A Take On Orientalism

Before watching and reading about orientalism, I had no idea what it was. When watching movies and reading books, I had never once thought about the true accuracy of what I was taking in and the perspective in which it was written or observed. Looking back, I can see examples of orientalism in not only many pieces of literature, but even in my own view of things. Growing up, Im sure a lot of kids watched movies like Aladdin, Mulan, and even Doctor Strange. All three pieces portrayed the middle east and eastern cultures in a way that is not accurate. In these movies and other films and literature, these cultures and their people are portrayed as mysterious, magical, tropical, and many other words that make the cultures seem like some kind of show we are only a small part of or meant to view from a distance, for our entertainment. These places, the people, and their cultures are viewed as otherworldly and totally separate from us. The middle east and eastern cultures have been grouped into one bubble of mystery, fantasy, magic, and separate from us. The many cultures, religions, and practices are usually not distinctly grouped to one country or culture and there are blurry lines separating the practices/religions that belong to certain people and cultures. Movies follow a cliche view of the middle-east/eastern areas that causes many parts of those countries and their cultures to be overlooked and misunderstood. As I started to understand how much orientalism has even taken over my own views, I have realized how easy it is to be blinded by what is true and real due to what you are told and what you watch and read. It is so easy to fall into a certain type of thinking and it is so easy to look at other places through one lens instead of taking the opportunity to explore and research the world and the many cultures and people who inhabit it.

Orientalism vs. Classism in The God of Small Things

In Amurhatti Roy’s, The God of Small Things, it is interesting to note how different people are judged in different ways. While there is blatant discrimination and oppression in the Caste System, there are less regulated prejudices in orientalism.

The classism seen in The God of Small Things mostly fits within the Caste System, but where it does not is where it is shown at its strongest. Through the Ipe family, we see what it’s like to be at the top of the chain. We see how Baby Kochamma treats others that are not of their class, such as Velutha, and the magnitudes she goes to in order to preserve the family name. The most obvious being framing Velutha, whose death shows that Boaby Kochamma will go to any length for the family’s position. Usually, as with Sophie Mol, the British are seen as high up in the caste system, just because of the color of their skin. Interestingly enough, this does not matter to Baby Kochamma. When Tacko told his family he was marrying Margaret Kochamma, Baby Kochamma did not approve, despite her future daughter in-law’s nationality. To Baby Kochamma, money is what really sets people apart.

In comparison, it is less surprising that Margaret Kochamma’s family also didn’t approve of her and Chako’s marriage. Margaret Kochamma’s family is afraid of their daughter marrying an Indian Man because they have been tamed by orientalism. Through orientalism, the protrayal of the East in Western media and entertainment, Margaret’s family considers India an “other”. They are scared of their daughter going to a place that they aren’t comfortable with, and losing the “civility” that they associate with the West. They don’t truly understand what a place like India is really like, and the death of Sophie Mol must have only intensified their prejudice.

Casual Conversation

In the United States, there has been a pattern in popular culture of misrepresenting Eastern cultures. The classic examples are the cannibals in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and the representations of people in Mulan and Aladdin. While outside the scope of Eastern cultures, there is also the film trope of the dry, barren, gang-ridden Mexican desert. The proper term for this is Orientalism, and I think it affects people to such a degree because they are exposed to Americanizations of those cultures at a young age, which they then take to adulthood. They are then rarely, if ever, exposed to the actual cultures. The solution to this? Casual conversation.

The world lost it for the past two years, but I believe the best way to interact with someone else is face to face. When two people are standing in front of each other, there is no computer-generated filter, no screen, and no director to tell them what to say. There are no assumptions, because there is another person to explain things. There is no shield of anonymity to hide behind, because that other person is 5 feet away from you and not halfway across the globe connected to you via social media. All that is left is two people, their looks, gestures, actions, thoughts, feelings, and voices. When these two people are in front of each other, orientalist ideals fall away completely, because they are founded on obviously false assumptions about the other person standing in front of you.

Casual conversation is something every American should try, at least a few times per year. Everybody should find someone different from them, as different as possible, and just talk to them. It doesn’t have to be about anything specific, but everybody should walk away having learned something.

TGSM – The Musical

A Rachel Czuba Theatricals Production

Full Length Musical. Family Drama, Forbidden Love Story, Political Drama

The God of Small Things: The Musical

Music by:Rachel Czuba
Lyrics by:Arundhati Roy
Stage Adaptation by:Rachel Czuba
Based on the Original Novel by:Arundhati Roy

Inside the Playbill


Synopsis

The God of Small Things is a modern musical adaptation of the haunting work of art produced by Arundhati Roy. The story takes place in multiple time zones, interpreted through lighting cues and age changes of the characters by switching them out with younger actors. This musical centers around the generational and familial trauma of the past, and how politics affects the world around us.

  • Setting: Ayemenem (1969 + 1993)
  • Dancing: Light (no dancing experience necessary)
  • Genre of Music: Jazz with hints of Bollywood
  • Cast Size: Small (10 people at most as ensemble)
  • Casting Notes: Adult and child versions of Estha and Rahel
  • Ideal For: College or adult productions, may need a modified version for High School production

Themes

The Play: 

  • “Before [Velutha] emerged through the trees and stepped into the driveway, Rahel saw him and slipped out of the Play and went to him. Ammu saw her go. Offstage, she watched them perform their elaborate Official Greeting” (166). 
  • ‘“Must we behave like some damn godforsaken tribe that’s just been discovered?” Ammu asked. “Oh dear,” Margaret Kochamma said. In the angry quietness of the Play (the Blue Army in the greenheat still watching), Ammu walked back to the Plymouth, took out her suitcase, slammed the door, and walked away to her room, her shoulders shining. Leaving everybody to wonder where she had learned her effrontery from” (171).

The Play is how Rahel sees the interaction between her family and the white newcomers. They’re acting a certain way to impress them, and both Rahel and Ammu recognize and express their frustration with this.

Orientalism:

The exoticization of Ammu and the twins’ family when interacting with Margaret Kochamma and Sophie Mol (two white people), represents Orientalism. “Orient” means East, from where the sun rises, in relation to the Western perspective. This shows the power dynamic and the “ideal Other”; EUROPE / orient (POWERFUL / powerless). 

  • “They were a family of Anglophiles. Pointed in the wrong direction, trapped outside their own history and unable to retrace their steps because their footprints had been swept away” (51). 

Anglophiles are lovers of British culture, and, in this case, Estha and Rahel’s family despise themselves because of this. Chacko and Ammu’s father, Pappachi, had a blind devotion to the English. Edward Said defines Orientalism as “a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.” Connecting these two instances; the Play and the family’s title of being Anglophiles, Orientalism presents itself as the Westerner’s encouragement of the Easterners to judge themselves in terms of Western criteria. 


Characters

Main Characters
Estha – Estha is Rahel’s older twin brother by 18 minutes. He’s a serious, intelligent, and nervous kid who wears “beige and pointy shoes” and has an “Elvis puff”. 
– Requirements of Character: Must be a Bass, with acting experience
– Young Estha: Alto with acting experience

Rahel – Rahel is Estha’s younger twin sister by 18 minutes. She’s impulsive and wild, intelligent and straightforward, and is treated less than her brother. 
– Requirements of Character: Must be a Mezzo – Soprano, with acting experience
– Young Rahel: Soprano with acting experience

Ammu – Ammu is Rahel and Estha’s mother. She is strict and her twins feel as though they might lose her love, or are unworthy of it.
– Requirements of Character: Must be an Alto, with acting experience

Velutha – Velutha is an untouchable, who’s smart and a carpenter at the pickle factory. He’s a mentor for the twins and has an affair with their mother. 
– Requirements of Character: Must be a Bass, with acting experience

Chacko – Chacko is Estha’s and Rahel’s uncle. He has a child, Sophie Mol, with his ex wife, Margaret Kochama.
– Requirements of Character: No singing, must have acting experience

Baby Kochamma – Baby Kochamma is the twins’ maternal great aunt. She condemns the twins, Ammu and Velutha’s love, and herself, causing not only misery for herself but also misery for everyone else. She is one of the antagonists of the story.
– Requirements of Character: No singing, must have acting experience

Supporting Characters
Sophie Mol – Chacko and Margaret Kochama’s daughter, Estha and Rahel’s younger, white cousin. Her arrival leads to the downfall and tragic events that occur throughout the novel.

Pappachi – Chacko and Ammu’s father, an entomologist, who abused his wife and daughter. His “moth” is what controls Rahel’s obsession of achieving Ammu’s love. He is one of the antagonists of the story.

Mammachi – Pappachi’s wife and Chacko and Ammu’s mother. She owns the pickle factory and is blind.

Featured Character (ensemble)
10 people who will play the protesters, the ex-spouses, the Orangedrink Lemondrink man, etc.

Act One (songs)

  1. Paradise Pickles and Preserves
  2. Pappachi’s Moth
  3. Big Man the Laltain, Small Man the Mombatti
  4. Abhilash Talkies
  5. God’s Own Country
  6. Cochin kangaroos
  7. Wisdom Exercise Notebooks
  8. Welcome Home, Our Sophie Mol
  9. Mrs. Pillai, Mrs. Eapen, Mrs. Rajagopalan
  10. The River in the Boat
  11. The God of Small Things

 – INTERMISSION – 

Act Two (songs)

  1. Kochu Thomban
  2. The Pessimist and the Optimist
  3. Work is Struggle
  4. The Crossing
  5. A Few Hours Later
  6. Cochin Harbor Terminus
  7. The History House
  8. Saving Ammu
  9. The Madras Mail
  10. The Cost of Living

“It was a time when the unthinkable became the thinkable and the impossible really happened.”

The God of Small Things