Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Americans, All they Do is Sue

Similar to the books that we have read over the course of the semester, “Mississippi Masala” explores the idea of the struggle of minorities in America in finding their own identity. Similar to Suzy from The Interpreter, and Mr. and Mrs. Das from The Interpreter of Maladies, Mina also struggles with understanding where she fits in America. Born in Uganda but with an Indian Heritage and living in the United States since she was much younger, it is apparent throughout the movie that she undergoes difficulty identifying with who she is and where she really comes from.
“Being colored is all the same as long as you’re not white” (Mississippi Masala). This movie raises two conflicting ideas of stereotypes in America. The first is that when it comes down to it, it’s the minority races against Caucasians. At one point in the movie the Indian Man tells Dimitri and Tyrone that they all have to stick together because they’re brothers. Although they come from different heritages, they share the commonality that they are both not white, making them, in this context, the same.
At another point, Mina expressing her dislike for the stereotypes that many Caucasians have of the Indians when they come to stay at their Motel. Through the use of several different stereotypical situations, the film gives us an opportunity to see that despite the distaste for stereotypes about their own race, minorities will still rely on stereotypes of other minorities. In the same scene which I discussed before, the Indian man also makes small talk with the two men about how black people are good at sports, a clear stereotype that separates both of the minorities, regardless of the fact that they are the same because they’re not white.
Furthermore, in this scene the Indian man also approaches Dimitri about not suing Mina for hitting his van. Because Dimitri seems to be more American than the Indian man, the Indian man shows concern for the situation, based off of the stereotype that all Americans do is sue other people. Just this one scene illustrates much of the ideals of stereotypes in America. On one hand some people may strongly believe that minorities have a lot in common, even though they don’t originate from the same place. But on the other hand, these same minorities hold stereotypes of each other.
What I found most humorous about the film itself was the way in which it used stereotypes as a device conveys the difficulties of racial identity in America. By using stereotypes the movie identifies with its audience by making it humorous, but at the same time illustrates the point that we can never escape the ignorance that comes with stereotypes.
Throughout what we have seen so far, we have been able to recognize these stereotypes. The film does a great job of using stereotypes that are so ridiculous that they can be found as humorous to its viewers. Some of these include, the children running around at the wedding in cowboy and Indian costumes to illustrate America and the old west, the African American men rapping on the corner of a street, and the way in which Tyrone acts with Mina. My favorite moment is the one in which the two Caucasian men in a motel make a comment about how they should send the Indians back to a reservation, and how the other man has to correct him telling him that “they’re not that kind of Indian” (Mississippi Masala). This moment was just one in which it was painfully humorous because you realize that there are some people out there that make this mistake.
Through its use of humor, “Mississippi Masala” is able to point out to its viewers, the ridiculousness of the use of stereotypes to understand people of other races.


Max said...

i agree that the stereotyping is what drives the plot; however, i got the feeling that the african-americans were patronizing the indian man who they knew was worried that they were going to sue him. that scene made me think that while they agreed verbally that "colored is all the same as long as you're not white", in actuality the Dimitri and his friend understood that their experiences, when contrasted to the indians', were not the same. what do you think?

Q said...

Max, I see the point you made about Dimitri and Tyrone possibly patronizing the Indian man about his comment because they realize their differences, but I still think that Mari’s point is relevant about the situation. I observed the situation as a revelation for the African-American men that they may not have realized before, whether they were poking fun at it or not. Realistically, in Mississippi, Indians may have been the first “other” minority that the African-Americans were ever able to observe living among white people. Dimitri and Tyrone did understand that their experiences were different than Indians, but at the same time it seemed as though they connected as minorities.