Table of Contents
Orientalism is a perception that exaggerates the disparities of Asian people and culture compared to the U.S. as well as the European countries. The Asian culture is perceived as exotic, uncivilized, and dangerous to some extent. Such understanding has been perpetuated by the writers, designers, and artists from the West and dates from the period of colonization of the Asian world. In fact, the orientalism fantasies continue to permeate the contemporary popular culture. The paper will distinguish the notions of orientalism in the portrayals of South Asians using the examples from the movie The Party (1968).
Orientalism purports to be a faithful recreation of the Eastern traditions; however, it essentially creates a myth and an exaggerated construct. The integral aspect of orientalism is how it defines Asian men and women in a manner that is contrary to the western norms of gender identity (Macfie, 2014). For instance, Asian women are hyper sexualized courtesans or prostitutes. Similarly, Asian men are depicted as unconfident barbarians because the Western world has promoted a dichotomy between the notion of the orient and the reality of the East. This is the embodiment of prejudice and racism and can be attributed to the fact that Europeans rely on the artists and writers to present them with sanctioned literature such as the Description de l’Égypte. As for the images, the Europeans paid attention to their content and contextual background which was used to define the Asians. However, such pieces do not depict the reality. The artists who created the paintings include among others Delacroix and Jean-Léon Gérôme (Macfie, 2014).
For instance, the movie The Party (1968) has been produced and directed in the United States by Blake Edwards (Edwards, 1968). The Indian sentiments expressed in the movie are the reflection of what Americans know about the Indians. In fact, such pictures reveal certain stereotypes created by the writers and artists. In the movie, for example, Indians are depicted as barbarians, which can be noticed in the scene where Bakshi (Indian actor) plays the role of a bugler (Edwards, 1968). Moreover, the whole film is based on the ideology that Indians are primitive people, which was exhibited when Bakshi was invited to a lavish Hollywood dinner party. There is a scene where Bakshi is seen breaking the toilet, dropping a painting in it and scattering toilet paper everywhere (Edwards, 1968). In fact, this is an appropriate illustration of how the Western people produced knowledge about the Orient and spread misconceptions about it. However, apparently, the way the Middle East is represented is far from reality.
There also exists a perception that South Asians are easily tricked, canning, unprofessional and dishonest; as a result, this creates an image that is not true (Macfie, 2014). An example in the movie may be the episode when Bakshi reports to work on his first day and ruins the set after which he gets dismissed (Edwards, 1968). Bakshi is also depicted as an accidental party crasher. The presentation of the Asian stereotype in the movie shows that the concept of orientalism is a tradition and doctrine that affirms the superiority of the West. This suggests that the Western world is still expecting to see the traditional South Asia, such as it was during the colonization era.
The notion of orientalism in South Asia has also contributed to the Eastern architectural motifs and decorative arts. For this reason, it becomes clear that orientalism is not a discipline but a composite area of scholarship that deploys methods and tools provided by academic disciplines. The scholars who translated the orient writings into English were known as orientalists, and they also played a major role in maintaining the notion of orientalism. As a matter of fact, the notion primarily revolves around the Western world, which happened after these scholars accessed the interpreted works. Subsequently, the Western world continues spreading the misconceptions about the Orient without first-hand experience. The sad part is that such misconceptions are largely accepted by the society in which they are propagated.
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However, in the recent past, Asian Americans and other American scholars have been producing literary works that address the concept of orientalism and its ramifications within the Asian American culture (Macfie, 2014). This was after the realization that orientalism is a western evil scheme that has the main objective of restructuring and establishing authority over the East, thus according the West, some form of domination. The notion of orientalism can also be perceived in the light of political connotations among South Asians. In this regard, it is apparent that the politics of representation within the orientalist approach is based on the determined identities. The ramification of this is that the heterogeneous groups have resorted to aligning with the delineated groups (Macfie, 2014). However, some groups lost their cultural identifies as a result of this because orientalism tends to destroy subaltern groups that have not attained the prerequisites of history.
The notion of orientalism is regarded as a cultural framework where the racism is practiced against the Asians. It can be perceived as a Western style for dominating and having authority over the orient. Basically, it is a method of practical and cultural discrimination applicable to south Asian societies. In this regard, if orientalism is conceived as the drive for knowledge which will be structured through images that strive to depict its objects. This is the essence of orientalism. For instance, the scenes in The Party (1968) are the ample examples of how orientalism revolves around the Asians and how they are perceived. The movie overlooks the bright side of Asia and is therefore a stereotypical presentation of India.