Orientalism in New Girl (Spoiler Alert)

One of my favorite television shows of all time is New Girl that ended a few years ago. The characters are all endearingly weird in their own way and they get themselves into so many funny situations. New Girl has become a comfort show to me as mac and cheese is some people’s comfort food. That being said, because I love it so much, I feel that it is necessary that I criticize it and it’s Othering of Hinduism, displayed in the character, Cece.

About New Girl with Zooey Deschanel on FOX

New Girl is a sitcom about a girl named Jess (Zooey Deschanel) who gets cheated on by her ex-boyfriend and is forced to find a new apartment in LA. She ends up finding a listing on Craigslist for an apartment that needs a new roommate. She ends up moving into this apartment with three men: Schmidt (far left), Nick (second to the right), and Winston (furthest to the right), and shenanigans ensue.

Cece Parekh | New Girl Wiki | Fandom

Cece is portrayed as Jess’s hot, wild-child best friend. Because of this, Cece doesn’t feel like she belongs in her Indian/Hindu culture. To stick with this premise, it seems that the writers rely on Orientalism to accentuate her differences and make her drawn toward Schmidt, the self-proclaimed “douche bag.” This is most apparent in season two when Cece is suddenly fixated on getting married in order not to disappoint her family and to have children. Cece also does this in opposition to Schmidt, who is her ex-boyfriend at the time because she thinks that he is not ready to be serious with her, which is what she needs if she wants to have children soon. When Schmidt comes over to her apartment in an attempt to win her back, Cece does something that the writers portray as “drastic,” which is to call her mother and ask for an arranged marriage, something that is very common in Indian/Hindu culture.

It is further clear that the purpose of the arranged marriage premise is Othering rather than for the purpose of exploration or acceptance when Schmidt assumes that Cece doesn’t want to get married to the person that she is arranged with and attempts to ruin her wedding. This results in Cece confessing that this is not what she wants. This implies not only that the writers find arranged marriages somewhat barbaric and outdated, which is a fundamental element of Orientalism.

This is just one example of how Orientalism is used in the writing and character development of this show. In order for Cece to married to Schmidt, she has to disregard her mother’s disapproval. The show begs Cece to be estranged from her culture due to the fact that it doesn’t seem appropriate in the American culture that she lives in.

Orientalism as it is used in this show is a perfect example of how media can distort public perception of a culture and how people experience it.

Trauma in God of Small Things

Throughout the novel, God of Small Things explicitly says that Sophie Mol’s death is the catalyst for the destruction and subsequent dissemination of Rahel and Estha’s family. However, it is possible that the subtext of the novel suggests an underlying cause of this dissemination: trauma. Each and every character experiences unspoken trauma in their own way, manifesting itself into brittle family ties, the breaking point being Sophie Mol’s death. Although her death ultimately did lead to its dissemination, trauma was the underlying cause of the state of the family after Sophie Mol’s death, exhibited by how all of Rahel, Estha, and Ammu’s actions leading to Sophie Mol’s are predicated by each of their individual traumas.

Early on in the novel, Arundhati Roy explains that Ammu moves in with Mammachi and Pappachi because her alcoholic husband was abusive. At first, Pappachi has a hard time believing this because he was a wealthy Christian Englishman. Additionally, she was physically emotionally abused by her father who was also a wealthy businessman. Ammu began resenting her children because, “…their wide-eyed vulnerability and their willingness to love people who didn’t really love them exasperated her and sometimes made her want to hurt them…,”(42).  Her trauma from her past relationships is part of why she acts in the way that she does. She begins resenting wealthy Englishmen, which may have been part of why she fell in love with and had an affair with Velutha, who was a dark-skinned, lower class and Marxist man. This is significant because this leads to Mammachi and Baby Kochamma locking her in her room so that she would not see Velutha any longer, which leads to her lashing out at her children, saying that she did not love them and blames them for her situation. Her anger at this moment at them clearly is rooted in her resentment toward her children due to their naivety and connection to her ex-husband, despite them clearly having little to do with Mammachi and Baby Kochamma’s actions. This leads to them running away and rowing a boat down the river, the boat tipping over, and Sophie Mol eventually drowning. Sophie Mol becomes a symbol of how when trauma is unspoken, it can cause great distress to a person’s relationships. So much so in this case that it leads to Sophie Mol dying and Estha and Rahel having to move away, and their family to be destroyed as Ammu goes to “fend for herself”.

This is also exhibited by Estha’s trauma within the story. When Estha is at the movie theater to see The Sound of Music, he is sexually assaulted by the “Orangedrink Lemondrink Man.” Estha is traumatized by this and becomes afraid of the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man because he knows where he lives. This becomes a significant part of his decision to run away, besides Ammu telling him to go because he realizes that, “(1) Anything can happen to anyone. and (2) It’s best to be prepared,” (186). He realized the best preparation to protect himself from Orangedrink Lemondrink Man is to leave the place where Orangedrink Lemondrink knows he lives. It is his and Rahel’s combined efforts of running away, and heading to the History house. Sophie Mol tags along, and ends up drowning, causing her death. This decision making caused by Estha’s effort to avoid trauma, because of his past trauma.

Rahel’s trauma is somewhat smaller but still important to the accumulation of trauma that led to Sophie Mol’s death and the subsequent dissemination of her family. After seeing The Sound of Music Rahel makes a snide comment about how Ammu should marry the Orangedrink Lemondrink man, unaware of his encounter with Estha. To this, Ammu responds, “‘When you hurt people, they begin to love you less…’,” (107). This is traumatic to Rahel because it makes her believe that Ammu does not love her. She continues to think this when Sophie Mol arrives and is adored by everyone in her family. This thought process is the precursor to her, Estha and Sophie Mol’s decision to leave because of both her ideas that Ammu didn’t love her, and Estha’s ideas that lead them to leave and try to get to History House by boat.

The accumulation of trauma here is clearly the catalyst for the dissemination of Rahel and Estha’s family rather than merely Sophie Mol’s death.

 

Sex, Violence, and Their Disturbing Similarities

Arundhati Roy’s novel, The God of Small Things, while heralded as a part of the modern literary canon, has often been criticized for its sexual themes and plot points. On pages 97-100, Estha is sexually abused by an adult man. Pages 316-321 depict the sexual relationship between Ammu and Velutha side-by-side with Estha and Rahel’s sexual encounter, which has been called disturbing by some. What these critics fail to realize, though, is why Arundhati Roy includes so much sexual content. The Answer? To deliver a message. 

Nearly all the conflict in the novel – from Ammu sleeping with an Untouchable to so many of the story’s women being physically abused. From Baby Kochamma’s desire for Father Mulligan – to even Estha being molested, is all caused by people succumbing to the body’s inclinations toward sex, violence, and physical indulgences. The body, Roy claims, governs the mind, and consequently, it writes the ever-repeating story of History itself. 

A person’s body is their most powerful force of communication. It can make love, it can hurt others, it can drown and leave a family devastated. It is a catalyst for so many happenings in one’s life, plagued by desire and rage and it’s constant teetering between life and death. Roy’s explicitly sexual content, along with her emphasis on physical description (the depiction of Comrade Pillai’s body on pages 257-258 as disgusting and ugly directly mirrors his character), show the reader that the body and its needs comprise much of what drives the novel’s plot – what drives history itself, and the story of mankind. Hence, these sex scenes are justifiable: they are instances of a greater theme manifesting, of something bigger than sex taking place. They are moments in which lives and families are torn apart, all at the hands of the human body and its power.

Disney Movies

Orientalism is present in Disney movies like Aladdin. In these types of children movies you would not expect an underlying subject of things like Orientalism to be brought to your attention, but there are clear signs in each movie that Orientalism is in fact shown.

Orientalism can be defined in many ways, but when it comes in regards to these types of movies, it is when the East is represented in a stereotypical way.

In Aladdin‘s original opening song the lyrics caused many people to speak up because they stated that the town was going to hurt you if they didn’t like how you looked. This was seen as a huge stereotype and was later taken down because of the outrage it caused. “Orientals” are seen in this movie as aggressive, for example, Aladdin almost getting his arm cut off when he tries to steal. They also make the belly dancers in the movie have minimal clothing. The different types of clothes on characters make the subject cross a fine line of being offensive.

When movies like Aladdin falsely represent certain groups of people, it affects our society because kids grow up to believe the things they see on social media. This movie can teach kids incorrect information regarding people in the East, and can create a major divide in our society. Harsh words like these and false representations can be created to seem lighthearted to children because they do not know better than to listen to the happy music in the background and what the hero will do in the end.

If movies like Aladdin aren’t talked about, it will become our norm is listen to things like this and believe they are true.

 

Was Chacko Actually in Love?

One of the main themes in The God of Small Things is society and class. Margaret Kochamma plays a big role in this since she is English and that makes her of high social class. Chacko met Margaret Kochamma during his time at Oxford and during a flashback the narrator states, “He had no pressing reasons to stay in touch with his parents. The Rhodes Scholarship was generous. He needed no money. He was deeply in love with his love for Margaret Kochamma and had no room in his heart for anyone else”(234). The text says that Chacko was deeply in love with his love for Margaret Kochamma so does this mean the he did not actually love her?

I think that this text shows how caught up in class Chacko became with Margaret Kochamma which forced him to fall in love with her. He fell in love with her because she was a white British woman and that is what society told him to value. While he may have loved her I think that it is more likely that he fell in love with her status and the status that he would receive if he married her. The Kochamma family is largely composed of Anglophiles which is why Sophie Mol’s arrival is so important. They are treated like royalty and the whole family goes out of their way so that they will think highly of them.

I do not think that Chacko truly loved Margaret and think that he was in love with her status. If Chacko truly loved Margaret he probably would have tried harder to keep their marriage alive instead of spiraling and giving up. If Chacko loved her then Margaret probably would have loved him back and would not have fallen in love with Joe. Chacko was in love, but he was in love with status instead of Margaret.

Orientalism in Indiana Jones

The Western construct of Orientalism has always been a big part of the American film industry, although the way that the Asian culture is represented is almost never accurate. Hollywood has incorporated Orientalism in many of the adventure films, including the one and only Indiana Jones. In Steven Spielberg’s first three Indiana Jones movies, Indiana’s adventures take him all around the Middle East and India. He frequently encounters a stereotypical, fantasy version of the Asian culture, where Indiana’s character is meant to represent someone that the audience can relate to and root for against the differences he comes in contact with. 

In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, there is an absurd amount of the Western/Eastern binary. At the dinner scene, the arrangement of absurd food is meant to shock the audience, making them view the Indian culture as barbarians who consume the most inedible meals. The white characters who show disgust once again represent the audience and their disgust. 

These movies all have the same thing in common, Indiana Jones becoming a hero after defeating all of the villains and taking power over Asian culture.

Baby Kochamma’s role in The God of Small Things

Baby Kochamma is an essential character to understanding the impact of social status and class on the characters in the novel, The God of Small Things. Baby Kochamma has always strived to belong in the highest social class possible. Her image is extremely important to her which is why she needed to have Velutha taken out of her life when she found out about Ammu’s affair with him. Her pure Syrian Christian niece was not allowed to have an affair with an untouchable because it would hurt the family’s reputation and look negatively upon her.

Baby Kochamma is similar to a lot of older people in America today. She is unwilling to change with the times even though the caste system was abolished about 15 years beforehand. However unlike in our world today some Americans believe that they are superior to other races but the civil rights act was passed 60 years ago. Just like Baby Kochamma’s treatment towards Velutha they try to put themselves above others and continue to oppress humans because of the color of their skin which puts them in a lower class. The book teaches the importance of social classes and even when abolished the prejudices held against people that were once considered lower class.

Baby Kochamma believes that she is superior to everyone else because of her superiority complex that being a Syrian Christian gives her. Roy portrays her as a negative and unlikeable character since she possesses old fashioned ideology that needs to be abolished.