Quantico-Joe Cocker?

So, last night’s Quantico was predictably confusing and morally irritating.  The FBI is fine with keeping a gross procedural error internal in order to keep a serial killer in prison?  Even if that procedural error was a sign that their agent was going down a path which would lead to considering cold-blooded murder to cover it up?  And none of their recruits considered the possibility that this gross procedural error could have lead to the wrong person being imprisoned, which is in fact why the courts would release them?

More importantly, real world-wise, this continues to play into the misconception that the American court system is weighted heavily towards the accused and not the prosecutor, instead of the other way around.  I am fairly sure that if gross procedural mistakes were found in an investigation by the FBI, eventually the wrongfully accused would be released, but it wouldn’t exactly be instantaneous, and they would pretty quickly be re-arrested and tried again.

But what I really cared about was the late in the episode revelation that Alex knows 70s-80s music because she listened to her mother’s record collection in Bombay.  Why in the world would her mother have a bunch of American records in Bombay in the 70s and 80s?  Because the import restrictions were still in place, which would have made those records super hard to get.

Is this a subtle clue?  Is it possible that she was always obsessed with American culture to the point of purchasing records on the black market, which explains why she came to America/married an American?  Still doesn’t match up with her potentially being a Pakistani agent, but maybe she had a ton of Nazia Hassan records also?

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Truth Prevails!

I do love People, but I have highly disagreed with many of their more recent Sexiest Men choices.  Channing Tatum, sure, but Bradley Cooper?  This year’s choice, David Beckham, I heartily approve of.  Someone who is legitimately famous, talented, charming, and a good person.  And also very attractive in an interesting way.

Of course, I had given up on the true sexiest man alive ever being recognized, and then I saw this poll.

There is justice in the world! (although where is Shahid?)

Quantico So Far-Iran?!?!? Seriously?

Thank god, no Quantico last night!  I was so happy when I checked Hulu this morning and saw there was no new episode!  It’s such a horrible way to start the week, struggling to get through a gosh-awful episode of television while blearily trying to braid my hair and brush my teeth after staying up too late on Sunday night.

But this also means nothing to post about this morning.  Unless I post about my biggest problems with all the past episodes.  Which isn’t hard, because I really just have 3 major issues.

Issue 1: Priyanka, blech!  She’s like nails-on-a-chalkboard for me.  I used to really like her, actually.  In her first few movies, I found her either neutral (Mujhse Shaadi Karoge) or charming (Salaam-E-Ishq).  And then somewhere around Don, I started to notice that I had seen everything she was doing before.  And then I started to see her public appearances, and I realized I had seen everything she was doing there before too.  Because she really just has one character she plays all the time, and it is that same character that she brings out for every interview.  Big smile, tossed head laugh, talks fast, but never loud, or shrill, or emotional, never wrinkles her face, never cries, never scratches or blows her nose or does anything human.  It is somehow both boring, and terrifying.

Issue 2: No one involved seems to know what to do with a desi main character.  There doesn’t seem to be any interest in really exploring what that might mean.  Yes, she is American, yes an Indian-American can be confident and intelligent and patriotic and sexual, but wouldn’t they also be other things that are specific to the Indian-American experience?  The first shot of the pilot is her “om” symbol bracelet, but that has never been seen again.  There has been no mention of her Hinduism as a religious practice, she hasn’t spoken Hindi (even when talking to her mother), and she has been white-washed in a million subtle ways, from her make-up to her jewelry to her accent.  Oh, and her name is “Alex Parrish”.  Which is a really weird name for a desi to have!  I may be wrong about this, but my understanding is that Alex/Alexander/Alexandra are all modifications of “Alexander” as in “the Great”.  And in India, his name was Indianized to “Sikander”.  Like, there is a biopic of Alexander the Great that is titled “Sikander” and everyone in the movie calls him “Sikander”.  It wouldn’t be a huge issue, except that it would be so easy to change and they didn’t and that means they really, really don’t care even a little bit.   Why in the world couldn’t they have picked literally any other name for her?  Alexander was “the Great” because he was the only historical figure for hundreds of years who was able to impact both European and South Asian culture. Naming her after ANYONE ELSE would have allowed for a legitimate argument that it was a European name with no Indian variant that was meaningful to her parents.  Or, you know, just give her an Indian name!

Issue 3: No one seems to know what to do with India either.  First, her mother is Indian and married to an FBI agent who was pretending to be a blue-color worker (I think.  I am very confused by the timeline of her father’s life).  How did they meet?  Did he travel to India?  Why?  If she came to the US, what is her profession?  How did she get a Visa?  Current immigration rules would mean she was either highly educated and therefore could be sponsored by an institution of higher learning or an employer, or that she had relatives already in America who sponsored her, either of which would make her marriage to a white blue-color worker surprising.  I would say the show-runners were ignoring a big hole in their plot, but I suspect it is more that it just didn’t occur to them as an issue because they didn’t know enough about the Indian immigrant community to realize it was unusual.

Second, it was revealed that Alex was sent to live with relatives in Bombay for ten years as a teenager.  Which is okay I guess, a little unusual, would have some effect on her schooling and transcripts when she moved back to the US, but not that strange.  But then she disappeared for a year and it turned out she was traveling to Pakistan and Iran so she could “see for herself” what was really happening in those countries, and that she had a good friend who was killed by a drone strike and who was a suspected terrorist.  Okay, what?  Really, WHAT?!?  Ignoring everything else, Iran is just not that close to Bombay!  And where was she hearing all this anti-Iran propaganda?  In India, which has had a defense cooperation agreement with Iran for over ten years?  Which, in fact, considers Iran one of its closest diplomatic and trading partners?  Pakistan, sure, I guess, you would hear a lot of anti-Pakistani sentiment in India.  But in terms of “seeing the truth”, wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to go to Kashmir?  Where the truth is a lot harder to parse?  And where she would be a lot more likely to meet a “not-really-a-terrorist-but-a-freedom-fighter” type?  And where she wouldn’t need a passport to get across the border?  And then my biggest problem, the implication that in order to meet a terrorist, she would have needed to leave Bombay.  Which is demonstrably false, because Priyanka in real life actually does know terrorists (Sanjay Dutt, for instance (okay, I know Sanju’s situation is complicated, but he is legally a terrorist right now)) and she met them right there in Bombay where they are part of the powerful local criminal underground.  So why not have Alex Parrish the character meet her saintly terrorist acquaintance at some local nightclub around the corner from her Aunt’s apartment?  Seems a lot more believable then sneaking across the border to visit one of India’s biggest trading partners that she could have just visited legally!

Third, the most recent episode seemed to imply that her mother “Sita” might have been secretly working for Pakistani intelligence.  How would that even work?  She has enough family support around in India to be able send her daughter there for ten years, but none of them noticed that she was secretly trained by Pakistani intelligence?  And, I assume, none of them would have supported it if they did notice, because her name is “Sita” so she is from a Hindu family.  Does this go back to the flawed geography?  Do they think “Sita” could have bopped over to Pakistan for a weekend, received all her training, and come home before her parents even noticed she was gone?  I would say that “Sita” was a cover identity, except that she sent her daughter to live with family in India, so unless there is a whole elaborate family sleeper cell living in Bombay, all pretending to be Hindu but actually Pakistani agents, that doesn’t make sense.  But oh my gosh, now I really want it to be true!  Can you imagine?  Alex rebels by sneaking across the border to Pakistan to find the “truth”, but the boring family she trusted were actually terrorists the whole time?

Oh well, only 13 episodes left.  And with any luck, it will end with Priyanka’s death scene, and we can see if actual death is enough to make her smear her mascara.

 

Indrani Mukerjea and Tevar

So, this isn’t really that film related (except that it sounds exactly like a film plot), but I am fascinated by the coverage of the Indrani Mukerjea murder case.

So, to recap, the police picked up a guy for a weapons charge.  While they were “interrogating” him, he suddenly confessed to hiding a body in the forest and setting it on fire, 4 years early.  Further questioning revealed, he had done this at the behest of his employer, Indrani Mukerjea, wife of the head of Star TV India. And that the body was that of her sister, Sheena Bora, who Indrani had drugged and strangled.

Over the next few weeks, almost every hour seemed to bring another juicy detail.  First, although Indrani had introduced her as her sister, in fact the victim was her daughter.  And she had a secret son as well, Mikhail.  And that son had also been drugged that night, but had managed to escape before being murdered.

It also came out that Indrani’s stepson, Rahul, had been living with Sheena.  They were in love and planned to marry, but Indrani disapproved.  Indrani’s husband, Peter, agreed with her and had cut his son out of his life entirely, not having spoken to him for years.

Now, weeks later, after the excitement has died down, the final information on motive and details of the events that lead to the murder have started trickling out.  And as I read them, something finally clicked into place, and I realized what this reminded me of!  Not a movie, but other news stories I have read, American news stories about spousal abuse leading to murder.

In those murders, and in this one, ultimately, there is no motive, at least not one an outsider can understand.  The motive is simply that the victim acted as though they had needs and wants and a life outside of their abuser.  And by this point, the abuse had gone on for so long, and had been so accepted by everyone around them, that even a murder did not seem outside of the bounds of reasonable response.

In America, it is relations between couples that are considered so private, and so sacrosanct, that outsiders are afraid to comment, and those inside the relationship are so ashamed that they would never consider sharing their problems.  The abusers take advantage of societies blind-spots to push the limits and become increasingly comfortable with their power.

In this story, it is the relationship between parent and child that is considered so private, and so powerful, that no one is allowed to interfere or judge.  Peter and Indrani Mukerjea were respected members of Bombay society.  No one found it odd that Peter would cut off all contact with his son merely because he dared to fall in love with someone of whom he disapproved.  No one found Indrani’s cover story for the disappearance of her “sister” odd, that Sheena Bora would be sent overseas to study by her “parents” (in reality, her grandparents) and not allowed to contact any friends or relatives, because she had a relationship that did not have her parents’ approval.

Worst of all, the newly released emails and texts show that Sheena herself accepted all that was done to her.  For years, she allowed her own identity to be lied about, to be a sister instead of a daughter.  She barely objected when her mother and stepfather sold the apartment she was living in, she put off her engagement to the man she loved, and even in the midst of a fierce battle with her mother, when threats had been made which lead her own boyfriend to suggest she it would be unsafe to be alone with her parent, she still agreed to meet with Indrani.

This same symptom of abuse is still apparent in her brother, Mikhail.  His mother attempted to murder him years ago, and did murder his sister, and yet Mikhail was still so afraid of her, that he never called the police, never spoke to any friends or family members, and may have even helped cover up the murder by maintaining his sister’s facebook profile.

And even if Mikhail had gone to the police, likely nothing would have happened.  Rahul, Sheena’s boyfriend and possibly the only decent person in her life, did go to the police.  He went immediately, he recorded messages and saved texts and emails.  He knew Indrani was a threat and that Sheena loved him and would never have left simply because her mother told her to.  The police did not believe him.  Despite all his evidence, they took the statement of the victim’s mother and ignored that of her live-in boyfriend.

Tying this all back into film, FINALLY, this reminded me of Tevar, the remake of a southern film starring Arjun Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha which came out last year, and which I finally watched last weekend.  Sonakshi is being stalked by a powerful gunda.  She runs away, with her parents’ support, planning to fly to America.  The villain and his gang track her down, and she is rescued by Arjun, who hides her in his home.  Coincidentally, his father is a police officer who has been assigned to track Sonakshi down!

This is all fine, kind of cute, romantic, whatever.  The problem is, once Arjun’s father discovers Sonakshi is staying in their home, the narrative suggests that he is in a moral quandary.  While we, the viewer, know that the heroine’s parents wish her to leave and go to America, he has been told that they do not, and therefore it is his duty as a police officer to bring her back home.

But this isn’t a moral quandary, right?  All he has to do is ask the grown up person standing right in front of him what she wants to do, does she want to go to America or does she want to go back home.  But that is not an option.  Because she is not a grown up person who belongs to herself, she belongs to her parents.  The audience is supposed to sympathize with him, to know that if her parents want her back, the right thing to do is to take her home.  Even if she begs, even if she runs from him, even if he has to beat her and put her in chains, it is always a parent’s right to decide what they do with their children, especially their female children.

And that is why Sheena went to meet her mother that day, and that is why Indrani thought it was perfectly normal to drug her daughter, to put her in the backseat of her car, to strangle her with her own scarf, and to pay her driver to dump the body, and then to go about her life with no guilt, no regrets, and no sense that she had done anything wrong.

 

(more thoughts on Indian family relations, here and here )

First Post! Woo!

So, everyone keeps telling me, “start a blog!  Start a blog!”  So fine, I’ll start a blog!  And either it will be a huge success and I will go on to fame and fortune, or it will fail and I can go back to everyone and say “ha!  I was right!  Starting a blog was pointless!”  So, really, either way, I win.