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Beyond the Text- Bend It Like Beckham

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Emma Hampson

on 27 January 2015

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Transcript of Beyond the Text- Bend It Like Beckham

By Emma Hampson
It tells the story of Jess, an eighteen year-old girl trying to live her dream of being a soccer player against the wishes of her very strict and traditional indian parents.

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Patriarchy in
Bend It Like Beckham
Jess is shown frequently throughout the film being taught by her mother how to cook traditional indian dishes, which her mother sees as crucial to becoming a successful woman.

For this assignment, I decided to compare the film
Bend It Like Beckham
to our course.
Beyond the text-
Bend it like beckham

This film was directed by Gurinder Chadha,
and was released in 2002.

Bend It Like Beckham
explores issues of family, culture, religion, and becoming your own person without letting down those around you.
A prominent theme in this film is patriarchy, and how sexism affects Jess on a micro and macro level.

Jess’s parents don’t believe that women should play sports, leading Jess to lie about playing on a local women's team.
Mr. and Mrs. Bhamra believe that women should focus on finding a husband and becoming a good wife and mother.
Jess and her teammates also make several comments about how hard it is to be taken seriously in the world of sports when on a women’s team.
“Honour-shame” codes in

Bend It Like Beckham
⁃ We talked a lot in this course about
honour-shame codes and their relation to gender.
We discussed how men are only shamed when their space or property is challenged or invaded, but that women are expected to "have shame" in all aspects of their life.
The lives of women are then to be controlled and regulate so that men’s space will be challenged.
This is seen in this film by the way that Mr. and Mrs. Bhamra attempt to control Jess’s body and behaviour.

They were horrified to see that Jess had been playing soccer with men while wearing shorts that showed her legs. **
According to their culture, women should keep certain parts of themselves, like their legs, hidden.

Mr. and Mrs. Bhamra were also upset because Jess has a large burn scar on her thigh that they didn’t want anyone to see.

They encourage Jess to “have shame” and hide herself away.

Sacrificial Parenthood in
Bend It Like Beckham

It appears that within Jess’s family’s culture, sacrificial parenting is encouraged and expected for women
Jess’s mother does not seem to have any life outside of her family. She isn’t shown as having any hobbies, and doesn’t work despite having two adult children who no longer need her constant care and attention.

⁃ Mrs. Bhamra seems to have dedicated her entire life to raising her children and being the perfect housewife. Throughout the movie, her only interests are in planning her oldest daughter’s wedding and preparing her youngest to be a good wife when her time comes.

⁃ She repeatedly mentions how much she has sacrificed and done for her children throughout the film.
Mrs. Bhamra expects the same from her daughters, particularly Jess. She expects Jess to give up her passion in life so she can become a good wife and mother, by their culture’s standards.

We can assume that this sacrifice is only expected of women, by Jess’s comment in the film about how indian men aren’t expected to come home to cook and clean, but she is.

This is relevant to what was discussed in the readings about the notion of self-sacrificial parenting being a mask for patriarchy.

The “Male Problematic” vs. “The Androgynous Father”in
Bend It Like Beckham

Jess’s father, Mr. Bhamra, plays an interesting role in their family unit.
He seems to care deeply for his two daughters, and is often seem as being somewhat gentler on them then his wife.

His parenting style is very patriarchal, however. He’s uninvolved in the day-to-day parenting such as cooking, cleaning, and caring for his daughters, but he always has the final say in important matters and is seen as being the head of the family.

Mr. Bhamra exhibits behaviours similar to the “male problematic” because he is able to choose his level of involvement in child-rearing, subsequently leaving the majority of responsibility to his wife.

While he is shown as having a soft side, and is less forceful than his wife, Mr. Bhamra could not be considered an androgynous father.

He takes a backseat role in parenting, and enforces strict gender roles in his home.
Four Major Jewish Family Values
Purity of the Family
The Bhamra family is very traditional, and make a significant effort to keep their daughters as “pure” as possible for their future husbands.
Mr. and Mrs. Bhamra encourage their daughters to cover up their bodies, and not wear anything that shows their legs.

In one scene, Jess is shown changing into her soccer uniform in the changeroom at the club. She is clearly uncomfortable and tries to hide her body while she changes, showing that modesty has been ingrained into her mind.

Pinky, Jess’s older sister, is engaged to a man she’d been seeing in secret for several years. She seems to have felt pressure to keep the relationship hidden, particularly it’s sexual aspect, for fear of being shamed by her family and culture.
Mrs. Bhamra makes reference at one point in the film to a female family member who had gotten divorced and now went around wearing short skirts, and had brought tremendous shame onto her family.
Another family within the Bhamra’s cultural community sees Jess laughing with a female friend at a bus stop as they drive by, and they mistakenly think she’s being intimate with a man. Jess comes home to find her sister in tears, and her parents shocked and horrified.

Jess and Pinky were raised with clear expectations about keeping themselves as chaste as possible.
Peace within the Home
There is a great deal of importance placed on keeping the peace within the family in Bend It Like Beckham.

It’s made very clear that individual freedoms and individual happiness are not as important as the smooth functioning of the family in general.
Jess is repeatedly told by her mother that she cannot do certain things (such as showing her legs, or playing soccer) because if she does, it will “bring shame to the family”. If she is true to herself, she has to sacrifice breaking the peace in her family.

Filial Responsibility
The Bhamra family places enormous emphasis on this particular value. They believe that above all, children must honour, respect, and obey their parents.
The two Bhamra daughters are both adults, but they both are expected to do whatever their parents tell them to without question.

Jess encounters difficulties while coping with her own emerging independence and honouring the wishes of her family and culture.
Her teammates find it hard to understand that Jess can’t make her own decisions in the same way the rest of them can. Jess has to consult her parents when it comes to who she spends time with, what she wears, and what she purchases.
Obligation to rear children

Seeing as Jess and Pinky are still very young, their parents are more concerned with finding them a suitable husband than they are with them having children.
However, their culture places a lot of importance on the traditional family unit, and so it can be assumed that children is an expected part of their future.
Agape in
Bend It Like Beckham
The question of agape and loving one’s children unconditionally is a subtle theme in the film.
Mr. and Mrs. Bhamra display discomfort with who their daughter is growing up to be. They strongly dislike her love for soccer, which is the most important thing in her life and defines who she is as a person.
At the end of the film, however, they see how happy the sport makes their daughter and eventually accepts her decision to move to the United States to pursue it professionally.
A Paradigm Shift
This movie is a prominent example of how religion and traditional culture battle a postmodern society.
Jess does not seem to have any desire to rebel against her religion or culture, however to pursue her passion in life she must.
She also develops an intimate relationship with her soccer coach, Joe, who is white and therefore off-limits to pursue a relationship with according to her culture. Jess makes an effort to start a relationship with an indian man to please her parents, but ultimately she follows her heart and chooses to be with Joe.

Pinky pleases her parents by choosing to marry an Indian man, but she’d previously rebelled by having a secret romantic relationship with him long before they got engaged. While it’s considered very normal for people in their late teens and early twenties to have a romantic relationship before getting engaged in today’s society, it’s forbidden in the Sikh culture.

Jess’s good male friend, Tony, comes out to her as gay at one point in the film. Her reaction is to say “But you’re Indian!” showing that homosexuality is not well-received in their culture. She tells him that’s it’s okay with her, but they discuss the negative reaction that he’ll get once his parents and friends find out.

These three instances show a paradigm shift within the Indian and Sikh culture. Jess, Pinky, and Tony show that it is possible to remain true to one’s traditional background while also pursuing the life they want.

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