Films and the Second-Generations

In the article “Planet Bollywood,” Jigna Desai argues how Bollywood films are becoming increasingly popular with the second-generation South Asian Americans because the contents of these films have changed in order to appeal to the diasporic communities, who are recognize as a significant part of India’s political economy. She explains how the West was often depicted as a “contaminating and corrupting place” and NRI’s (nonresident Indians) are often portrayed as “immoral and corrupt” since they have “lost their connections to India, its ‘traditions,’ and their families by virtue of their presence in the decadent West” (58) However, recent trends have shown that this is no longer the case and the West is now “just another location inhabited by the Indian nation” (Desai 59).  Although Desai is just referring to India and Indian films, the points she made can also be related to other Asian cultures.

I think that one of the main reasons why these films were unpopular with the second generation Asian-Americans is simply because it was difficult for us to relate to them. Westernized Asians are antagonized in these films; thus, these films hold no appeal to the second-generation audience. However, these trends have changed; rather than further alienating the second generations, the film industries are now targeting the second-generations and the westernized Asians are now portrayed in these films as somewhat more refined and educated compared to the natives. With these changes to the films’ content, the films become more appealing to the second-generations.

The reason why the diasporic communities consume these films is often attributed to nostalgia. However, with the second-generation Asians, the reason is not nostalgia since most have not even set foot in their home county and even if they have, the amount of time that was spent there is minimal compared to the amount of time we spend in the US. Instead, the main reason for us to consume these films is curiosity. By watching these films, we are able to learn more about our heritage and establish a better connection with it.  

4 thoughts on “Films and the Second-Generations

  1. I found it really eye-opening to see Bend it like Beckham listed as a diasporic film. When I saw it, I thought it was just another film created for the western audience—albeit one that was much more racially aware than other Hollywood films of the time. I thought that Beckham was a film indicative of a paradigm shift in Hollywood to a more racially accepting environment for films to be developed in. I see now that this is not exactly the case, and even Beckham’s success can be attributed to a bit of whitewashing in part by its creators. Check out the home video box art linked below. Based on this alone, who would you have thought was the main character?

  2. As you have mentioned, a main reason for the growth in interest in Bollywood films is because they can teach about that culture more so than they films were able to do. This is not only due to the ability to exercise its liberty, but changing times show technology has grown and ignorance of other countries has been lifted for the most part.

    I agree that there used to be a disconnect within second generation South Asian Americans, which is why many films were not popular. Bollywood films, however, were not made directly for that particular audience as well. Its focus were more directed to the current events and problems within its own country or community, which made it more difficult to relate with. But its increase in popularity was due to the increasing curiosity for their homeland to minimize the diaspora. It did not help the second and third generations’ appeal to such film because they were brought up seeing the Americans as the protagonists. But as they learn the messages and its intent, they are able to learn their heritage and struggles and how they perceive others and shed new light, which is unknowing by us.

  3. I see the shift in content in not only Western films, but also Asian American produced films and other genres of entertainment. The historical content of the older films appealed to the first wave of Asian immigrants who found it relatable. Many of them were about retaining culture, the struggles of immigration, realities in America, while the ones that entertainment White audiences were racist and alienating. In contrast, the future generations of Asian Americans found it difficult to relate to because they were developing their own identity and “hybrid” culture. Although many second generation Asian Americans wish to please their parents by retaining their culture, it is also very necessary for them to find a way to fit in America.
    The gap between the first generation and second generation is apparent in the media produced by and for the generation. Instead of creating a “history story” in which the author describes a timeline of events, struggles, and cultural burdens because of racist laws, artists have moved on to create more relatable stories. The departure from historical stories to stories concerned with relationships, jobs, sports (anything else that is not specifically cultural) allows the second generation media to focus more on their separate identity. Thus, the characters in these films, movies, novels, or TV shows have more qualities similar to their Caucasian counterparts.

  4. I like your recognition of Desai’s analysis could be also represented in the light of other Asian cultures as well. I recently read an article on Asian American Cinema, specifically Vietnamese American, where nationhood is much integrated in the ways of film production in Asia. Vietnamese cinemas during the last past half century have changed with the notion of Vietnam to emerge again as a nation. This is evident of Desai’s arguments on filmic relation with second generations. The subject of nationally is prominent in Asian American filmmaking. However, second generation Asian Americans associate the term “nationality” different from the first generation. Films produced relative to their nation often filmically imagine themselves in relation to their own history.

    However, the messed up part about all this is how they are misrepresented here in the US. Like many other countries for example, Vietnam is portrayed in America cinema, as a country of war with Vietnamese prostitutes and whores as being the national – a representation from the West point of view. Not cool. So much of the past is emphasized with subjects such as war. We need to switch this focus to the present and present a more realistic panel on postcolonial past (at least) or transnational aspects.

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