I don’t know if a lot of people have had an opportunity to watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hote,l but if you have, I’m sure you can see why it is an example of modern day Orientalism. As with Eat Pray Love, you have “Western” characters set in a backdrop. The movie is about a group of retirees who travel to Jaipur, India expecting to take residence at a newly restored luxurious hotel. Upon arriving, the Orientalist background is set. A group of British travelers encounters the “magical” hustle and bustle of Jaipur, complete with smelly animals, scooters whizzing by, women with baskets on their heads, and many many many many call center employees. The hotel is not what they expected, and the person who runs it (Dev Patel) turns out to be a sufficiently incompetent air head. During the course of the movie Dev Patel’s character is only able to do anything successful in the hotel with the help of the British characters. He is an obnoxiously uncomplicated character.
The way Dev Patel’s mother is portrayed is particularly infuriating. She thinks that Dev’s girlfriend is easy because she does not act in the traditional way that an Indian girl should. The mother is portrayed as a static cold-hearted power obsessed matriarch whose views are stuffy and outdated.At the end of the movie she suddenly changes her mind (within seconds, as a plot turner and happy- ending maker that forgets reality and forgets the character. This makes it quite obvious that she is not an important character.) and allows her son to marry after the British characters inspire Dev to speak up against his mother. It is almost as if every Indian character is a one-dimensional caricature of the Western view of what it means to be Indian. Dev as an idiot who can only succeed with the help of a British character, Dev’s girlfriend as the struggling call center worker who needs job advice from a Westerner, the Dalit serving woman who is happy to forgive Dame Maggie for insulting her entire family.
If you feel like getting a bit angry and throwing up, I recommend this movie followed by a showing of Eat Pray Love.