The Film ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ and Its Key Themes
The film ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ tells the story of two eighteen-year-old girls who dream of becoming professional soccer players. The movie does not only focalize on soccer but also on the role gender plays in the lives of the characters, and how cultural differences can impact each person throughout the film. It also shows how race is still an important issue within each society. It deals with a range of different themes and issues through the story of Jess (one of the main characters) and her desire to play football instead of upholding the traditional female role expected of her. With that being said, ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.
In the film, gender roles play an important part in the lives of each of the characters. Society’s expectations are very much different for men rather than women. As shown in the film, Indian women are supposed to be good cooks and housewives. Mrs. Bhamra symbolizes the optimal Indian woman because throughout the film she is shown preparing food and serving others. Jess is much different than her mother, and she has no interest in learning how to cook or being ‘feminine’, she mostly cares for soccer and nothing more. In the film, Mrs. Bhamra mentions, “What family will want a daughter-in-law who can run around kicking football all day, but can’t make round chapatis?”. Jess’s mother finds out that she has joined a soccer team, and is furious because soccer is seen as a male sport. She reckons that the role of a woman is to stay home and cook and does not think that her daughter’s dreams are appropriate.
Racism takes place almost everywhere even in our modern world today. Throughout the film, there is a racist theme that is shown. Jess’s dad, Mr. Bhamra, doesn’t want Jess to join the girls’ soccer team because he doesn’t want her to get hurt like he did when he was younger. In a conversation that occurred between him and Jess’ coach, Mr. Bhamra talks about his motive for not allowing his daughter to play soccer, here there is a fixed camera angle where the camera does not move during the course of a single shot. He states: “Young man, when I was a teenager in Nairobi, I was the best fast bowler in our school. Our team even won the East African Cup. But when I came to this country, nothing. I was not allowed to play in any of the teams, and the bloody goras in their clubhouses made fun of my turban and sent me off packing”. It is shown that he has dealt with many racist experiences in regards to his past sporting career. This has dictated his view on Jess playing sports as he is concerned and alarmed about her being treated differently like he was. This also causes Jess to hide her love for soccer because she is afraid of hurting her father. As the film evolves, Jess runs across some racism while she plays in a soccer match. During the game, an opponent on the other team pushes Jess while also mentioning something offensive to her which in return causes her to fight back. She is then confronted by her coach who tells her to stop overreacting, to which she replies, “She called me a Paki. But I guess that’s something you wouldn’t understand”. This clearly affected Jess and leaves her annoyed and angry. The audience can tell this shows the impact racism can have on a person and their attitudes of feeling accepted into society.
Summarizing, ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ is a movie that embraces its collection of themes. Culture, gender roles, and racism play an important role in the film and the lives of the characters. Each topic is related to each other because without culture, a person cannot distinguish the appropriate roles for men and women. The player’s culture is the role of implicit stereotypes, because a person is not born with hatred towards others, it is because of his environment and culture that he can know about such things. In the film, each character faces a different form of discrimination, and each can overcome these difficulties.
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