marriage with a handsome young doctor for you soon" and "Jess, I hope you can teach my daughter a bit about your culture, including respect for elders and the like." However, she soon discovers Jess' involvement in Jules' football team and timidly says, "I have never seen an Indian girl play football before." Jules' mother displays ignorance about Indian culture and firmly holds onto her preconceived notions. Chadha further challenges the stereotype of arranged marriages by portraying Jess' sister, Pinky, as being in a love marriage. When Jess reveals this to her teammates, it allows them to learn that Indian culture is not as conservative as they previously believed. It appears that for an Indian family living abroad,The generational gap between parent and child is intensified by the masking of cross-cultural aspects. Jess and her father share the same passion for sports and both qualified to participate in professional teams in England. When both characters experience racial slurs on the field, they respond based on their cultural upbringing. Jess' father demonstrates an Eastern approach and interdependent self-concept by walking away from the sport and suppressing any hopes of returning. On the other hand, Jess displays a more Western dominance and independent self-concept by physically retaliating, earning her a red card and a temporary suspension from playing. The film also

portrays the Eastern perspective of obedience, mentioned by Chang et al (2007), stating that "anti-hierarchical behavior is not allowed in Chinese workplaces." The film reaches its climax with Pinky's elaborate wedding, which is true to Indian culture. Unfortunately, this coincides with the football Grand Finals, preventing Jess from attending her match and forcing her to fulfill her sister-of-the-bride duties. Throughout the film, Chadha portrays Jess' parents in a harsh, dictatorial manner; however, her father's desire for her happiness tragically surpasses his own expectations. "If it's the only thing that will put a smile on your face on the day of your sister's wedding, go and play."Jess's strong identification with her household ties and cultural commitments is evident in her reluctance to participate in the football match. However, with encouragement from Tony, she eventually decides to leave the wedding and join the game. This decision ultimately leads to her team winning and opening the opportunity for her to play professional football in America.

Using Relational Theory, her parents understand that in order to have a meaningful social relationship with their daughter, they need to actively understand and embrace her cultural perspective and strategy. This heartwarming film serves as a prime example of Contact Hypothesis in action. Chadha brings up controversial issues of Eastern and Western culture, allowing for a gradual process of cultural integration throughout the movie.

The movie highlights concepts like gender roles, homosexuality, stereotyping, and generation gaps, emphasizing the importance of not fostering permanent differences in multicultural societies. Instead, it emphasizes the formation of fluid identities that enable individuals to accept and internalize all aspects of culture that benefit their lives.

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