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Bend it Like Beckham (2002) Review of Multiculturalism

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1776 words Published: 10th Oct 2017

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Student ID 27453219

Module LANG1005 “British Life and Institutions”, Essay No. 1

Essay Question No. 3: Write a review of the film Bend it Like Beckham (2002), reflecting in what way they are representative of multicultural Britain.

Bend it Like Beckham: The Reflect of Multicultural Britain- Situation and Problems

It has been several decades since multicultural policies were adopted by UK government which lets Britain become an ethnic melting pot, in another word, multicultural nation. During the history of wars, colonization and immigrants, large quantities people from all over the world move to UK, bringing their own culture and customs. And Indian British, ethnic minority that has the single largest population in the UK, is quite important constituent of the multicultural society.

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There is a film, Bend it like Beckham, which can be a good example to show the multicultural situation, especially the Indian British in Britain. It is a low budget film directed by Indian director Gurinder Chadha. The background was set in West London, where has one of the Britain’s hugest Indian social communities, a perfect playground to show the Indian culture. According to the Office for National Statistics, Indians are London’s largest non-white ethnic minority group, with a population of around 500,000. [1]

It tells the story about an 18-year-old Indian girl, Jesminder, whose parents are Sikhs. She was crazy about football which was against the Indian traditional concept of women. But she finally earned the chance to go to America to continue her football dream.

Because India’s historical development is slow, the social custom is conservative, which can be greatly reflected by the marriage. Although the government took many reforms during the age colonized by UK, the marriage of Indian still has religious characteristic. In India, women’s social status is quite low. The traditional Indian wife should do all the household duties while the husband earns money to support family. Jess’s parents, especially her farther, is comparatively more open-minded than the Indian traditional families. They bought cars, TV, radio and other things for their daughters. They allowed Jess to play football when she was young. But their still have quite traditional concepts in their mind. From the film, we can see that Jess’s mother always wanted Jess to learn to cook round bread. Her elder sister, Pink’s marriage is arranged by the parents. And Jess was not allowed to play football and fall in love with white people. They thought the behaviour go against the tradition is a shame to their family.

Indian people are only allowed to marry Indian, even if they live in the society full of white in London. Although the multicultural policies allowed people in different races and religion beliefs to live together peacefully, they prefer to stay in their own circles of relationships. Because even nowadays, there are still racial estrangement and prejudices existing. And the film shows this problems skilfully and subtly.

When Jess’s football team coach, Joe came to Jess’s home to persuade her parents to let her stay in the team, Jess’s father said he was a good cricket player, but he gave up because of others laughing at his turban, which let him gave up. That was kind of incomprehension of culture and acts lack of respect to other religion’s customs. Those painful experience let him do not want his daughter to play with white. And he didn’t believe that things have changed. Those pain resulted in more prejudices, bringing more misunderstanding.

When Jess tried to use the example of Nasir Hussain to represent the changes, her mother said that he was a Muslim which was different. Apart from the humour, this also implied the bias between different beliefs. And from the Punjabis’ complain that their neighbours were always “upset” about their noisy celebrations, the divergence still appeared its hints- the neighbours didn’t understand this kind of custom and the Punjabis were disdained to explain, which may just bring it worse.

During one football match, one girl in the opponent team offended Jess and called her “Paki”, a very insulting word against Indian. And the coach, Joe said he can understand what Jess felt when being called like that, because he was Irish – even today Irish was still under discrimination, more or less.

From the plots above, we can see that as a multicultural nation, Britain still have many clashes between races, many of which are latent. It can be a bomb that can cause explosion- ethnic hatred- at any time with a tiny spark. Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a speech talking about Islamist extremism at Munich Security Conference 2011, saying that the extremists were the minority of Islamists. But it leaded to hatred to the whole Islamist group.

But only to reveal the badness of multicultural environment in Britain is not the goal of the director – she wanted to show the situation in the round.

And the director put the hope on the younger generation. In the film, Jules did not look down on Jess because she was Indian. Instead, she excavated Jess’s talent in football and built good friendship. And then Jess committed the worst sin for an Indian girl- falling in love with a white man, which made her nearly lost her friendship. The quarrel between two friends actually showed the equality that everyone, whatever their skin colours, genders and social status has the same right to win over love. And Jess’s Indian friend, Tony supported Jess to go for her dream and love. At the same time, Jess thought there was nothing serious to be a homosexual as Indian.

From the contrast of two generations, we can see the concept is changing by the time. The younger generation is more open-minded that they can accept the ideas that are not accept by their parents. But when the two kinds of thoughts crash, it will bring about conflicts- that was why Jess had so many difficulties when she wanted to play football instead of acting as traditional Indian women and fall in love with white. So how could the young keep chasing their dream regardless of the racial and cultural problems?

The film has already given us the answer at the beginning of the film- through the title. Bend it Like Beckham, outwardly it praises the wonderful banana shot skill of Beckham. But it has a metaphor meaning that if you want to kick the ball into the goal – realize your ambition, you have to fight, to bend the rule and social paradigms, not accepting life and situation.

So at the end of the film, Jess got the chance to go to America by showing her father her instinct and talent and Jess Jules made it up. Even the love with Joe, could also be talked to Jess’s mom and dad later.

It is quite representative to use this story to reflect the contemporary multicultural Britain. The director Gurinder did not go too deep into the ethnic issues, yet we can still see the problems. The ethnic prejudice and discrimination in the past has greatly reduced but still exists. And the historical pain caused by this becomes the obstruction that stops the further improvement of relationships between races. No matter what efforts have been made to ease the tension, the situation can go worse easily by tiny provocation.

The young generation wants to change it, though coming across many difficulties. And the concept is changed with their braveness of fighting with the old restrictions. They are more willing to make friends with different races compared to their parents. They are the fresh blood to dilute the old stereotypes and driving force for social advance.

There is another interesting dimension. In multicultural environment, the sports and music are always the easiest way to let the different races to put aside the prejudice and trust each other. Jess, Jules and Joe built true friendship by football. And Olympic Games is another representations of the multiculturalism. For example, Mo Farah, who is Somali-born British, won two gold medals for UK in 2012 London Olympic Games. You may not be native British, but you can still win glories for Britain by competing with people from other countries. No matter if you are Indian or Muslin, British or Irish, black or white. And music is the most sincere and global language, letting people all over the world enjoy this great art. The soundtrack of the film has a charming Indian style, which makes the Indian culture better integrate into the British society. At the end of the film, the British actors singing Indian songs and Indian women playing football can be the best evidence.


Chen Fengjun, Indian Society and Culture, Beijing, Pecking University Press, 2013

Chitra Mahesh, Bend It Like Beckham, India’s National Newspaper, 19 July 2002, Available from: http://www.thehindu.com

Hong Xia, Between Binary Options: On Contemporary British Cultural Pattern, Journal of Nanjing University (Philosophy, Humanities and Social Science), 30 October 2009

Jamie Russell, Bend it Like Beckham, BBC UK, 11 April 2002, Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk

Ron Ahluwalia, Review: Bend it like Beckham is like curry, Planet Bollywood review, 27 June 2003, Available from: http://www.planetbollywood.com

Times of India review, Review: Bend it like Beckham is like curry, Wayback Machine, 10 July 2002.

Xie Donghui, “About Change and Development of India Marriage System”, Hebei Law Science, March 2009, 171-176.


[1] cf. Office for National Statistics. (2011) Resident Population Estimates by Ethnic Group, All Persons – London – Neighbourhood Statistics. Available from: http://neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk [Accessed 1 November 2014]


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