Homophobic AND Racist?

by jonea1 on November 18, 2013 - 11:16pm

My Beautiful Laundrette is a film that was written by Hanif Kureishi. The film This movie tackles many societal issues such as homosexuality and racism. The movie is set in London, England, in the 1980’s during Margaret Thatcher’s run as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. This is very relevant to the story mainly because of the main character, Omar, are Pakistani. This story taking place during The 1980’s, or The Cold War, helps us to see the relation between Great Britain and Pakistan during this time period. While Margaret Thatcher was aligned with the United States, who in turn was aligned with Pakistan during the Cold War, Omar’s father, Hussein, a Pakistani journalist, hated Britain and its international affairs. His hatred towards the world, and abuse of alcohol has forced him into a state where Omar must take care of him. In contrast to him, Omar’s uncle Nasser is a successful entrepreneur and an active member of the London-Pakistani community.

The film also focuses on Omar and Johnny’s relationship. With the two being homosexual, the film shows just how “tolerant” their society is of it. Both Johnny and Omar are violating their ethnic morals by being homosexual, Johnny with his English background, and Omar with his Pakistani. The two must keep it a secret, that is, until Johnny tells Tania of their relationship. This issue raises the question of whether or not society’s view of homosexuality has changed. In the most part, not that much. While there are many supporters of homosexuality, and many events to raise tolerance, the mass idea of homosexuality is unnatural, a sin, and often, a joke.  

Along with racism and homosexuality, gender roles are also a main theme of this film. It is seen most prominent in the characters of Rachel and Tania. Rachel, as Nasser’s mistress wants to be able to ascend to a higher social status, but cannot because of her being a female. The same goes for Tania. This film focuses on the Islamic belief and view towards women. In the film, Tania, as well as many other females must be absent from a room once Nasser has male guest over. Tania is expected to conform with the standards of a culture to which she has never truly belonged. Rachel also reminds Tania that she lives in a society where women are finally being presented with opportunities equal to those enjoyed by their male counterparts. However, Tania realizes that her own ethnicity will forever tie her to her family’s cultural origins, and in turn, the gender politics associated with that culture. It is perhaps this realisation that does drive Tania to leave. It may be an effort to break from the family unit that has allowed her to strive for nothing more than cultural hybridity.

The story follows Omar and his reunion and eventual romance with his old friend Johnny. The two become the caretakers and business managers of a launderette originally owned by Omar's uncle Nasser. Omar is the main focus of the story, however, we do see a story involving Johnny, Nasser, and Tania, Nasser’s daughter. We see Johnny’s struggle with wanting to be with Omar, Nasser’s problems with his wife and mistress Rachel, and Tania’s wanting of a relationship. We do not get much of a story from Hussein, Omar’s father, and Nasser’s wife. The only noticeable scene with her is during her argument with Rachel, and how she put a curse on her.

My Beautiful Laundrette focuses on many issues that are still debated today, racism, homosexuality, and gender roles. While the movie may have been both dramatic and humorous, its concerns were not. As a low-budget film, it made a large impact on society, asking such questions about tolerance. It seems to accurately portray the world’s view on these issues, not just Britain’s, which could be a reason why there was a large international audience. My Beautiful Laundrette was a successful, entertaining movie in my opinion. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to extend their cultural knowledge.


Insdorf, A. "MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE' PROBES THE LIFE OF LONDON'S PAKISTANIS." (March 1986) International New York Times. The New York Times Company,


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