Sunday, April 6, 2008

Mississippi Masala: a little too nice.

While I was watching the movie, Mississippi Masala, I found myself really skeptical the whole time. I felt like the movie was being way too nice about the racial conflicts and ethnic stereotypes. I found it hard to believe that the Indian Americans and African Americans would be so peaceful and friendly with each other, especially in Mississippi. The lack of conflict throughout the whole movie made the conflict that comes from Mena and Demetrius getting together seem really out of place. The film also does not address the reasons behind racial conflicts, even though the basis of the movie really could have dealt with and presented deep issues. Also, although it seems praiseworthy that the movie did not portray stereotypes such as Indian Americans owning convenience stores or African Americans being in gangs, I felt that the lack of stereotypes only gave a mild appearance for both racial groups and made them lack personality and character. The only personality seems to be given to the few Caucasians in the movie represented as a crazy driver screaming, a cold banker, a judgmental restaurant owner, the violent ruthless policemen, and the crazy party kids in the hotel room. Like in most of the Asian American movies we’ve seen, the Caucasians are given the villain roles and are stereotyped.

I found it interesting and relevant that location had such a huge influence on everyone. It seemed like the location of Mississippi produces a sort of dreary, cynical existence for the population. The transformation of the young cheerful, optimistic Mena to an older cynical, unhappy Mena seemed to be accounted for by the location. For Mena and Demetrius to have a happy future together, it seemed necessary for them to change location and her parents’ grudging acceptance of them seemed to be accounted for by the fact that they had lived in Uganda and were open-minded. The father’s struggle with getting back his property did not seem to be an issue with the property, but his identity as a Ugandan. I feel like location was a major theme in Monkey Dance and in Better Luck Tomorrow. Growing up in California kind of marked the Asian American boys in Better Luck Tomorrow and their involvement in petty crimes and trying to be "gangster." The sunny surrealness of the movie was really different from the gloomy east coast setting in Monkey Dance. I felt the Asian American kids in Monkey Dance were more somber and down-to-earth because of their location in Massachusetts and the economic and social implications of the place.

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