Diversity & Media

Reaction: Intersectionality in Bend it like Beckham

I was really intrigued by Kelsey’s post; both the clip she picked and the manner in which she analyzed it. I agree that this film is not able to be analyzed on a single axis of interpretation.

It is impossible to separate the multiple facets of oppression that Jess faces in both this scene, and the movie as a whole. In this manner, I believe that it is incredibly related to the film Pariah: a coming of age story about a young girl who is fighting against the fate that her parents see for her, based off the family’s conceived notions of gender, gender-expression, and culture. In order to alleviate this tension, both girls throw themselves into a form of escapism: for Jess, she is able to alleviate her frustration through soccer, whereas Alike turns to writing. We see this same fate in Paris is Burning: the glamorous balls are a place of comfort, passion, and “realness” in a world for the ball children that is filled with marginalization. I do not mean to argue that all people of color turn to a form of escapism in order to deal with the oppression that they are faced with. But, in film, this theme seems to be highlighted in coming of age stories.

As seen through the previous 3 examples, the film industry tends to emphasize how young people of color navigate their own multi-faceted marginalization, whether consciously or not. I would like to further explore if this is a point of contention; if it is a new sort of oppositional gaze; one in which the troubled teen must find an escapist source of pleasure in a world that does not accept them, and in turn winds up with the happy ending. In both Pariah and Bend it Like Beckham, both girls wind up in ideal circumstances: with Jess receiving a full ride to Santa Clara and Alike to Berkeley. I wonder if this portrays a problematic narrative that if you work really hard at something you love, you are destined for success, totally ignoring the facets of marginalization that the girls deal with in the beginning of the film.

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