“Blinded by the light” shows the honest truth of being Pakistani

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Mishal Charania , Online editor-in-chief

Growing up as a Pakistani-American, there were some representations of South-East Asian characters in the general media, but none of them were truly accurate of what being a South-East Asian American was like. Blinded By The Light, a movie directed by Gurinder Chandha, follows a British-Pakistani teen named Javed whose life was changed when he discovered the music of Bruce Springsteen. The movie is based on the experiences of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor. Javed, an avid music listener and aspiring journalist, lives in Luton, England. Javed, his parents and his two older sisters struggle to make money due to racial intolerance as well as economic tension.
Throughout the movie, Javed continuously battles between his place as an immigrant and his place in his family. Malik, Javed’s classmate, introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen. Javed heavily relates to Bruce Springsteen’s expressive and honest lyrics about the hardships of life, which encourages Javed to start living by the lyrics. Javed becomes more courageous through talking back to bullies and standing up for himself in ways that he wouldn’t have before. However, his hard working immigrant parents disagree with his new lifestyle.
His parents have constantly been working back-breaking jobs. Javed’s mother sews for hours every day while his father works at a factory. Javed’s parents want him to be a good Muslim and excellent student while Javed just wants to write poetry and listen to music. When economic tensions in England continue to worsen and Javed’s father loses his job, the family struggles even more.
As an American-Pakistani teen, looking how Javed’s family acted was incredibly on par. His mother was constantly working and doing housework, his father works a job where he is underpaid and doesn’t do much housework. Javed’s sisters focus on school and helping support the family and his oldest sister is arranged to be married. While these character profiles seem sexist, this is the way that a Pakistani household functions due to the immense gender roles set up in Pakistani culture. Javed and I are both considered the catalysts of change because we grew up surrounded by less of our own culture and more of a culture which is the polar opposite of a traditional Pakistani experience. His parents don’t like him hanging out with the other gender, they don’t let him stay out at all hours, and they believe that being good at school is the only way to succeed in life. While my parents have become more considerate and have adopted typical American cultures, they still have deep Pakistani roots that clash with my Americanism.
Another reason why I applaud this movie is due to the attention to the little details. Javed’s family does speak in Urdu at home, the accuracy of Javed’s sister’s wedding pertaining to the decor and outfits are truly traditional, and overall how they held themselves was so similar to my own Pakistani family. Javed loved Bruce Springsteen to the point where he went against what his parents thought was best to him. However, this experience shaped his family and they became much more accepting of how he wanted to live. The more my brother and I became American, the more my parents became accepting and while I believe that my parents are amazing, I also appreciate how they work to accept my journey as a Pakistani-American teen.
While the movie is a bit cheesy to me because it shows this infatuation with Bruce Springsteen which I don’t personally share, it was also very honest. While I haven’t experienced immense racism, Javed and his family deal with verbal and physical violence. Watching this movie with my friends, most of whom weren’t South-East Asian, it was interesting to see their reactions because seeing the hatred that Javed felt was eye opening to them. At one point in the movie someone offered Javed alcohol and being a traditional muslim who doesn’t drink alcohol, he declined. When the person who offered said something along the lines of “oh it’s okay if you drink, we won’t tell,” my friend next to me literally said “what is wrong with them.” Including intense scenes where people question Javed’s Muslim or Pakistani identity made the movie better because it shows the reality of being a minority in what can sometimes be an unwelcoming country.
Truth be told, the movie highlights things that aren’t acceptable in some situations, but do happen. However, I think that it is important to tell the truth about different cultures because that’s how we learn to accept. Blinded By The Light created a very accurate representation of an immigrant family from Pakistan, as well as South-East Asia, as well as one of the most accurate Pakistani characters I have ever seen in non-Asian media.