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Bend It Like Beckham Analysis Cultural Studies Essay

3324 words (13 pages) Essay in Cultural Studies

5/12/16 Cultural Studies Reference this

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Since the 1950s Britain has gone through an intense period of accelerated social and cultural transitions. These changes come from the results of the disintegration of the British Empire, the expansion of the Commonwealth and the movement of people from various nationalities, languages and cultures. These phenomena have supported the progressive globalization of life and conceived a multi-ethnic and multicultural society, with a strong plurality of identities and heritages.

One of the most driving motions for development through this phase has been the women’s movement. Their entry into the labour market and their increasing independence has brought fundamental changes in their position in society and their relations with men. Similarly, the emergence of youth as an identifiable group with a very different lifestyle to members of older generations, has contributed substantially to the changing social and cultural profile of the country. The younger generation has a more equality view of the role of women in society. The Hofstede analysis for Britain reports strong feelings towards individualism and masculinity. On the other hand, the power distance and uncertainty avoidance are ranked considerably low. Long-term orientation ranks the lowest.

This study indicates potential change that Britain is willing to achieve rapidly with the new generations. Men and women mix freely, with independent relationships to one another. In the football club girls are all very open, they can get in touch with strangers very easily, undress without any shame. And Jess behaves on the contrary. The most vivid example of the British youth’s independence is the fact that parents can’t interfere in Jules’s private life, even when it deals with her sexual orientation. According to Hall’s scale of levels’ of cultures, British culture is a low level context culture because the messages are clear and the words carry most of the information in most communication (for example, when the coach sees that Jess has problems with her parents because of football, he goes there and tells them about his opinion, without any rituals, very directly). More interpersonal connections of shorter duration exist in Britain. Even choosing football in this movie seems to reflect the low level context British culture is experiencing. Football is one of the most rule and goal-oriented, strictly defined and team playing games (where each has its own job).

According to Hall’s cultural theories, British culture seems to be the mix of the past-oriented and future-oriented cultures. Old generation is still trying not to lose traditions, they are still very conservative but the younger people are much more future-oriented, as it is very obvious from “Bend it like Beckham”.

In conclusion, British culture is definitely an individualistic one, due to its high level of individual independence, goals and concept of individuality over group goals. Individuals have universal communication and equal attitude to everyone, in the family and in everyday life where men and women enjoy equal rights. It’s also a feminine culture with several specific features of male culture. British culture is a low level context one where people play by external rules, they have separation of time, space, activities, relationships; more interpersonal connections of shorter duration; almost everything is task-centered (decision and activities focus around what needs to be done, division of responsibilities) and so on.

Indian culture

India’s history has forged its culture. Its particular geography and the assimilation of customs, traditions and ideas from some of its neighbors have been shaping the country, as well as maintaining its ancient heritages, from the Indus Valley Civilization onward. India’s great diversity of cultural practices, languages, customs, and traditions are examples of this unique blend over the past five millennia. The family plays an important role in teaching and transmitting values and traditions. The respect for elders is a major component in Indian culture. They represent the familial driving force and pass on the Indian culture within us. India is a high contest culture with close connections between people, less verbally explicit, more indirect verbal interaction, less written and formal communication and more relationship focused.

The respect to one another is also a strong pillar. Power Distance score for India is synonymous with high level of inequality of power and wealth within the society. This situation is at some point accepted by the population as a cultural norm. In contrast, people tend to promote interdependent relationship with each other as collectivistic cultures do, by embracing interdependence, family security, social hierarchies, cooperation, and low levels of competition.

Indian scores a long term orientation dimension, which is indicative of a perseverant and parsimonious culture. It is also oriented toward masculinity, which reinforces a greater gap between values of men and women.

India scores low towards the uncertainty avoidance dimension, which indicates a culture more open to unstructured ideas and situations, as well as fewer rules and regulations towards.

The head of the Indian’s family is male oriented, the father or husband. We can see here male culture, but also with some elements of female culture. The woman in Indian culture is a symbol of house. Jess’s mother shows us how real Indian wife has to behave, as mother and housewife. Her main goal is to give her daughters all knowledge that she knows.

Communication style

The Indian culture is oriented toward collectivism and group goals. Their pillar is traditional house holding and the family. We can see that Jess has a huge amount of relatives who really are happy with her sister’s wedding. We can see with Jess’ sister’s wedding the role and active participation the family plays in Indian culture.

We can see also that the status is very important for Indians. In the episode Jess’s coach comes to talk to her family about football trainings. Jess’s father was telling his attitude to football and to problems that he had many years ago because of the football, at the same time Jess interrupted him and tried to say some her own opinions, but it was prohibited because father is the head of the family. So Jess’s mother made the reprimand: “It is your father, you can’t talk while your father is talking.” This moment shows us the respect and the importance of the status.

Attitude to other cultures

Strong differences and reluctances exist between the Indian and other cultures. Indians are conservative and don’t attempt to mix culturally. Jess’ sister’s wedding shows the Indian reluctance to include other culture in their traditional ceremony. Jess’s mother teaches her daughters to married Indians sharing the same values, culture and traditions. Jess will find all along the movie to evolve from those cultural practices with her relationship with her coach.

British Asian Culture

In the previous parts, we discussed two main cultures – English and Indian. Both of the cultures have strong traditions and deep values which people are trying to keep alive today. It is not easy as everything is changing. But even harder it is for Jess who tries to honour her father Indian roots but at the same time wants to be fully accepted in the English society. This trend is called the new British Asian generation.

The term British Asian is used to denote a person of South Asian ancestry or origin, who was born in or was an immigrant to the United Kingdom. Britain has a large Southern Asian population due to British India once being the most populous portion of the former British Empire.

That is shown as well in the movie where Jess parents want that she attends university and gets good education as doctor. They have no problems with seeing themselves as British. Mainly they are not accepted as British from the point of old people from Britain. But at the same time they say that they do not even want to be accepted. Their first language is really English. The most important thing – they have been brought up there. In addition, the young people see their way of life as different from life in India as well as from their parents. New British Asian generation do not think of gender identity. That is also the biggest issue in Bend it Like Beckham, where Jess is eager to play football. In India that is only men “job”. Even though Indians might have lived all their lives in Britain the differences are remaining. High expectation of loyalty to strong family is common theme among British Asians. It is seen as the biggest culture differences between Asian and English values. Basically if you have grown up in England, there is no family unit which at the same time is totally different for Asian families where you reflect on your family. Individualism versus family values is a dichotomy difficult to reconcile. If you are judged by who is your family or your family is judged by your actions, what do they do then, when they do not want to become doctors, lawyers or just want to smoke weed (very popular thing in UK). That is where the youth of British Asian struggle. For some it even results in exclusion from the family structures because they refuse to accept collectivism pressure.

The other issue in British Asian society is marriage. Still most of traditional families want arranged marriages and assessed that those arranged marriages are quite misconceived. An arranged marriage is not a forced marriage.

Religion is another British Asian issue. Even though they have grew up with very religious background the 2nd generation is more questioning and searching. They are trying to adapt it by keeping some of its values and foundations to a more modern approach.

Also, the new linguistic that Asian and English form should be seen not as a mixing of heritages, but as creation of a potential new heritage.

England is a multicultural society, not a multitude of cultures living together and separately from each other. This young generation is redefining their values and reinterpreting what it is to be British. They are not British Asians. Not even British Caribbean or Caucasian. They are second generation and want to make their own mark.

This attitude can be seen in the movie where Jess is bright example of British Asian representative. She proves that at the end it is possible to make happy every part of society and be happy herself. She and her British Asian friends show that they are creating their own culture from adapting their strong family values and involving their new sides of English culture. They are taking the most important element they need from both of the cultures.

The Movie

Genre and Structure

The film combines different genres: sports movie, Coming-of-Age, music clip, but primarily British comedy and Bollywood film. These so-called Bollywood films follow the formal and substantive traditions. A key issue is the preservation of the tradition. The older family members embody the forces of tradition. As an important event, there is often an opulent and glamouros wedding-scene. Music and dance in Bollywood films push the emotions of the characters.

They are also the moral censorship, because they help to disguise the love scenes. The British comedy derives its humor from the surreality of everyday life and works with a lot of wit and quick word dialogues. Many protagonists are coming from the working class and middle class, discussed their everyday problems in heavily story-line-orientated stories. Bend it like Beckham juggle with both narrative: Thematically it refers to one of the classic Bollywood themes, the conflict between tradition and modern world. The wedding in the movie is the culmination depicted, but equivalent to the other peak, the football final. This shows the film tradition and modern life with the same weighting. Again, the parents embody the classic values, the father does, however, a conversion and finally supports the willingness of change of the daughter.

The conquest of a male-domain

Football in Europe is the undisputed leader sport millions of people are excited about. This is true at least for the male version. Although there are now more and more female players, the women’s football is not in the same form and will be hardly recognized. In the film, this conservative attitude is represented by the mothers. Jules mother is convinced that playing football diminishes the chances of their daughter in the marriage market. As there is a conversation between Jess and Jules, she even feared that the two are lesbian. Jess mother thinks that sports clothes are improper and would prefer that her daughter learn how to prepare Indian dishes. The mothers are trying to stop their daughters from playing football – symbolized in the release of Jess, who sees her female family members in the wall during a freekick.

Mixed Culture appearing in the movie

Jesminder Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) is deeply admirative of the professional skills David Beckham exposes as a Manchester United star. “Nobody can bend it like Beckham” is a leitmotive motivation. She takes every opportunity she can to play, usually in the park near her home in a London suburb, away from her parents’ watchful gaze. They have other plans for her, that she’ll complete school, learn to prepare a full Punjabi dinner, and marry a proper Indian suitor.

This is the plan already in place for Jess’ older sister Pinky (Archie Panjabi), who is engaged to marry within weeks. Pinky, however, is also not adhering exactly to parental expectations and drawing from her immediate environment. And, she has her own secret: she and her beau have been enjoying habitual, if rushed, trysts in his car. The sisters agree not to tell on one another; it’s not a crisis they spend much time discussing, but a routine practice, a way to get along in a world where expectations and desires invariably conflict. They’ve grown up crossing cultural borders on a daily basis, and see such negotiations — and deceits — as nothing special. Their parents can’t understand, being from another time and place. And so, they take to heart the advice offered by Jess’ best friend Tony (Ameet Chana): “What your parents don’t know won’t hurt them.”

Lucky as well as resourceful, Jess does, of course, find a way to play, for the Hounslow Harriers, the girls’ auxiliary of a local football club. In the locker room, she finds herself schooling the white girls on what it means to be her: “Indian girls aren’t supposed to play football,” she explains. “That’s a bit backwards,” observes one of her teammates. Jess knows exactly what it is: “It’s just culture, that’s all.”

Jess’ navigations of “culture” take up most of the film’s energy (along with some jaunty football game montages). Bend It Like Beckham takes Jess’ perspective seriously, treating her as a girl with a complicated experience, understandable ambitions, and messy emotional responses to restrictions that will be familiar, in various ways, to viewers her age as well as those who remember what it was like to be that age. While the film includes some standard issue contrivances and coincidences, it also puts them to good use, an investigation of the ways that expectations and assumptions shape experiences, particularly, girls’ experiences.

While Jess’s interactions with her sister Pinky reveal a specific sisterly pattern of conflict and conciliation, the primary means to get at Jess’ evolving consciousness is her friendship with Harriers teammate Jules (Keira Knightley). The girls have lots in common: Jules also has parent issues: her earthy father (Frank Harper) loves to kick the ball around with her in the backyard, but her fidgety mother (Juliet Stevenson) frets that such activities are unladylike. And, like Jess, Jules looks forward to a future that includes football: Jules hopes to make it to university in the States, on a soccer scholarship; her bedroom walls are plastered with pictures of Mia Hamm.

The girls develop a fast friendship, through which the film explores the differences in their respective backgrounds, and most deftly, the ways they navigate their parents’ rather typical fears — of other cultures and changing times. Several crises emerge when Pinky’s future in-laws spot Jess and Jules on a street corner, displaying more affection publicly than is seemly: the wedding is called off, Jules’ mom fears she’s a baby lesbian, and Jess’ parents (believing short-haired Jules is male), think Jess is intimate with a white boy. Another issue arises concerning Jess’ actual affection for a white boy, the Harriers’ adorably sensitive, Irish-born coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers).

All of these conflicts come to a head in a colourful finale that crosscuts between a final football match and Pinky’s traditional wedding. The cultures continue to clash, but in ways that are increasingly responsive to one another.


In the film the producer mixes Indian and Western pop music. The Indian music accentuated the conservative or traditional areas of life, the western represent the New Age. When Jess and Jules are shopping for the first time and having a beer in a pub, Mel C. sings “Independence Day”.

The trip to Hamburg is musically connected with the group Blondie “Your hair looks beautiful.” Indian music is essential in the Hindu celebrations, but also when Jess is forced to do the kitchen work by her mother, one can hear the Indian way of music. During the parallel-creation of the wedding and the final game, first Indian and later English music is used for those scenes. The goalkick and the enthusiastic viewers are accompanied with a piece from Puccini’s opera “Turandot” background.

The movie and the cultural aspect all together

JessĀ“ situation based on her relationship to her family

Bend it like Beckham picks a topic, which is relevant for adolescents, regardless of their cultural context. It is about the creation of self-determination and the own conceptions of life, independent from external expectations, and thus linked to questions of identity and personal values. For Jess, that leads to a special conflict, because her culture traditionally admits less freedom. From a dramaturgical perspective, it allows to enhance the universal conflict. Through the culture movement the film tells about, the understanding and tolerance for differences in other cultures are encouraged. Seemingly effortlessly the film combines conflicts, which are characterized by the close social contact of cultural values and role models, which went through strong developments in European societies over the past decades.

Jess’ situation according her future and the realisation of her life-concept

On the one hand, Jess embodies the whole dilemma of the so-called second generation, as one can see in all European countries in which the children of emigrants were born. They are linguistically and culturally much closer to the culture of occident. However they are still in contact with the original homeland and the traditions of their parents’ generation. For this generation it is necessary to make pioneering work, to prevent prejudices on both sides, as Jess practiced in the movie. Jess accepted the cultural values of her parents’ lives and also the traditional religious wedding ceremony of her sister Pinky. At the same time, Jess asks for respect to her lifestyle, but it is quite clear that her mother can never really understand, what kind of life she is trying to live. Jess has reached the allowance to play football and the relationship with her coach Joe, is the next cultural barrier that she will need to overcome.

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