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The film Bend it Like Beckham presents viewers with a brilliant comedy about a young, Punjabi teen growing up in the early 2000s of West London. Main character Jess, loves the game of football and desperately wants to play against the wishes of her traditional parents. The central plot surrounds Jess, and her close friends and family as they deal with societal challenges of race, gender stereotypes, and cultural conflict.
Jess comes from a loving, traditional Punjabi Sikh family who have very firm ideas and expectations around a female’s role in society. Jess’ parents, want her to learn how to cook traditional Punjabi meals, attend law school and most importantly marry a nice Punjabi boy. Rebelling against these expectations, Jess loves the game of football, she even has a large poster of her idol, football legend David Beckham hanging in her room. In secret and in defiance of her parents, Jess plays small games of soccer at the park with her male friends. One day as she’s playing, a girl named Jules sees her and invites her to come try out for the women’s league. Knowing her parents wouldn’t support her decision to play, Jess decides to sneak behind their backs and join the league.
The film’s title Bend it like Beckham effectively represents some of the film’s key themes and elements. The meaning behind this phrase Bend it Like Beckham represents David Beckham’s ability to score free kicks past a wall of defenders by bending the ball. In a similar sense, Jess had to bend the rules of her own life and family values to reach her own goals of playing soccer.
This powerful work by Sultana Yusufali writes about her firsthand experiences of being a Muslim woman in society today. How wearing her hijab scarf makes others see her as a symbol of oppressed womanhood. I made the connection to Bend it Like Beckham with similar cultural aspects between the two works, Sultana was judged by her culture and what she wore. Just as Jess was faced with cultural differences and discrimination because of her culture. An example of this was with Jules’s mother and her interactions with Jess. She had her own preconceived notions and prejudices towards East Asian cultures and races.
Bend it like Beckham deals with many themes and social issues throughout the film. Jess’ story and her dream to play football against her traditional parent’s wishes is what ultimately drives the plot forward. The writers were able to emphasize the bringing-together of the British and Punjabi culture, we see this bring-together a lot throughout Jess and Jules’s friendship. Although the two come from very different cultures, they have many similarities which show this idea of reconciliation.
When examining themes that the movie presents, there are many different views on homosexuality. When Tony who is a close friend of Jess, comes out as gay near the end of the film, he is giving a calm and caring response. In contrast, when Jess and Jule’s family believe they are lesbians there is a ridiculous outburst. This panic is confined into the traditional lesbian stereotype of short hair and a tomboyish look that makes the families believe so. Racism is also touched on a lot throughout the film, Jess’ father was was not let into a cricket club due to societal discrimination and when Jess is knocked down during a game and called a “Paki” by an opposing player.
By the end of the film, Jess gets the approval of her parents to play the game she loves. By showing Jess in plenty of traditional situations like dancing at her sister’s wedding or watching her mother try and teach her how to cook traditional Indian food. All while balancing her dream of playing professional football, Bend it Like Beckham, lets viewers understand that it’s okay to stray away from normal expectations, that it’s okay to be different. Jess wasn’t just an Indian girl rebelling against her family, she’s a girl who has a passion to do what she loves. Overall, this is a wonderful film that introduces a positive tale of different cultures and generations coming together despite their differences. It’s is an inspiring story that speaks to the capacity of humans to evolve their beliefs and prejudices.
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