Dear to Whom It May Concern

My thesis is the relationship combination of culture, religion, sexism and family background. In the film, both Jess and jules made a change on the way people in their society think women playing sports through their hybrid identity. My motive is to show all the obstacles Jules, but especially Jess is up against in order to make their dream of playing professional soccer a reality. I think I answered my research question. I think I did a good job on close readings of my primary text, I also did a decent job on represented and engaged with my secondary sources.

My essay went from not having a specific thesis, to a much clear and specific thesis. I am very proud of the way I organized my paper. If I had more time, I would work on my conclusion, because it’s very weak.

Hybrid Identity: Bend It Like Beckham

When trying to understand the culture identity of a person and their roots, it is not sufficient enough to just look at its current state.

One should always take into consideration the background, the origins and the circumstances that lead to its formation. Identity isn’t something that can be taken at its face value. To truly understand the nature of cultural identity, one must examine the multiple layers, starting from the identity of a single person to that of entire culture. The movie Bend It Like Beckham, shows the different cultural norms when Jess and Jules are at home as opposed to when they’re on the field playing soccer.

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Movies has always played a key role on the way we look at different cultures, but this movie did a great job presenting different identities to the audience and also showed how we can shape our own identity to reach a goal.

The movie used the beautiful game of soccer as a stage that allows both Jess and jules to experiment with and challenge the very notion of identity categories, the relationship combination of culture, religion, sexism and family background. In the film, both Jess and jules made a change on the perception people in their society about women playing sports through their hybrid identity. Lisa Schwarzbaum describes the movie Bend It Like Beckham as the following,“Funny, buoyant, and exhilarating: a culturally cross-wired sports comedy infused with the greater global vibe of Title IX” ( “Bend it like Beckham”. Entertainment Weekly, (705), 50). Schwarzbaum’s description of the movie hit the nail right on the head, Bend It Like Beckham is more than just the typical drama sport film.

This comedy-drama sports film juxtaposes the culture for a young woman in the Western world to that of a woman in the Eastern world. What is socially or cultural accepted in the Western world, most likely will not accepted in the Eastern world, The film’s suit lies in how it compares and contrasts between the cultural standards for women by emphasizing the cultural interplay and family dynamics that is elegantly explored through simply a girl wanting to play soccer. The lead actress Jess, the daughter of a very strict Sikh family wants to follow the footstep of her idol, David Beckham, to play professional soccer. One day Jesse was playing pickup soccer for fun in the park with her friends (a group of boys), and she was spotted by Jules, a white girl that plays on the local women semi-pro soccer team. Jules was very impressed with Jess’ raw talents and invited her to join her team.

But she’s an Indian girl and in the Sikh community it’s not the norm for a woman to go around “showing skin” and playing sports. At her age, she should be learning how to cook different Indian dishes for her future arranged husband and not playing soccer. Her parents, who want to preserve the Sikh ways and traditions for many generation to come, will not give their blessings for her to play soccer. Yet Jess was sneaking behind her parents’ back to go to training and to play soccer matches with the team until her parents found out and it became hard for her to sneak out. The odds are stacked against Jess because she has to fight against gender roles, her family’s beliefs, her community, and her ethnicity traditions in order to reach her dream of playing professional soccer. While Jules is not up against all these obstacles like Jess, at home Jules is also fighting gender role issues against her by own mother. Jules’ dad supports her playing soccer and even practices with her in the backyard, but her mother doesn’t; she’s always scolding jules about how sports are not for young women and how she will never found a husband if she keeps playing soccer.

The only time Jules and especially Jess are truly happy and free from all these obstacles is when they are on the pitch playing soccer. Identity plays a big role in this movie, although jess is an Indian woman and also part of the Sikh community, she’s shaping a hybrid identity by tiptoeing around her religion and her culture to follow her dream of becoming a professional soccer player. In Linda C. McClain’s article “Bend It Like Beckham and Real Women Have Curves: Constructing Identity In Multicultural Coming-Of-Age Stories,” she analyzes the movie as a pathway to investigate the question of shaping an identity. She also explains in depth the real reason why Jess’ parents don’t allow her to play soccer: “…

Multicultural coming-of-age stories involving young women because cultural norms and practices concerning women are often at the core of what a particular community deems to be essential components of its culture that must be transmitted from one generation to the next”. The preservation of the Sikh identity for many generations to come, is the underlying reason why Jess’s parents won’t allow their daughter to play soccer. The women in the Sikh community are the ones that preserve all traditions. The movie shows how important women are in the Sikh community by the amount of responsibilities they have. In the movie you see more women working, planning and talking than you see men in the Sikh community. What might seem “normal” or acceptable in one culture might be a culture shock, or frowned upon by another culture.

One funny instant from the movie was when Jess and Jules were parting ways, they hugged each other goodbye, but one of Jess’ family friend from the Sikh community saw them and was shocked. This seemingly absurd behavior exhibited by Jess arises from the simple cultural difference in the perceived identity of a woman in both cultures. Eastern society defining Jess’s identity. With this identity, comes baggage, like fixed gender and sexual roles that women are supposed to behave in. Jess’s actions are perceived as homosexual or out of the ordinary because of how it does not conform the Indian societal view of women. Cultural identity is not merely an identifying marker, it often defines and mold people and societies.

When the coach, a white man, visiting Jess’ house to apologize because he didn’t know jess wasn’t allowed to play soccer, and he’s also trying to inform her parents how she has a lot of potential and should continue playing soccer. The father in his interactions with the coach is unusually defensive in nature. The father acts defensive for primarily, two reasons. Firstly, he feels as though the coach is overruling or questioning his authority as a parent by telling him what is best for his daughter. Secondly, his defensive nature derives from his past experiences being mocked by white men for wearing a turban.

The movie uses this character and his dislike for the coach is a symbol for the cultural hate that a lot of Indian people still have hate for the British. ‘Orientalism’, a concept used by Edward Said to explain the historical and cultural views on the east that held by the west and traces them to back to the colonial times, to explain the formation of modern cultural identity (The Quiet American revisited: Orientalism reconsidered). A view that explains the cultural identity as a result of both internal and external factors that are affected by not only people in them but also their interactions with other cultures. According to ‘Orientalism’, Edward Said claims that the Europeans arbitrarily divided the world into two parts; the east and the west.

They crudely undertook the view that the eastern exotic cultures as uncivilized and in the process defined their identity as what is not eastern. The Europeans, considering themselves as superior justified their colonization as an attempt to civilize the east. This in turn furthered the cultural gap between the ‘west’ and ‘east’, acting as a boundary, restricting the flow of ideas and in turn creating two mutually exclusive cultures that are wary of each others’ ways. Many might argue that such views have nothing do with cultural identity and is a more of a political issue. When examining the cultural impact orientalist view had on both communities, it is clear that their cultural habits have been built and praised on the fact that they are not alike that of their counterpart.

“Now a subtler form of discrimination . . . take[s] . . . place. This discrimination does not aim at groups as a whole. Rather, it aims at the subset of the group that refuses to cover, that is, to assimilate to dominant norms” (Yoshino, 600). Not only is this prevalent in the present day but the converse of this is also true where an individual’s actions are undermined because it is seen only as a product of their ethnic background than that of their of individual decision. This a common problem faced by being a minority in a community, resulting in an individual feeling as though his personal identity is being ignored and is only visible to others as an extension of his racial background. Jess’ family refused to assimilate, because they don’t want to be seen as “sell-out” in their community, that theory is another reason why they are not allowing Jess to play on the team.

This sense of being able to freely express your identity is a vital social function. It is what differentiates between feeling like being someone’s true friend and feeling like being someone’s Indian friend, it is the difference between feeling like a real person and being treated simply as an object of your cultural history. The reason why Jess got really close with Jules is because she didn’t look at her as just the Indian girl. Their love for soccer was the only thing they cared about. These cultural organizations that bring together minorities not only provide a support for the oppressed but also provide a platform where social interactions can take place unfiltered by cultural biases, allowing true friendships and relationships formed. The presence of such groups can potentially end up defining your personality, your mindset of the world, the very kind of person you would become.

At the end of the movie Jess completely changed her identity, she went to a nightclub with her teammates and was not dressing like the typical Indian girl from the Sikh community. She was wearing a dressing like Jules, with high heels, and short dress. That instant of the movie is an example of how she assimilates into the Western world. Stuart Hall in his essay ‘Cultural Identity and Diaspora’ proposes that there are two ways to understanding the concept of cultural identity. His first view on cultural identity is that it is simply a sense of ‘oneness’, an inflexible bond born out of similarity a common same history; that remains unchanged as time go by; disregarding what seems to be the less significant, superficial differences.

Although this may seem like a compelling theory due to the fact that it agrees with our intuitions on culture, identity and it’s dynamics, it cannot explain sufficiently explain the many instances where cultural identity has evidently changed over time. For the second, Hall proposes a view that is a more plausible. In this theory, he proposes the view that cultural identity is not a static entity persisting through time but rather one that is evolving with it. This idea of identity, that is not just a sense of ‘being’ but of ‘becoming’ as well. It as an identity that is constantly in flux, constantly being reimagined throughout the course of history. It is evident in his writing that Hall leans towards the idea that identity as an entity is not one dimensional but dynamic in nature.

It makes sense when considering that there exists certain manifestation of cultural identity that cannot be explained by an identity that has remained unchanged. Many of these instances we observe today did not exist not long ago and are fairly modern and can only be explained by a theory of identity where the identity is flexible and can evolve through time. An easy way to look at a point in time where identity gets reimagined is to look at an anecdote wherein an individual goes through a significant enough change that he or she may no longer be seen as belonging to their previous identity.

In Hall’s article, Baumeister describing Hall’s argument by stating ‘The nature of … identity can thus be seen as the result of both the basic nature of selfhood and the sociocultural context.”  Her identity changed, she became a woman and bending the rules of her culture. As we move into the present day it has become more and more unacceptable to publicly show a racial and gender preference. However, this still does not eliminate the fact that both cultures still hold presumptions about each other and is the main root cause for all modern racism and gender role issue. The movie showed the heroine acts of Jess and Jules shaping their own identity, by fighting against cultural norms, gender roles, and also family ideologies. Like the title of the movie, both Jess and Jules bend the rules to make their dream come true.

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Dear to Whom It May Concern. (2021, Dec 19). Retrieved from

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