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November 27, 2005

bride and prejudice

Prior to yesterday, all I knew of this movie was that 1) it was a musical, an Indian-made adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" and 2) during their review, Ebert and Roeper almost came to blows as to whether star Aishwarya Rai or Piper Perabo is the most beautiful woman on Earth. Having now been made to watch the film, I can add that 3) Sayid of "Lost" (actor Naveen Andrews) is in it, and he sings and preens and prances like a light-loafered dandy. Yep.

I'm no Austen fan. I expected to be bored, not offended. But offended I was. You can take all the shots at my country or the West you'd like. There are certainly plenty to be taken. So fire away—as long as they're honest shots, I'll laugh with you. Alas, Americans only speak in this movie in order to be beaten down by its curiously defensive Indian makers. Americans are embodied only through the thinnest of racial stereotypes, and they only utter the most moronic things. Example dialogue about the Indian female lead:

Friend: I saw you eyeing up Lalita.

American lead: She's beautiful, yeah.

Friend: But not exactly your mother's idea of the mother of her heirs, right?

American (laughing): Not exactly, no!

Ah yes, the famous American class system yet again thwarting romance. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: "Mother, I may well marry outside our caste, and there's not a gosh darn thing you or the Tribal Chief can do about it! And now to show you how heavy with rage my heart is, I shall perform the Livid Mango Dance. All four parts, be-yatch."

Other times, the American is there just to rudely inform his kindly Indian hosts and love interest that their country is "backwards" and "primitive" and that he doesn't "know how people can live this way." He is corrected, of course, and shown to be quite stupid prior to his being redeemed by the wise, independent Indian girl who rejects the backwards, primitive tradition of arranged marriage and—oh fuck, my head hurts. For the most part, though, the American is there just to set up kill shots near the net. Here, he's talking about invading India and teaching its young to speak English and worship Jesus. (Not really. He's only talking about buying a hotel, but you sure wouldn't guess from the hositility.)

Indian lead: And I thought we had gotten rid of the Imperialists.

American lead: I'm not British. I'm American.

Indian lead : Exactly!

Aishwarya RaiUh-huh. For my own amusement, I've included a photo of the actress who uttered that line.

The real cheat in that exchange, of course, is that a given American would know anything whatsoever about India's colonial past. How well they know us. They have us pegged, all right—when the film gets to America, we see all three American ethnic demographics represented: highborn, snooty whites basking at their country clubs; Latinos playing in a mariachi band; and blacks—I am not making this stuff up—singing in a gospel choir, complete with silk robes and risers set up on a beach. Why a beach? Because it was a beach scene, stupid.

To summarize: before the movie, I had no particular feelings whatsoever about India. After the movie, I feel stereotyped and attacked by stupid, insecure people who made a bigoted, defensive movie. Not to mention it's primitive and backwards.

Clap. Clap. Clap.

posted by john at 11:25 AM  â€¢  permalink