Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Colionialist Agenda in The Bubble

I was shocked and disappointed by the ending of The Bubble. I thought I was watching an anti-occupation, feminist film about a Jewish Israeli guy, Noam, and a Palestinian guy from Jenin, Ashraf, who fall in love and defy boundaries. Throughout the film, the characters critique Jewish-Israeli racism against Palestinians throughout the film, as well as queer on queer discrimination and the failings of macho masculinity.

At the end of the film, Ashraf, who had been quiet, humble, funny character, unexpectedly takes the place of his militant brother-in-law, “Jihad,” and blows himself and Noam up. I couldn’t believe that the only semi-developed Palestinian character in the play ends up being a shell for a racist and hateful stereotype of Palestinians.

Amireh, Amal. “GLQ- A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies – Afterword.” Vol. 16, Num. 4, 2010. Published online by Project Muse.

Suddenly, the abundant suicide-bomber jokes in the film took on a new light. What had seemed to be critiques of the stereotype, turned out to be opportunities to uphold a monolithic depiction of Palestinians. The prominence of “Jihad,” Ashraf’s militant soon-to-be brother-in-law also fell into place as a useful caricature of anti-Palestinian sentiment, as did the violent death of Ashraf’s sister Rana, who is caught in the cross-fire of Israeli soldiers responding to a terrorist attack planned in part by Jihad.

I think I was so upset by the unexpected and rapid downward spiral at the end, because I really did like the film up to that point and enjoy its social commentary, even with its holes. Ashraf, Noam, and his roommate Lulu, a woman, are all very likeable characters who I thought I could be good friends with. The other roommate Yelli is funny but clearly holds some not-so-subtle anti-Palestinian attitudes that are actually held up with the ending of the film.

Lulu’s relationship with an arrogant editor who courts her and then drops her the “morning after” sex provides humor and commentary on the masculine condition of being an “emotional cripple.” In the film, Lulu transitions from tentative and anxious as she tries to win the loyalty of this editor, to a fierce and fun instigator, as she confronts him in his office and tells him for his behavior, and then uses him to get press passes so that she and Noam can get through the checkpoint visit Ashraf undercover after he returns to his family. Lulu’s analysis of the inability to communicate on the part of her male cohorts fits nicely with our readings on the societal pressures that leave men emotionally stunted, such as “The Act-Like-a-Man Box” by Paul Kivel in Men’s Lives.

Scholar Amal Amireh provides a critique of the film in an article on the depiction of queer Palestinians by the Israeli state and those upholding their agenda. In the film, Palestinian culture is depicted as vehemently and dangerously homophobic, while providing no broader context or critique of Israeli homophobia, especially as perpetrated by the Israeli state. Amireh says of the film’s silences around the lives of queer Palestinians and their resistance efforts, “These absences and silences, I believe, make the film more of a colonial fantasy about the colonial Other than an anti-occupation film” (Amireh). Amireh holds that the film does not send an anti-occupation message, but rather is a piece of colonialist propaganda: “The Bubble's representation of Israeli and Palestinian violence completes Ashraf's queer demonization. While Israeli violence is shown to be incidental and pragmatic, Palestinian violence, in contrast, is underscored as premeditated and primal” (Amireh). I agree!


Rachel Collins said...

This is a really interesting analysis! I first saw The Bubble a couple years ago, and at that point, I didn't really think very deeply about it, or even have the awareness to really critically examine it. I'd be interested to watch it again now that I'm a little better educated.

Leila said...

Yes! An excellent critical analysis. I have not seen the film but when I do, will do so with a critical eye thanks to your review.