The below video of Jennifer Lawrence telling a ‘hilarious’ story on the Graham Norton Show about how she scratched her backside on sacred rocks in Hawaii speaks volumes about Western society today, and for several reasons…
I had the misfortune of stumbling across this video this morning on my Facebook timeline. I know very little about Jennifer Lawrence’s education, background, upbringing or anything really other than the fact that she went hungry for a few hours of film time and made (i’m assuming) millions of dollars in the process. What troubles me is the fact that as a world famous actress who has travelled the world filming blockbuster movies and attending movie premieres you’d expect her to have just a tad more (read as: ‘a hell of a lot more’) cultural sensitivity.
What frustrates me as a British-born son of an immigrant is that the notion of ‘British values’ is perpetually shoved down our throats as we’re constantly told to assimilate and be understanding and respectful of not only British culture and values but others as well. Whilst I concede that some Muslim communities probably do need to make a better effort at integrating, Muslims are all too familiar with this notion and it’s something that has been prescribed for us over 1400 years ago:
“We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.” (The Holy Quran 49:13)
A mutual respect and understanding between different nations and tribes is a key tenant of the Islamic faith. When we all come together annually at the Hajj pilgrimage, all reminders of status, wealth and class are stripped away as we don two pieces of plain white cloth. It’s a humbling experience and a subconscious statement to say that my culture is no better than yours, my people are no better than yours, my practices are no better than yours, there is only God.
Lawrence’s story is delivered in such a way that she appears to feel superior to the Hawaiians and their culture; that their ancient belief in sacred rocks is simple-minded and backwards and that her understanding of the world and belief is better than theirs. She may or may not believe in God, but she most definitely doesn’t give her the right to belittle the beliefs of others.
According to UK’s Ofsted, British values are “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith.” Values that have been ingrained in us from a young age, throughout our schooling.
I know she’s American, but does Jennifer Lawrence’s story really fit in line with the ‘British values’ that the government are so keen to impose on us? I’d like to think I have respect for and tolerance to those with different faiths and beliefs and that’s why I’m so angered by the BBC’s decision to post the above video. It worries me that after 20+ years of living in the multicultural melting pot that is London, it appears I have more ‘British values’ than our own state-run British Broadcasting Corporation, who don’t appear to appreciate what is so wrong with her story. Chris Pratt appeared uncomfortable in the video (to his defence) but by not speaking out sadly he becomes an accessory to this type of bigotry and xenophobia.
Sadly, tolerance and respect as propagated by Western governments is a one-way street. We must tolerate and respect their cultures whilst ours are open to mockery and misappropriation. A while ago I wrote about how the WWE is xenophobic and racist in their portrayal of foreign characters, their aim being to progress the ‘us vs them’ narrative.
This eurocentric perspective is one that we are all being subscribed to, whether we like it or not. The media is naturally a powerful tool, and we have recent examples such as Leonardo Dicaprio being cast as Jelaluddin Rumi, the fact that in every modern portrayal, Jesus Christ is played by a white man and of course the overall portrayal of Arabs in Hollywood films to only further emphasise the whitewashing and cultural imperialism that permeates throughout Western society.
I haven’t lost hope, and I hope I never do. For every example of this backwards imperialist mentality, there are lovely examples of multiculturalism, love, tolerance and acceptance. Just recently, this Polish Christmas advert gave me that renewed sense of hope and belief that with enough positive people out there trying to make a difference and showing the world through not just speech but more importantly action, we can beat hatred, racism and bigotry once and for all…