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The lives of teenaged girls are busy, so it was remarkable that last weekend my younger daughter found time one afternoon for a movie with me. I'd been talking about taking her to see "Bend it Like Beckham" ever since I'd first seen it myself, and she'd been saying she'd like to go, but always something came up. For her.
"Bend it Like Beckham" is a sweet story set in London, in which a young Indian woman named Jess plays soccer despite the imprecations of her parents — especially her mother, who wishes her to give up such foolishness and prepare to become a proper Indian wife. I wanted my daughter to see the movie in part because nobody gets stabbed, shot, raped, bitten by a vampire, or run over by a train in it, and because it is about a young woman's determined effort to play the game she loves, but also because Jess's father is not an idiot...an astonishing departure from almost all movies and television shows which include girls and their dads. Perhaps the movie would plant in my daughter's mind the possibility that her dad wasn't an idiot.
I responded to the movie the same way I did the first time I saw it. When Jess's father interrupted his wife's condemnation of their soccer-playing daughter to admit that he'd snuck into a match to see Jess play and that she was "brilliant," I wept. Quietly, I hope. And when it became evident that Jess would have an opportunity to pursue her dream of playing in college and perhaps even professionally, I wept again.
My daughter did not. She told me on the way home that she'd enjoyed the movie, but I suspect she was already looking forward to whatever might be on the answering machine or the instant messenger when she got home.
It occurred to me later that "Bend it Like Beckham" must have seemed hopelessly goofy to my daughter. She's 13. Like a lot of her friends, she's an athlete. Like them, she's been encouraged in her athleticism. "When," she must wonder, "had it ever have been otherwise? And why?"
And the bit about not regarding her father as an idiot? Well, it also occurred to me later that while attending a movie together might help, the magic would last only until I asked her politely if she might not rather read a book than turn on the TV, or I --- unreasonable as any father of any lineage in any era --- suggested that she pick up her room.
This program aired on June 10, 2003. The audio for this program is not available.
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