The Namesake, Diaspora, National Hybridity

The Namesake was by far my favorite film we have seen thus far. But I suppose that is neither here nor there. From beginning to end it was a fantastic story. The music, always a vital aspect to a great film for me, was really telling and helpful in understanding the various tones. Beyond that I admired its use, and from that, our learning of diaspora. Of being uprooted to a new place isolated from everyone you know. I think we all get little glimpses of that throughout our lives. But The Namesake helped me see it through a lens of a completely foreign culture.
For the characters, especially Gogol, being in his family and stuck between two cultures is both every inclusive and exclusive. By the end, and starting with the death of his father Gogol realizes that he does not have to choose to tend toward being American, he can be most fulfilled by being both American and Indian. This seems to be a theme throughout the film, the hybridity of cultures and how people have to make a choice between the but how choosing to be both is an option. For his wife the choice is rocky, she assumes Gogol is one over the other, and she resents him for it by the end. She chooses to alienate herself from her inherited culture (after she threw herself into it for Gogol and their parents) and quickly falls fully into her adopted French culture. She doesn’t see the space where the two could meet or maybe for her they can’t.
Similarly we see this in his girlfriend Max. I think she is a great character. Unfortunately Gogol seemed to be with her in order to remove himself from his Indian culture. At the same time she is all too happy to never entirely accept this part of him, to pull him further into her lifestyle and culture, though he does cultivate these ideas in her.
My favorite examples of transnationalism are the mother and father, though. It’s easy to see Ashoke as being the most comfortably settled in his new culture. While Ashima seems the one most trying not to hold on to her Indian culture. In reality they were evenly both. Ashoke took his native culture to heart and held it there, slowly letting his children understand it for themselves and helping them, I think he also felt a need to be a confident pillar for them and his family. Ashima, on the other hand, is much more obvious in her two embraced cultures. The way she dresses herself throughout the film is an upfront symbol of her love of India, she hold on to the culture, even if that means eating rice crispy cereal with red pepper. The small ways she tries to assimilate to American culture at first seem slightly forced and awkward, the mixed Christmas cards, socks with sandals in the winter, but by the end we see that these actions are done entirely with confidence. She sees everything that happens in her family and she understands. Her actions are never out of naivety, rather a confidence in her grip on her national culture, and a strong will to be herself and keep her family inclusive, well cultured, and happy.
Maybe it is because it took place in a nation I am quite familiar with, maybe it is because the story of someone who is unsure on who they are and who they want to be is appealing to me, but The Namesake struck a chord with me, it helped me understand. And because it was clearly not written just for westerners, or Indians, it invites everyone to understand. It’s incredibly inclusive. And so far the novel is even more so.


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