The Cultures Behind Bend It Like Beckham English Literature Essay
Bend It Like Beckham is a film that covers important issues about different cultures existing together and about minority culture in the western world. The film is about two girls, Jessminder Kaur Bhamra (Jess) and Juliette Paxton (Jules) living in middleclass London. Jess comes from a Sikh Indian immigrant family and Jules comes from a traditional English family. The two girls unite over their love of soccer and of their coach. Jess’s parents disapprove of their daughter playing soccer. They want her to concentrate on learning Indian traditions and finding a traditional Sikh Indian to marry. Jules’s mother is equally worried about her daughter. Jules is more interested in soccer than in fashion and makeup. Bend It Like Beckham is a film that shows the blending of two cultures, and the melding of traditional and contemporary ideas.
The film uses two girls to highlight differences between two cultures found in England. One culture is relatively new to the country, Jess’s father immigrated to the country, and the other is what is expected as the norm for the country. In Bend It Like Beckham, the rich Indian culture is explored around Jess’s sister, Pinky, and her wedding. In the Sikh culture, marriage is not seen as the joining of two individuals, but as the joining of two families. (Garg) The uniting of two families, rather than individuals, means that everyone in either family must agree with everyone in either family. The wedding is called off at one point because the groom’s mother sees Jess hugging Jules on the side of the street. She mistakes this for them kissing, and is appalled that Jess would be kissing a ‘boy’ so freely. When the issue is brought to the attention of Jess’s family, Jess denies the rumors, and calls the notion of her kissing a boy ‘mad.’ In the Sikhism, there is no tolerance for extramarital or premarital relationships. In Punjabi culture, the honor of a woman is the honor of the family. (Garg) When Jess is seen as having a premarital relationship, this is seen as dishonorable on her family, and would the joining of the two families would therefore not be agreed to.
An argument between Jess and Jules is the catalyst for a misunderstanding between Jules and her mother, Paula Paxton. Paula mistakes a fight over Joe, the girls’ soccer coach, as a lovers’ quarrel. Paula is convinced that this is why her daughter is more into sports, rather than fashion and shopping. This mistake confuses Paula. She is trapped in a dilemma of acceptance, on an issue that is tolerated but not always accepted in the English culture. In one scene, she is anguishing over her supposedly lesbian daughter, and in the next she is trying to bond with her daughter and continue to guide her.
Paula: That's why she's been so depressed lately cos' that Jess broke her heart! She's in love. With a girl!
Alan Paxton: You're jumping to all the wrong conclusions
Paula: But I heard her! No wonder she never looked twice at the Kevin or brought any boys home. I tried to get her nice clothes, you know we've had some lovely prints in this summer you know in swimwear and sarongs and that. She never wants to go shopping with me. It was terrible what they did to that George Michael going on about him and his private business in the papers like that! Oh No!
The above quote is fueled by a mother who is scared for her daughter, and how her daughter will be treated in society. She makes a reference to the American singer George Michael and the struggle that he went through when he was arrested for engaging in a lewd act. The media portrayed the incident in a very negative light, and Paula’s fear for her daughter came from how she could be seen in the eyes of others. Paula claims to be tolerant of lesbians, just as her daughter is; she claims that being a lesbian is ‘no big deal.’ Yet, when Paula finds out that Jess borrowed her shoes for her sister’s wedding, Paula exclaims that she should get her ‘Lesbian feet out of her shoes.’ Paula was raised in a society that had seen lesbianism as taboo, now that the culture is changing; Paula is left trying to also adjust with the times.
In Jess’s household, the idea of homosexuality is still taboo. Even to Jess. It is seen as an outside problem, one that doesn’t exist in the Sikh culture. They still turn a blind eye to it occurring in their house.
Tony: Look, Jessie. You can't plan who you fall for. It just happens. I mean, look at... Posh and Becks.
Jess: Well, Beckham's the best.
Tony: [chuckles] Yeah! I really like Beckham too.
Jess: Well of course you do. No one can cross a ball or bend it like Beckham
Tony: [shakes head] No, Jess. I *really* like Beckham.
Jess: What? You mean...
Jess: But you're Indian
Here, Jess’s friend and expected betrothed, Tony, tells Jess that he is gay. Instead of Jess accepting the fact right off, she is stunned for a second and exclaims that he’s Indian. This is a perfect example of the change that is occurring in bringing two different cultures together. Tony takes a more western approach to his homosexuality; he believes it is not a choice. Jess maintains a cross between the western and Sikh view. She remains friends with Tony, accepts him for who he is, but also is surprised because he is Indian. In traditional Sikh culture, Lust is one of five vices defined by Guru Granth Sahib. Homosexuality is seen, by a majority of Sikhs, as a manifestation of lust. (Religion Facts) Tony believes that he is unable to tell his parents or others in the community. He fears being shunned by violating one of the five vices. This is a culturally relevant event. It shows that there exists communities within each country with their own ideals, but also that these communities are also not immune from the influence of the common ideas held in the larger country.
In mixing two cultures together there is no way that one will not influence the other. More often, the minority culture will assimilate to take on more views of the majority culture, but the inclusion of a cornucopia of different traditions in a single society will create wide acceptance of others. In Bend It Like Beckham, a shift is occurring. Jess is the first generation of her family raised in England. The majority influence on her life is evident. She learns Indian traditions and holds some Indian ideals, but because of the blending of the two cultures, her ideals also include those of England. Despite her parents urging of keeping Jess fully Indian, they also realize that their daughter doesn’t live in a bubble. They see their culture changing in the next generation. Yet, culture and ideals always change from one generation to the next. Paula finds this out in her struggle to accept her daughter. Ideal shifts are going to occur in any culture, whether it is the majority or minority culture in a society.
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