Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mississippi Masala: Race/Relationships

At its heart, Mira Nair's Mississippi Masala is a romance, an ethnically tinged take of Romeo and Juliet... with a happy ending. However, as many of my classmates have already mentioned, the relationship between Meena and Demetrius rings false, too brief and unbelievable to make the audience feel any real love between the two characters. Indeed, the relationship begins as a ploy for Demetrius to make his ex-girlfriend Alicia jealous.

Meena, too, seems to have an ulterior motive for dating Demetrius, one that is, in fact, arguably racially motivated. After sleeping with Demetrius, Meena asks him to "wish me a happy birthday." A flashback to Uganda reveals that a young Meena is sad that their family friend Okelo didn't sing happy birthday to her.

In this way, Meena's desire for Demetrius is figured as a desire for Okelo, which can be interpreted as the desire for black men. For Meena, Demetrius simply fits the role -- he reminds her of her life back in Uganda and of Okelo. And he does this by (I know I am oversimplifying here) being a black man.

In this instance, how is race/homeland linked to desire? What does it mean to love someone for the color of their skin? Is it OK for Meena to desire black men because she grew up in Uganda? Interestingly, many of these questions sounds a lot like the questions asked during the Interracial Dating Forum here at Brown.

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