Monday, April 7, 2008

Mississippi Masala- The Self

Watching both Monkey Dance and Mississippi Masala, I couldn't help but feel tense. It was as though the primary conflicts in each resulted from the protagonists' ties to their heritage, rather than purely from outside tragedies and instances (though these do still play a major role). More specifically, most of the conflict, from my perspective, came from this clash between self and duty. Granted, on the surface, this emphasis on self might be equally attributed to youth. But in these films, the parents also displayed an interest on satisfying themselves; this interest in turn contributes to their childrens' sense of obligation.

Two instances that stuck out involved Jay and the gymnast's mom in Mississippi Masala and Monkey Dance respectively. Jay's main argument against Mina's relationship with Demetrius was that it was his duty to spare her and the family of the pain that (he believes) results from interracial relationships. By trying to preserve the family's dignity, he is not only following his obligations, but also satisfying his interests by removing any possible guilt. It is almost like a cycle, constantly switching back between self-interest and duty. In Mina's case, her self-interest to escape with a man she loves may be the direct result of her obligations; her dissapointment with her total lack of self-discovery, as a result of these obligations, triggered this immediate need to distance herself from the family in order to focus more on herself. Therefore, the extremes of self-interest and duty may clash, but they are also feeding off of one another.

In parts of Monkey Dance, there was a segment where the gymnast's mother was being interviewed. In it, she claimed that her biggest dream would be if her son would buy her a house, yet she also said that she would not tell him to see if he would do it on his own. Yes, this sounds selfless; but, not trying to be overly cynical, she must have known that her son would watch the film someday and hear her words. It was not so much her getting a new house, but more whether or not she felt she raised her son properly. This particular focus on self and one's accomplishment is also played out in the segment with the girl who is explaining the situation with her sister in jail. Instead of talking about her sister's anguish, she instead complains about how this predicament makes her look bad, going on about how families look down on her. Digesting this scene was not easy; what did this say about Asian American culture? It seemed that each student in the film judged others' actions and consequences only on how it affected the student specifically. A part of me wondered if this was so much connected with Asian American ( a rather general umbrella term) as it was with survival. Many of these families escaped from harsh conditions, in which self in regards to success took precedent over self in regards to emotional exploration. It's like the families have to stay united with each individual fulfilling their duties, rather than every member separating to discover themselves (even if this channel is more favored in American culture).

No comments: