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Bend It Like Bekahm

Bend It Like Beckham (2002) is the story of Jesminder “Jess” Bhamra, a British Punjabi Sikh girl, and her struggle to navigate her love of soccer (football) and her love for– and expectations from– her family. In this scene, Jess is playing soccer with some boys in a local park. As she jokes around with them, demonstrating her prowess and skill, one of them picks her up and spins her around– right as her mother comes around the corner. Back at the Bhamra household, Jess is given a stern talking-to by her mother for behaving in a way that she considers to be appropriate. When Jess says she will no longer be playing with the boys, her parents are relieved– until she says that she is joining a proper girls’ team where the coach said she could go far. Instead of being pleased, her parents say that no family will want a daughter-in-law who can play football but can’t cook proper Punjabi dishes. Invoking a fashion-designer cousin who got divorced from her White husband, Mrs. Bhamra says that she doesn’t want Jess to bring similar shame to the family, and forbids Jess to play. Mr. Bhamra supports his wife, saying to Jess that playing football “is not nice” and that she “must start behaving like a proper woman”.

discussion

Why do Jess’s parents not want her to play football?

Why is football seen as being “improper” for a woman to play?

What are some of the cultural expectations that we see on display here?

Where else can we see these expectations outside of British or Indian culture?