GWCTD and the Reluctant Fundamentalist Essay - Brain

August 25, 2017 | Author: Jeffrey Xie | Category: Prejudices, Racism, Ethnicity, Race & Gender, Prejudice And Discrimination, Society
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GWCTD and the Reluctant Fundamentalist Essay 2014 Q: Discovering connections through texts enhances our understanding of how context influence values. Exploring connections between texts can strengthen the audience’s understanding of how societal values and attitudes are shaped by context because the composers’ own perspectives of their society are invariably reflected in their texts. Kramer’s film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) explores the difficulties faced by an interracial couple to overcome the racial prejudices of 1960’s San Francisco and to gain acceptance for their relationship. Similarly, Mohsin Hamid’s novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) reveals the marginalisation and racial discrimination experienced by Pakistani protagonist Changez following the 9-11 attacks. Both composers explore the prejudices experienced by an outsider in society and their responses to the conflict between the traditional and progressive values and attitudes of their contexts. To be accepted by society, an individual must overcome the prejudices and negative stereotypes that influence they way they are viewed. Kramer’s film challenges the hypocrisy of White Americans in his post Civil Rights Movement society, who despite proclaiming support for black equality, were reluctant to accommodate for African Americans when it affected them personally. A close up shot of Mrs Drayton’s dismayed expression as Joanna reveals that she is in love with John, an African American immediately establishes Mrs Drayton’s prejudiced stance. This can be likened to Mr Drayton’s reaction when he is confronted by situation – his scruffy tie and his ruffled attire reflecting his distressed state when

his liberal values are tested. However, a close up of Matt’s surprised expression when he exclaims “I can certainly understand why he didn’t have much to say about himself. Who the hell would believe him” shows the damaging 1960’s perception of African Americans as lazy and pleasure loving challenged by John’s impressive achievements revealed through the phone. Dr Prentice’s eloquent speech, “if by marrying me, she damaged her relationship with either of you, the pain of it would be too me”, reinforces his respectful and considerate nature, thus further undermining the Drayton’s initial assumptions of him. Christina’s growing approval of Dr Prentice, despite his “pigmentation problem” is demonstrated by a close up of her smiling as she watches them laughing and having a pleasant conversation. The fade-in of the recurring musical soundtrack, “The Glory of Love” symbolises the triumph of love over prejudice and adversity, thus demonstrating that the Drayton’s initially prejudiced beliefs have changed. Kramer advocates the breaking of damaging racial stereotypes that marginalise an individual from their society.

In contrast, Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist criticises how individuals may be marginalised and alienated by discriminatory racial prejudices arising from unsubstantiated stereotypes. The 9-11 attacks on the US created fear and distrust of Middle Easterners such as Changez and lead to discriminatory responses as Americans began to view them under the suspicion of the “terrorist” stereotype. Evident in Changez’s initial reflections “Princeton inspired in me the feeling that my life was a

film in which I was the star and everything was possible”, he is enamoured by the promise of wealth and power and of the opportunities America has given him to progress up the social ladder. His successful integration into American society is further established by sense of familiarity and belonging conveyed by the positive connotations of “home” in “I had a peculiar feeling; I felt at home”. However, the veneer of acceptance that he feels is immediately shattered after the 9/11 attacks, which stirred racist undercurrents and burgeoning “terrorist” stereotypes that not unlike the ones faced by John in 1960’s San Francisco. Changez’s incident with the jeepney driver in Manila “I glanced see the driver of the jeepney returning my gaze. There was an undisguised hostility in his expression” shows the changing attitudes towards Middle Easterners immediately after the attacks which lead to his unjustified discrimination and marginalisation. Whereas John is able to overcome the damaging African American stereotypes, Changez is increasingly confronted by them as they develop. Changez’s further humiliation at the airport where he was “escorted by armed guards into a room where I was made to strip down to my boxer shorts”, shows his continual social degrading and increasing alienation from society as the fear and distrust of Muslims heightened after 9/11. By refusing to “shave his two week old beard”, Changez rejects the social expectations of him, and further distances himself from American society. Hence, Hamid shows how experiencing prejudices can shape an individual’s sense of belonging and identity in that society.

Kramer offers insight into how individuals can become more open-minded by adopting progressive, liberal values over traditional beliefs and attitudes. GWCTD was set in San Francisco where the widespread counterculture of the 1960’s created an intergenerational divide due to the ideological clash between the values and attitudes of the conservative, white supremacist older generation and the more liberal, open-mindedness youths. Tillie, the Drayton’s black maid is the embodiment of the traditional American perspective held by the older generation at the time. This outlook is established by her blunt exclamation, “I don’t care to see a member of my race getting above themself”, which demonstrates her stern disapproval of Dr Prentice for defying social expectations by pursuing a white woman despite his inferior status in society. Even in the Black community there were entrenched perceptions about themselves. John’s line “You see yourself as a coloured man…I see myself as a man”, along with the tender music highlights his desire to maintain a dignified perception of himself as equals with a white person. Further intergenerational conflict between Dr Prentice and his father is shown through a cut from a high angle shot to a level shot, with John rising from his submissive position in the chair. Indeed, the younger generations were “rising up” and advocating for change, disillusioned with the older generations’ outmoded ways of thinking. This is exemplified by the angry gestures and facial expression captured by the medium shot as John says “You and your whole lousy generation believe the way it was for you is the way it’s got to be”. Clearly, readers can appreciate the progression of liberal and accepting attitudes resulting from the uprise of

new, liberal ways of thinking over the traditional beliefs of 1960’s American society.

Mohsin Hamid criticises how overbearing American patriotism can lead to an arrogance and narrow-mindedness that can marginalise individuals that do not conform to their values. Hamid challenges the innate sense of superiority many Americans had following the War on Terror, epitomised by George Bush’s unfortunate formulation: “if you are not with us, you are against us”. These attitudes are established by Erica’s father’s dismissive and insensitive comment, “Economy’s falling apart though, no? Corruption, dictatorship…” reflecting how Americans impose their capitalist values upon others, and make uninformed judgement based upon their skewed perceptions. Changez’s mistreatment when he is forced to sit next to “tattooed man in handcuffs” during inspection when returning from Manila, shows him irritated at the unjust discrimination he faces and the metaphoric stripping of his status in America especially considering his high social standing in Pakistan. As a result of refusing to shave his beard, Changez “was subject to verbal abuse from complete strangers”, further emphasizing the baseless abuse he faces merely by not conforming to the American perceptions of how he should behave and what he should look like. America’s thirst for “unquestioned dominance” is further reinforced by Changez’s bitter reflection “you retreated into the myths of your own difference, assumptions of your superiority”, which exposes the need for Americans to marginalise minority voices and cultures in order to feel superior and dominant. Ultimately, the complete

transformation of Changez’ perceptions towards America is evident in the metaphor, “I was a modern day janissary, a servant of the American empire at a time in which it was invading a country with a kinship to mine”, where he reflects on his mistreatment by American society and finally cuts his ties with America, as he cannot accept being abused by a society which resolves conflict through war rather than by understanding the perspectives of other’s. In “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, Mohsin Hamid advocates the transcendence rather than establishment of cultural boundaries in order to resolve conflict between different values and attitudes. Conclusion: BLAH

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