Beauty Hides Discrimination

by bwhit7 on November 18, 2013 - 11:47pm

              Race, sexuality and class play a role in many different aspects of life all over the world. These can both be factors of discrimination, or can boost one’s social standings. It’s not easy to cross over borders, but it does happen as shown in “MY Beautiful Laundrette” (Stephen Frears 1985).

The protagonist Omar, a young Pakistan boy, immigrated to England and lives in a small apartment with his father. Omar’s uncle also lives in England, but is well off. He owns a lot of different small businesses with a business partner. Over the course of the film, Omar’s uncle gives him a chance to make some money and do something with his life, so he allows him to manage one of his Laundromats. Omar employs a boy that he knew from high school, Johnny. Johnny and Omar become lovers, secret lovers, but lovers all the same. After high school Johnny and Omar didn’t talk for a great deal of time because Omar’s dad didn’t want him around. Johnny, you see, had become a part of a white supremacist gang and they wanted to get all of the Pakistani immigrants out of England because they were taking their jobs.  Omar and Johnny do a great job at fixing up the Laundrette and they are getting a lot of business. They turned a dumpy old place that was barely making money into a successful business. After opening Omar and Johnny faced many problems with Omar’s family and Johnny’s “family” (the gang he was a part of).

There was a problem with race that was very prevalent in the film, and also helped show how different races, and different cultures also have different norms. Johnny was a white boy who hung out with a bunch of thugs. Omar was a Pakistani boy who spent most of his time either taking care of his father or with his uncle. In the film it is shown that these Pakistani people were very family oriented. Even though it was important that the women stayed home and did house chores, too care of children and cooked. The film showed that women in this culture also did not have the right to say their opinions, and didn’t get to criticize their husbands for wrong doing (e.g.  Having an affair). The white people in this movie were less worried about family, or even other people for that matter. They were mostly worried about money, or having a job. Also, the white people in the movie (gang members) were extremely ethnocentric and racist, and wanted nothing to do with the Pakistani people being in their country. One of Johnny ex-gang members asked him “Why are you working for these people? Pakis.” To which he replied “It’s work, that’s why.” This is a prime example of the racism, and the need for money.

Just as race and class discrimination is still part of everyday life, so is discrimination based on sexual orientation. In this movie Johnny and Omar pursue a sexual relationship but both parties must hide it from their perspective “families.” During this time period in England homosexuality was becoming more widely accepted, and the couple would have been accepted more in public. They still had to hide it form their loved ones. Omar had to hide it because it went against tradition. He was supposed to marry his cousin Tania, so being in this relationship went against tradition because it went against the arranged marriage and went against the idea of being heterosexual as a normality. Johnny had to hide it because they were different races. It didn’t really have anything to do with the homosexual aspect, it was more that he was white, and Omar wasn’t.

Class in this film is interesting, because when we think of immigrants, we think of those struggling to get by, and working extremely hard for very little. Not in “My beautiful Laundrette” though, these people (not including Omar’s father) were actually quite wealthy and did very well for themselves. Yes, they did do some illegal things on top of the many businesses they owned for extra money, but they were still pretty wealthy. On the other hand the whites in this film were incredibly poor, and struggled to get by. When Omar found Johnny to ask him for help, he was basically homeless and never knew where his next meal was coming from, or when it would come. The expected roles of class were switched in this film and it really gave a different perspective.

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