Diasporic Media

Bend it Like Beckham engages with the British national passion of football and the British popular cultural icon of David Beckham in order to subvert the expectations of the South Asian diaspora in Britain. The second-generation British Asian nucleus within the film epitomizes the hybrid nature of contemporary British national identity and complexities of multiculturalism. The concept of convivial multi-culture concerns multiculturalism within urban youth culture and an understanding and accepting of difference. It pertains to an embracing of the potential and the possibility of a British identity, which emerges from everyday contact. The concepts of plurality, diversity and difference are included within the framework of British identity, but there is also the recognition of the possibility of the conflicts and tensions that arise between the clash of cultures.

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The complexities of life lived with the dual cultural influences are embodied within the character of Jess. Her name functions as a semiotic signifier of her self, since she condenses her name from the traditional Indian name of Jesminder to the more British abbreviation of Jess. Her name thus reflects her hybridized nationality.

In terms of the Asian family unit, her mother remains the oppositional power to her demands, refusing to accept her passion for the British sporting tradition of football. Her desire to become a footballer is posited as a threat to femininity and a resisting of the traditional roles afforded to women within the oppressive patriarchal community, and marks the cultural difference between the two generations. She does not conform to the patriarchal societal demands of the diasporic South Asian culture. Jess utilizes the line, which has become the tag line of the film for marketing purposes, ‘Who wants to cook Aloo Gobi, when you can bend a ball like Beckham?’. This line expresses her desire to embrace the British culture, but it also highlights at the same time the difficulties of embodying a hybrid identity and belonging to two cultures. These are the two polarities that the hyphenated British Asian must negotiate in order to satisfy her hybrid cultural identity.

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