Australian Council on Children and the Media

Bend it Like Beckham

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, Parental guidance 8-12 (Viol. Sex.)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Bend it Like Beckham
  • a review of Bend it Like Beckham completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 9 July 2002.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended under 8
Children aged 8-12 Parental guidance recommended due to themes
Children 13 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Bend it Like Beckham
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Low level coarse language, sexual references
Length 112 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

“No-one can bend a ball like Beckham” is the catch phrase of Jess (Jessminder) an Indian teenager brought up in England who loves playing football with her mates. Her idol is Beckham and she dreams of playing with him and kicking the winning goal. However, her parents have very traditional Indian beliefs and a girl playing football is not part of them. Jess’s parents forbid her to play the game but she disobeys them and continues to play anyway. She is very good at the game and is noticed by a girl, Jules, who is a member of the local girls’ football team, the Hounslow Harriers. Jules encourages her to try out for the team.

The coach, Joe, takes a liking to Jess and, impressed by her obvious skills, gives Jess a position in the team. This requires lying to her parents about what she is doing—she pretends she has a part time job, and sneaks out when they are not around. Jess isn’t comfortable doing this but her love for playing football overrides this and her friends encourage her to go against her parents' wishes and break the rules.

The story continues as Jess’s football team travels to Germany for a game and reaches the finals. The story is intertwined with that of her older sister, Pinky, who is engaged to be married to an Indian boy and whose relationship is directly affected by Jess’ s behaviour. The engagement is cancelled by the boy’s family because of what they deem to be inappropriate behaviour by Jess, but they are later reunited as the parents relent. The comparison is made between Jess who wants to break the rules and Pinky, who on the surface is following a more conventional lifestyle, but actually is just as rebellious as her sister.

Jess and Jules both fall for Joe which causes a rift between the two friends and which is misinterpreted by Jules’s mother. This also causes further dilemma for Jess as she knows her family won’t accept Joe.

The major problem for Jess comes when the finals of the football are scheduled on the same day as Pinky’s wedding. Jess has to forgo the game out of loyalty to her family. However at half time Jess’s Dad lets her go to play and she wins the match by scoring two goals. Jess and Jules are selected by an American scout who offers them scholarships to attend college in America and play professional football. This, of course will be unacceptable to Jess’s parents but she decides to be honest with them about the offer. Much to her surprise her Dad agrees and Jess goes on to be a top player for England.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Racism

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

  • Low level violence on the football field is probably an accepted part of the game. However at the beginning when Jess is playing with her mates, she gets annoyed by a comment one of them makes and kicks the ball purposefully at his groin.
  • A fight breaks out at the wedding reception for an undetermined reason but could have been caused by a couple found passionately kissing in the kitchen.
  • Jess and Jules tackle Joe at one stage in a comic context. (female characters against the male).
  • A very young child may be disturbed by the disfiguration of Jess’s leg caused by burns from a cooking accident.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

There is little in this film that is scary for young children. Some parents may prefer not to expose their very young children to the course language and sexual innuendo in the movie.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

There is little in this film that is scary for young children. Some parents may prefer not to expose their very young children to the course language and sexual innuendo in the movie.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Parental guidance is recommended due to the coarse language and sexual references.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

The coarse language and sexual references may require some parental guidance for children over twelve.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

  • Jules’s mother tries to get her to wear ‘pump up’ bras to improve her cleavage. She shows her own cleavage off always.
  • Measuring girls’ breasts for bridal fitting, the dressmaker states she can “even make these mosquito bites look like juicy, juicy mangoes”.
  • “He can shag who he wants” is stated at one time.
  • Gay relationships—Jules’s mother mistakenly believes Jules and Jess have a lesbian relationship which she is obviously horrified about. Jess’s friend Tony admits to being gay.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • Sexual innuendo—scene where jet is taking off, Pinky and her fiancé are in the car, which is bouncing up and down and they are in a state of undress. It shows Pinky’s obvious disregard for her parents’ traditional beliefs.
  • There is no nudity, but girls shown dressing and undressing for match down to very brief underwear.
  • A couple briefly seen kissing very passionately at the wedding reception again to show disregard of cultural beliefs.

Use of substances

  • Jules is seen drinking at a pub.
  • After match in Germany, the team goes out clubbing where all are drinking alcohol including Jess. She is obviously not used to drinking and becomes quite sick after a ‘couple of wines’. She has to leave the club and she is followed out by Joe. They end up in each others’ arms and are about to kiss when they are discovered by Jules. Jules is very hurt about this as she also has feelings for Joe.
  • The fight at the wedding is also probably due to alcohol consumption.

Coarse language

  • The words “bloody” and “bleeding” are used quite frequently.
  • The words “bastard”, “shit”, “piss”, “sluts”, “Jesus” and “God” are used occasionally.

In a nutshell

  • The main theme of this film is the cultural clash and the difficulty faced by parents who try to hold on to traditional values from their homeland while their children are being raised in a society with opposing values.
  • Values shown in the movie that parents may wish to encourage include: courage, determination, loyalty and cultural harmony.
  • Values shown in the movie that parents may wish to discourage include: disobeying parents, lying , deceit and disrespect.

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