What was once straight must now be bent

If you were on brown Twitter this week, you already know that it was 20 years ago when Bend It Like Beckham first graced our lives.

Talk about a cultural staple!

However, I was talking to my Lebanese [see: Lesbian] friend over the phone yesterday, and she was talking about how she really wanted to see the queerness of the movie play out more overtly. “Have you seen how gay soccer is?!” she exclaimed. And she was right to exclaim it—it’s all just a big, coded performance, just like my pal Judith Butler would say about gender. 

It is well known among queer circles that the film was supposed to be queer, but rumour has it the director allegedly “chickened out” towards the end. But any allegations of robbing a storyline from a brown woman can be negated by subversively adding one gay Indian dude played by Ameet Chana, right? That’s enough activism, I think! <3

In all honesty, we’ve also just had 20 years of thinkpieces from cishet brown women talking about how revolutionary the film was for them. That’s valid, of course, but none of these commentaries reflect on the queerness so very clearly embedded in the film.

It’s so unthinkable that either Jules or Jess would have been interested in a guy at all, given their overt distaste for dating, or for anything that’s embodied by Jess’ sister Pinky. And of all the guys in the film, of course they had to fall for the slightly oppressed, white saviour, Irish man named Joe??? Come on now.

Luckily for us, Keira Knightley said how she’d want to do a sequel that would finally give us what we want—a queer Jess and Jules love story. This brings me to my real issue with this entire 20-year celebration: how the hell did we see such a discrepancy between Knightley and Parminder Nagra’s careers? 

A recent tweet highlighted this, citing Knightley’s success after the film, while Nagra fell into not-as-popular roles in other shows. The author of the tweet said, “that’s white supremacy in action.” 

Is it not? Where were the clangorous think pieces that questioned the actress’ career trajectory? She revealed how she was told that “brown people don’t sell,” and also had a magazine that didn’t put her on their cover with Knightley because of her skin colour. Not once have I seen Knightely standing up for this disparity, or calling on the industry to do better.

So while we celebrate a film that’s ripples are felt to this day, it still feels like so much was left to be desired in terms of seeing the film be explicitly queer.

If there ever is a queer sequel, let the girls fall in love, LET THEM KISS! Leave the young and heartbroken Jonathan Rhys Meyers to come and save me instead. Or better yet, let him be a cute little pansexual man, who ends up with Chana instead! MORE GAY! PLEASE! 

About the author

Karan Saxena

Karan Saxena (he/they) is a journalist and writer from Mumbai, India. He is currently in Vancouver pursuing his Master of Journalism at UBC. He graduated from the University of Manitoba with a BA (Adv.) in Political Studies and a BA in Women's & Gender Studies. Karan loves researching and writing on queer culture, climate change, immigration, power structures, fascism and violence. He could talk for hours about fashion, French pop music, the ongoing exploitation of the global south, wealth inequality, and the versatility of tote bags!


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