Friday, April 4, 2008

Race and Stereotypes in My Beautiful Laundrette

Hanif Kureishi's My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), directed by Stephen Frears, puts a lot of emphasis on race and stereotypes. The name "Powders Laundrette" (why isn't there an apostrophe?), for me, is a great example, a symbol, of the racial tension in the film. Because Omar's laundrette carries this name, it is an example of subverting the racial hierarchy. "Powder" evokes connotations of whiteness; when I think of the word "powder," I think of Victor Salva's Powder (1995), with the main character being an albino, and thus VERY white, man. Thus, because Omar and Johnny, a "Paki" and a white man, respectively, are the owners of "Powders Laundrette," they are (perhaps subconsciously) challenging not only racial tensions but also the notion of racial impurity, or the mixing of two races. To me, the use of the name says, "We are just as normal, pure, and human as anyone else," and it challenges the so-called Thatcherism of the era. Finally, this subversion method also works along the lines of sexuality. I find it interesting that the film depicts both men as quite "masculine" (whatever that means, right?), eschewing the "traditional" stereotypes of gay/bisexual men. Of course, challenging/discussing stereotypes is Hanif Kureishi's specialty, or at least it seems to be, considering the themes we have already seen in Buddha of Suburbia.

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