Thursday, April 05, 2007

Babel and Provoked


We (a few of us) had gathered at a friend's house to watch Babel (and eat some pizza and wings). Just before the movie started, one of my friends got a phone call. It was this girl he was "seeing" for marriage.

The movie started. He was still on the phone. Right near the end of the movie, as the credits started to roll in, he bid her goodbye and hung up. As the movie finished, I looked at him.

"And you are still thinking of whether she is the right one for you?" I asked incredulously. "Not only did she talk to you for over TWO HOURS (and from all the laughing you did it was an interesting conversation) she saved you from watching this horrendously boring and crappy movie. Just for that, you should marry her."

Yes, Babel was really that bad.

I liked Crash. So when I was told Babel was just an international version of it, I was intrigued. Where Crash was gripping and engaging, however, Babel was just plain tedious, long, dragged out and painful to watch. At times, we were just forwarding through some of the scenes, so predictable and tired we were of the movie.

Really, how different is Babel to the rest of Hollywood movies?

  • Arabs with guns shooting at white blonde women? Check.
  • Foreign kids are uncouth and gross compared with the well manicured Caucasian kids? Check.
  • Beer drinking, border crashing, illegally working Mexicans? Check.
  • Horny, perverted, exotic, naked, sexually ungratified Asian women? Check.
  • Happy ending for no one except the white, all-American family? Check.

    All in all, you are better off re-renting Crash.


    No, I am not previewing Provoked just so I can include a picture of Aishwarya here. The premise of the film, which reflects a true story, is an interesting one. Rai plays Kiranjit Ahluwalia, a woman caught in a bad and abusive marriage, who finally kills her husband, unable to take the constant threats, rapes and abuses anymore. She is sentanced to life imprisonment.

    Her case was taken up by the pressure group Southall Black Sisters, and in 1992 the sentence was quashed. The landmark case helped create a new defence in court for women suffering from domestic violence.

    Should women have the right to kill their husbands just because they are in a bad marriage? This was in UK, where a woman can easily run to a shelter with her kids and the full support of law. It's not a patriarchical backwards Eastern country, where the man's word is the law. If you take the law in your own hands, should you not bear the consequences? I once wrote of someone I know who was trapped in a bad marriage. She didn't kill her husband.

    Admittedly, the outcome of public sympathy would have been much different if it was the wife abusing her husband, and the man ended up killing his wife. Why?

    Farah said...

    "Horny, perverted, exotic, naked, sexually ungratified Asian women"

    Can you imagine the google hits to your blog now? haha

    Sonia said...

    interesting. pickled politics have been talking about this here

    Aisha said...

    OK OK OK

    Now I must defend the move to some degree though I admit that at second watch I didnt rave quite as much as I did initially.

    I think that it was a very good storyline for Muslims. It showed how the media spins stories into making them seem like terrorism when tehy were just the acts of people with no such thoughts in their minds. I thought the spanish woman Amelia's storyline was also very well acted and very powerful about illegal immigration and impulsive choices. I liked how they showed "ugly" americans who want to look at different cultures but when confronted with their reality are not able to handle it.

    I HATED the Japanese girl storyline. I wish that did not exist. But I didnt think it was that bad...

    Anonymous said...

    K,haven't seen Babel yet,though now, am not so sure coz I liked Crash.:( sf

    Rawi said...

    "Admittedly, the outcome of public sympathy would have been much different if it was the wife abusing her husband, and the man ended up killing his wife. Why?"

    Male violence is historically institutionalized, even glorified. As simple as that.

    isheeta said...

    I was SO going to catch Babel. I mean, I was waiting on pins and needles and bated breath. Ask my brother! every day, I would ask him, Did Babel come out yet?
    Did Babel come out yet?
    Did Babel come out yet?
    And now, now, NOW i hear its a typical stereotypical movie with biased storylines. I loved Crash, and I thought this was the Brad Pitt Crash!
    Do you know what really pissed me off at the end? (in addition to the fact that your friend waited out the ENTIRE movie with his gf on the phone... and still loves her awwwwwwwwww)
    My brother needs to keep up with his movies - he said it wasnt out yet!
    Anyways. Now Im not sure if I will watch Babel.

    Provoked, though.... well, not to marginalize violence in marriage or anything..... but....well.....well, aish looks hot in the red sari.

    Anonymous said...

    Ran across your posting after just watching Babel myself, and sort of curious on your take...

    Arabs with guns shooting at white blonde women? Check.

    Would it make a difference if she was brunette?
    Foreign kids are uncouth and gross compared with the well manicured Caucasian kids? Check.

    There's a slight that their grooming has to do with the parents' circumstance rather than ethnicity. (Farmers vs. former DINK's)

    Beer drinking, border crashing, illegally working Mexicans? Check.

    There were going to a party, that happened to be in Mexico.

    Horny, perverted, exotic, naked, sexually ungratified Asian women? Check.

    ummm... I just saw a future trust-fundie who happened to be Japanese.

    Happy ending for no one except the white, all-American family? Check.

    Isn't that the point of the movie?
    To show the privileged vantage point of the upper-middle class American Family?

    I would actually applaud Hollywood for trying something that's not another romantic comedy set in either LA or NYC with alt/indie rock as the soundtrack.

    Maybe your points on valid in that college sort of way, but let's just say I would put US Farmer's dumping subsidized food into developing countries more real and acute then some inaccurate metaphoric symbolism from Hollywood.

    Thanks for the tip on provoked, should check that out.

    Shoaib Muhammad said...

    lol..nice review :)

    Squarecut said...

    hey hey hey! Mezba, the stereotypes you mentioned were exactly the POINT of the movie. They just showed that really, in most situations, it's the white folks that gain the most. It's their happy ending at the cost of many people. ANd that's what the movie pointed out. In order to revenge the white woman's wound, these turksih (were they?) family was basically destroyed, where in reality it was just an accident. But the media went crazy "terrorism" and all that junk. The movie was also showing how human beings are all connected one way or the other. And how we don't understand each other ... lack of understanding, communication and respect.
    BTW, Mexicans DO party like the way showed. It's nothing bad. It's just their culture. I lived in a huge mexican neighborhood for 4 years and saw it. :P They were the only people that can give me some Bangladeshi taste (i.e. naked children running down the street, I am not even kidding)

    Aisha said...

    Ok Anon said it better than I could! Thanks! :)

    Aisha said...

    and square cut too

    ABCDlaw said...

    Nice review of Babel, I haven't seen it yet, I really don't like violence, so I hold off on watching anything remotely violent until it comes on primetime tv with all the edits. But I will try and rent it to see what the deal is.

    About provoked and the questions you ask , well the story you linked to is truly inspiring and heart warming, there were many factors which made Sharmeen lucky-yes I realize I just said she was lucky, hear me out-Sharmeen had the love and support of her family, she was also protected by them. When everything was decided, she had a father (a man) who would speak on her behalf. She even had a family in a different country to go live with. but many battered immigrant wives are not so lucky. They have no one to protect them, no one to make sure they get their due rights in case they do decide to leave. and they may not know where to even go. Growing up here, we see the endless options available like women's shelters, underground organizations etc. But to a sheltered immigrant housewife, she may not even know such things exist, they are not talked about back home, or in desi circles here. Maybe in Kiran's mind, killing her husband was the only thing she could do to protect her life, I haven't seen Provoked yet, and excuse me if I'm don't know all the facts. Don't get me wrong, I don't advocate murder, even in forms of self defense. I think there are alternatives to murder if you feel threatened, but in these moments we aren't rational so everything needs to be looked at in context. There are many abusive men out there, and in varying degrees. Some are abusive until the woman leaves, some are so over the top that they will not stop until they have killed her for leaving. Getting to your question about a man killing his abusive wife, well the way society is set up, the man always has the option of divorce. Sometimes, there are children involved and this is where the situation gets tricky. Also once a man starts to see his wife is unsettled and starts thinking about leaving her, well his #1 goal should be to prevent any pregnancies because again, he has that option.I can see that men feel trapped by children and paying child support to a woman who may squander it, that is why it is so important to truly understand your spouse before having children with them, but murder is never justified. Case in point-The Lacy Peterson Muder. Ok so Scott felt trapped in his marriage and wasn't ready to be a father. Even with a divorce, he'd still have to pay child support, well he should have thought about that before Lacy got pregnant. Women may not always have access to birth control, but condoms are cheap and widely available. There is no excuse for men to feel so trapped that they commit murder. None.

    mezba said...

    wow, some interesting and different interpretations of the movie here.

    Farah: lol. I am trying to get the blog off google. I knew how to do it before I upgraded to Blogger 2. Any help would be appreciated. There is some meta tag or others regarding robots or something.

    Sonia: checked out that link. I think Aishwarya is not a good actor, too.

    Aisha: you watched it a second time? Oh boy. I too hated the Japanese story line, didn't understand the reason for its existance at all except to boost sales in Asia.

    Sf: Crash is one of the best movies to come out of Hollywood in recent times.

    Rawi: In Canada cases of sexual harrassment, or of sex regarding teachers and students are sometimes treated differently if the perpetrator is female.

    1. no it wouldn't but Hollywood usually has a thing for blondes.
    2. it's not just that - when the Mexican farmer twists off the bird's head the Mexican kids jump in in glee while the white kids convey a disgust.
    3. they didn't have to crash the border! That was kind of extreme. Although the following scene with the DHS and the nanny was rivetting.
    4. don't get you.
    5. Maybe.

    The theme of Babel was that how we all feel pain equally, regardless of how different we are (as per the tagline). Here, everyone's family was destroyed but the white family will be ok.

    I don't know - I thought the movie was patronizing. It tried too much in my opinion.

    Not to mention that it was looooong and boooooring.

    Shoaib: thanx.

    Squarecut: the thing is, I didn't like the insinuation that every Arab kid is growing up with a gun shooting at a bus load of passengers. Hardly any Arab kid I know is like that. What did the movie do, but confirm stereotypes?

    ABCDLaw: I would be interested in your take of Babel.

    As for Provoked, yes, what you say is fair. I just raised a question - I do agree that a woman has less options (especially in our culture) when faced with a bad marriage.

    What Kiranjit's case changed in UK law was the definition of self-defence, in a bad marriage, could sometimes be cumulative rather than a single, sole instance of violence.

    mezba said...

    Isheeta: Oh how did I leave YOU out? Sorry!

    Please don't go by my review. Watch it if you wanted to. I'd be interested in your take. The difference with Crash was that while Crash was always moving and had few slow parts, here there are lots. Some of the stuff is in a foreign language, so it's subtitles only.

    Babel is out on DVD.

    I would be interested to see my friend's monthly phone bill with a recap of the minutes.

    Ash sure looks hot. Especially in that red sari.

    Suroor said...

    I actually liked Babel :( But please don't hate me!

    mezba said...

    Suroor: Who can ever hate you?