Reflection: South Asians and the American Dream in Film

‘The Namesake’ captures the struggles of a first generation American born of Indian immigrants – balancing your parent’s culture with the American culture you grew up around and wanting to fit more into the latter even to the dismay of your parents. Gogol feels unhappy with his name, which causes him to stand out especially since it’s not Indian or American but actually Ukrainian. His feelings of it are clear when he changes it trying to justify it with how employers may view him seeing ‘Gogol’ on a resume, though of course there is a meaning behind every name.

It reminds me of a friend I knew in high school who came from Fiji. her name was Swastika, something her parents were very proud of, yet she strongly preferred to be called Pauline because it was more American and allowed her to blend more into the culture she was growing up in.

In the documentary ‘And The Pursuit of Happiness’ those interviewed share the common dream of coming to America, working and providing better for themselves and their family. To them it’s worth enduring travel, customs, learning the language and embracing American culture – a lot unlike the parents in ‘The Namesake’ who despite wanting to have successful lives in the US the mom still clings to her culture while not being able to accept her son dating a white woman or acting in non traditional manners. The views of the American Dream in both films are similar, it’s how they are fulfilled and perceived that differs.

One man who was a known actor in his home country now gives lessons in the US, he refers to his immigration story as starting his second life. It’s his, yet it’s something new to embrace and nourish. One Indian family filmed has incorporated a balance of Indian and American culture and customs, which has allowed their children to experience peace as they achieve their own dreams and keep family morals. The father views it as an experience to take the best out of both worlds to find happiness; a perk of globalization as mentioned in the reading

Immigrants face many challenges from gender inequality to host hostility and cultural clashes with the next generation. It seems that the most happy – and to some degree successful – are those who carry a more positive perspective and fulfillment of their American Dream. ‘The Namesake’ and ‘And the Pursuit of Happiness’ were interesting contrasts to the other films I watched on the topic, ‘The Immigrant’ and ‘America America’.



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