Critical Cultural Review of The Movie “East is East”

Subject: Art
Type: Synthesis Essay
Pages: 3
Word count: 843
Topics: Film Analysis, Film Review

In essence, the film “East is East” is about an immigrant Pakistani name Zaheed Khan who moved to Britain to have a better life.  Although he already married in Pakitan, Zaheed fell in love with a Caucasian girl in Britain name Ella where they had six sons and one daughter.  Zaheed’s marriage with Ella is not ideal as they always had a fight with Zaheed always getting the upper hand when he threatens to bring his wife in Pakistan.  Zaheed also would like to raise his family under Islamic tradition just like him who grew up in Pakistan.  And from desire of Zaheed to raise his children just like a Pakistani, brought conflict in the Khan household which underscores the cultural differences between Western Britain and Eastern Pakistan.

It is important to note that even though Zaheed’s children are of Pakistani descent, they grew up in Britain and being such, have adapted to the British custom and norm.  And the insistence of Zaheed to raise his children like Pakistani has brought conflict in his household.  The most obvious source of conflict in the Khan household is arranged marriages.  Khan’s attempt to arrange marriage with his eldest son Nazir ended up miserably when his son run away from their home where Khan disowned his own son.  Not learning from the lesson of his eldest son, Zaheed is also set to arrange his two sons to two Pakistani sisters where his son rebelled against him and forced Zaheed to reconsider his decision and their family structure.

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From the perspective of the west, Zaheed’s decision to arrange the marriage of his children may be unthinkable but from where Zaheed came from, it is perfectly acceptable and in fact the norm.  To understand the dynamics of conflict in this family, focus on individual differences is not enough but should also include the differences in their cultural orientation (Meyer, 2014).  These differences that originated from their cultural orientation where Zaheed’s children has already adapted to the British customs which can be characterized by Hoftstede’s dimensions to be highly individualistic compared to Zaheed’s ways of Pakistani collectivism.   In Hoftstede’s individualism versus collectivism, it is stressed that in society where there is a high degree of collectivism such as Pakistan, the will of the collective matters more than individual’s self-actualization.  This explains why Zaheed thought he was right in his decision because he meant well for his children by marrying them off with the families that he like.  Also, Zaheed’s decision can also be explained by one of Hoftstede’s five dimension which is Long versus short term orientation.  Long versus short term orientation meant that society values long-standing traditions, norms, and values over the short term values.  Such, in societies where there is a high long term orientation, family and social obligations matters more than personal preference.  Applying Hoftstede’s long versus short term orientation in the film “East is East”, this meant that the decision of Zaheed to arrange the marriage of his children is perfectly okay and should supplant the decision of his own children to marry girls of their own choice.  The justification that their obligation to their family matters over their own feelings also falls under this dimension.  And being the head of the family, Zaheed expected that his children will follow his decision because it is for the good of their family.  This explains why Zaheed was furious to the point of disowning his son Nazir when he ran away from their home when Zaheed arranged a marriage for him.

Another aspect of cultural dimension that explains the dynamics of Khan family is power distance.  Power distance is how certain societies relate to figures of authority.  If the power distance is considerable such as Pakistani societies, it is expected that the members of its society particularly its family members to be deferent to figures of authority particularly their father.  Such, this explains the authoritarian nature of Zaheed which did not sit well with his children that rebelled against him because his children are already accustomed to the British way of dealing with authorities which is low in power distance.  In societies where power distance is considerable, children are expected to follow the wishes of their parents if they disagree with it.  But not in societies with low power distance, its members will openly disagree and even rebel such as the case of Zaheed’s children.  

There is also an aspect of Hofstede’s five dimension that explains the dynamics between Zaheed and his wife Ella.  Every time they have an argument, Zaheed would always want things to be his way as he is accustomed to the patriarchal society of Pakistan where males are supposed to dominate and females are expected to do subordinate roles.  Hofstede label this phenomenon as masculinity versus femininity which simply means assigning roles to genders.  Zaheed and Ella fight a lot because they have different orientation in gender roles.  Zaheed expect his wife Ella just to follow him but Ella would not have it because she is not accustomed to playing a subordinate role.  

Did you like this sample?
  1. Damien O’Donnell (1999).  East is East.  Empire
  2. Hoftsted, Geert (nd).  The Hoftstede Centre. 
  3. R Meyer, E. (2014). The culture map: breaking through the invisible boundaries of global business. New York: PublicAffairs.
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