Compare the social and cultural representations in Wondrous Oblivion and Grow Your Own
In recent history different social and cultural groups have started living in the same communities more frequently. The original locals may or may not have accepted these new cultural and social backgrounds. These two films, ‘Wondrous Oblivion’ and ‘Grow Your Own,’ both look at the issue of immigration in Britain and express alternative representations of different cultures.
The first film I am going to look at is ‘Wondrous Oblivion,’ my favourite of the two films. This film represents English people as being very posh. For example at the beginning of the film there are images of big houses, Big Ben, parks and ponds. The narration is also in a upper-class voice. The kids at the school have parted hair and play cricket and all have smart uniforms. This establishes the theme of the film. I think it perfectly represents the upper-class people in English society at the time.
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It also represents some English people as racist bigots, especially towards Jamaicans and black people. Firstly, at the cricket match the three white people attack the black officer and then they try to burn down the Samuels’ house. Also the shopkeeper makes a sarcastic joke when David buys a cricket card with a black player on it he says “How come you have gone a bit, ‘jungle happy’ all of a sudden?” This shows typical racist view towards black people at the time.
The English were also represented as, more subtly, showing racist attitudes towards the Jewish families. Mrs Wilson says, spitefully, “Why don’t you complain to the landlord, he’s one of yours.” Also Mrs Wiseman says “We can be grateful about the good Mrs Wilson, and all the Mrs Wilson’s. They won’t have time to think about us Yids any more (because the Jamaicans had moved into the neighbourhood.)” This shows that the other cultures think that the English are racist people who are looking for people to pick on. This film represents the English very negatively.
On the other hand the black and Jamaican people are represented very positively. They are represented as happy and laid-back, compared to the English who are represented as strict and stubborn. The Samuels’ do a lot of dancing and singing; they play Jazz music and laugh frequently. This is highlighted well when the Wiseman’s girl says “It’s like a musical Dad, how do they get anything done?”
The Jamaicans are also represented as being kind and caring as shown in their relationship with David. Mr Samuels obviously cares about David’s progress in cricket, because he helps him on most days and is very kind towards him. This shows that black people are not racist towards the Jews, like the English.
Dennis Samuels looks out for his children a lot more than Victor does in the Wiseman family. This is represented well when David Wiseman is not happy at the proposed move away from the area, and Victor is stubborn and says “Here is no place for a Jewish boy.” Whereas next door, Dennis Samuels is comforting his daughter because she is feeling left out when David does not invite her to his party.
This film represents black people as kind and caring to everybody in the community and as victims of bullying by the English. I think this represents one of the films main messages, that black people have nothing against anyone or thing but the English and Jews do.
The Wiseman family represent the stereotypical Jewish family in England at the time. The husband works in a shop and the wife does the house-keeping at home (we see her doing a lot of sewing). The Jewish are represented as being very tight-fisted. When David went into the shop he asked to swap cricket cards with the shopkeeper, to which he replied “Swaps? Very Jewish that is!” Also when Mr Wiseman says to Mrs Wiseman that they cannot go out, this is a stereotypical view of Jews.
At first when the Samuels family arrive next door they stare at them and say “Are they African? They are not Indians, not red Indians, I know that.” This shows they are not familiar with black people. Mrs Wiseman sides with the racists until she gets to know them better. Also Victor says to David when he starts to play cricket with the Samuels, “These are not our type of people. We have nothing against them, but we don’t mix.” This shows that the Jews are slightly racist themselves.
Another way that the film represents (and stereotypes) the Jews are by showing the importance of academic study and hard-work, rather than sports, as highlighted when Mr Wiseman says to David “Why do you waste time on cricket, you’re a good scholar.” This is reinforced when an Englishman says to Mr Wiseman “you’ve a head for numbers at least.”
Once David and Mrs Wiseman get to know the Samuels family they realize that the relaxed Jamaican way of life is better, it leads them to become better people. This is another main message of the film. They are more relaxed, and less up-tight about everything. David decides to go to Dennis’ picnic, instead of the big cricket game. This tells us that he has grown to like the Jamaicans and is not a racist like his other friends.
The second film is called ‘Grow Your Own.’ This film is set in the twenty first century, unlike ‘Wondrous Oblivion’ which is set in the 1950’s. This film represents the English as being racist, but some members of the community accepting the immigrants. For example at the beginning when the English people are having a committee meeting talking about the immigrants they say “It’s disgusting that these ‘gypos’ are taking our land, we should separate them.” A young man interrupts and says “We should welcome them, not get rid of them.” This shows that a few people are not racist, but the majority are. It also shows that the younger generation are more tolerant of immigrants.
The racist views of some of the English are reiterated when the phone mast company want to build a mast on the plots. The committee decide, without letting the immigrants have a say, to build on one of the immigrant’s plots. The phone mast company also only give free phones to the English people.
Cultural ignorance is shown, by the English, when the Pakistani man says he is a doctor, the English people respond “You ain’t a doctor; they do things differently where you come from.” The English people then change their attitude towards the Pakistani man as he may be “useful” to them. They are using him.
On the other-hand a couple of the English people are kind. Kenny was kind to the Chinese people:
* He talked to the man.
* He took the boy for fish and chips.
* He helps the boy tidy up the plot.
* He gives the man an English book.
This shows that not all English people are racist and unpleasant towards immigrants. This argument is supported by Little John’s liking of Miriam, the black lady. The English, as in the last film, are represented mainly negatively throughout the film, but positively in parts.
The Pakistanis are represented as being kind and caring people. This is shown when they welcome the phone company to the plots, and when he fetches the Englishman’s dog. He is also very kind to people when they have medical problems, and gives them suitable advice. He is represented positively apart from when he is arrested by the immigration officers.
The black people are also represented as happy and kind. They put on a barbeque party on their lot and invited all the plot owners, which shows that they are friendly and sociable. The black boy is very kind and helpful to the Chinese family by helping the Chinese children organize their plot.
They are also shown to be loving towards their family (as in ‘Wondrous Oblivion.’) Miriam thinks her husband is dead but does not have a relationship with Little John as she is still faithful to her husband. When her husband returns she is very pleased at not angry at him for being away.
I think the black family in both films are represented very similarly:
* They are both very loving and caring to their families.
* They both have free lives.
* They both help others.
* They both have a lot of fun.
They are represented very positively in both films.
The Chinese family are represented as being quiet and self-contained in their own world. They do not socialise much, although this is mainly because the father cannot speak because he is in shock due to the death of his wife. The two children work quietly and on their own on the allotment.
The Chinese family do eventually strike up a friendship with Kenny and he is kind to them. The rest of the English people are inconsiderate to them by demolishing their allotment. The Chinese are also represented as spiritual. The man buries his wife’s jewellery along with a picture of her. They were also generous with their fruit. The film represents them as hard-done by people who have had to pull through bad times.
These two films show different representations for different cultures, both represent the English and black culture similarly, although they are set in different times. I think racism is a form of bullying and after witnessing these two films it should be eradicated forever.