Bend It Like Beckham Analysis Essay

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Bend it Like Beckham -- An Analysis Through Gender-Lens

Women's role lies at the heart of a number of cultural norms, forming a salient aspect of their survival. The football-themed movie, "Bend It Like Beckham" portrays an Indian girl, Jesminder "Jess" Bhamra struggling over her passion for football with her mom and other family members. She meets Jules (or Juliette Paxton), who invites Jess to become a part of the Hounslow Harriers, Jules' football team. Jess accepts, joining the team against her mom's wishes. Jess's situation at home complicates further on account of the impending nuptials of her sister, an event that places considerable stress on her whole family. In spite of cultural differences, Jules and Jess face a situation at home where their moms cannot simply understand and support their passion for football -- a sport for boys (Jamie Rees, 2012).

A young woman's role in a gender-biased society

Upon learning that Jess wishes to join the Hounslow Harriers, Mrs. Bhamra bluntly tells her she can't do so, as there are other, significantly Asian endeavors Jess simply must engage in (Gamal Abdel-Shehid & Nathan Kalman-Lamb, 2015):

She asserts her daughter's played enough and that she dislikes the idea of her daughter "...running around half-naked in front of men." She further rants about the unlikelihood of her getting wed if she continues running around with a football the entire day and doesn't learn to "make round chapattis." She asserts her wish for her daughter to quit football and learn to make a proper Punjabi dinner.

Gender is a significant theme in the movie. Traditionally, sports have, by and large, been viewed as masculine activities, diametrically opposite to feminine qualities. However, "Bend it Like Beckham" does not accept this view. By contrast, it believes females are more than competent when it comes to playing sports, and that the activity is definitely appropriate for females.

Overcoming Traditional Boundaries

One situation that tells the viewer on challenges faced by women in crossing traditional chasms is when Jess faces peer confrontation while playing football. A disturbing scene unfolds early on in the movie: three South Asian males with whom Jess has been playing soccer start poking fun at her and passing racy comments after the girl's fouled. One asks whether she actually thinks she's Beckham, another asks her whether she can chest the football like him, and the third actually urges her to do so. While their comments are clear attempts at reducing the girl to nothing but a sexual object, thereby negating her skill, she appears unruffled and actually kicks the ball at one of the boys' groin, immediately making him an object of ridicule.
The next scene shows her back at home, having been forced to leave the game early to help her mom with housework. The scene focuses on gender inequity, with Jess remarking about the unfairness of the situation, and how males never need to help at home (Gamal Abdel-Shehid & Nathan Kalman-Lamb, 2015). This scene is an example for the film showing women attempting to be progressive.

Attempt at underplaying stereotypes

Viewers get their first glimpse of Jess fantasizing about being a member of the Manchester United team. The scene shows her having scored the goal that brought them victory. Immediately, the scene cuts to Jess sporting a Manchester United shirt, in her bedroom, which is very unlike that of the typical girl; the room mostly features icons that are linked traditionally to men -- football scarves and posters. Jess appears not to be conscious of her appearance like other young women, and doesn't display any interest in 'typical' adolescent girl activities like shopping, clothes, make-up, boys, pop music, and so forth. When she's finally forced by her mother to learn to make a traditional Punjabi meal, we can see her play keep-up with vegetables. It is only after Jess gets close to her coach, Joe, that she starts becoming conscious of her femininity, and changes (as depicted in the scene set in Hamburg, where she's dressed up like a typical girl for a party, with her hair done up by Jules) (KIRKUP, 2003).

Understanding Maturity whilst being Progressive

Towards the movie's end, both Jules and Jess have successfully bent gender norms for pursuing their dreams to become professional footballers. Their mothers, mostly shown cooking food, or working with it, appear to finally accept this future chosen by their daughters through food. At the onset, Mrs. Bhamra acts as an obstacle to her daughter's future in….....

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Gamal Abdel-Shehid, & Nathan Kalman-Lamb. (2015). Multiculturalism, Gender and Bend it Like Beckham. Social Inclusion, 142-152.

Jamie Rees. (2012). Bend It Like Beckham and "Bending" the Rules. A Journal of Undergraduate Writing.

KIRKUP, M. (2003). Bend It Like Beckham. Film Education.

Marcella De Marco. (2006). Multiple portrayals of gender in cinematographic and audiovisual translation discourse. Audiovisual Translation Scenarios: Conference Proceedings.

Nunez, M.T., & Garcia, A.J. (2014). Analyzing and Teaching Diversity and Gender with a Case Study. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 70-77.

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