After an hour long argument with my Mum…

On the first day of class we brought up some interesting points about mis-representations of Indian culture. I visited my Mum yesterday to beg for cold medicine as I had been ill when she suggested that we watch a movie. After all, I wouldn’t have any issue with some cinema-time with Mum until she informed me that the viewing would of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” I used to love this movie and I saw nothing wrong with its representations of India because I failed to realized the blatant judgment Spielberg was making on Indian culture with his so-called “masterpiece.” I tried to explain to Mum exactly why we shouldn’t watch the movie as I’d realized in class how racist it can be; however, this lead to an argument about the beauty and mysticism of India which my mum assured me were “cool” and “exotic”. When I attempted to correct her argument ensued and I was left red in the face and flabbergasted as mum failed to see anything amiss with the representation of India and its peoples.

After the conversation with my Mum I naturally called most of my friends to see how they felt about this film I used to love but now feel is somehow tarnished. Anyone care to wager how those phone conversations went? Yeah, not well. Everyone seemed to be so wrapped up in the exotic clothing and feasting on monkey skulls that they labeled the movie as “awesome.” they would say things like “I mean, I get what you’re saying but I’m not Indian.” To be honest, this stuck in my craw more than I’d like to admit. I began to wonder about the relevance of misrepresentation in film as well as literature. should we only be offended if “our culture” or “people” are being marginalized? Is this the way most people think, or do I just have an unsavory group of friends?

I’d be interested to see if anyone else in the class experience a similar reaction, or if anyone discussed this with family and friends at all.

Here’s a gold-star for everyone who made it through this blog entry 🙂



5 thoughts on “After an hour long argument with my Mum…

  1. Oh, man, that didn’t sound fun at all. I actually talked to my dad (who was raised in Pakistan) about The Temple of Doom, and while he recognized the racist and orientalist elements of the film, he still loves the movies. He even offered his own examples of racism in the film. He admits he’s bothered by it, but it doesn’t faze his enjoyment of the film itself. I guess for him, in the grand scheme of things, a silly Western movie with its facts wrong is the least of his problems. He gets what he can out of it, by seeing it through the protagonist, and condemns the racist elements.
    I’m like you. The Temple of Doom was one of my ALL time favorite films, but knowing what I know now about it, I can’t bring myself to respect a movie that portrays a culture in an orientalist light.

    This movie reminded of another movie that has huge Orientalist leanings. Anyone see The Mummy series with Brendan Fraser?
    I mean…whoa.

  2. The fact that you’re making the class discussions part of your everyday life makes all of this worth it for me. Thanks for actually caring enough to get into such debates, which is not always fun! Great questions emerging here, which I will not take up but will wait for other responses (you hear enough of me as it is).

  3. I think my roommates hate that I’m in this class sometimes because I bring up what we talk about about constantly at home! I asked them if they had ever thought about Indian Jones as racist and at first, my one roommate was almost offended. She said how much she loves all the Indian Jones movies and has watched them with her family since she was little. She then said very clearly she was NOT racist. I kind of laughed at her and once I explained some of the parts we talked about in class (I couldn’t give her the best argument, the only parts of the film I’ve seen are those we watched in class), she was almost said I shared this information with her. I think she would have rather continued enjoying the films being naive than me pointing out the discrimination!

  4. I don’t think most people think about movies as a representation of something that may or may not be based on fact, but rather as a unique world all to it’s own. The movie is the way it is because that’s the way it is. I don’t think most people think about it in an analytical way like we do in class, instead they just except it as they see it and don’t look at it any deeper than that. Perhaps this could explain the negative reactions by your friends in family. Maybe thinking about the movie analytically would make the movie less enjoyable for them so instead they just take the movie as it is.

  5. In response to your question: should we only be offended if “our culture” or “people” are being marginalized?

    I think we should definitely be conscientious of other cultures, including but not limited to Indian culture. The question you raised reminds me of a statement made by Martin Niemoller, a German intellectual who spoke out against Nazism during World War II.
    He said,

    “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out —
    because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out —
    because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
    because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me —
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

    I think regardless of who you are it’s important to understand other cultures and defend what you believe is right, whether it has an effect on you or not.

    I also wanted to note that I certainly don’t think your friends don’t care about other cultures, but rather they love the spirit of adventure and mystery depicted in Indian Jones. I think in movies there is often a suspension of reality, which allows viewers to enjoy the movie without thinking about the social implications. At the same time, however, I think it is important to contemplate what movie portrayals reveal about society and how they also affect society.

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