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We need better representation of mixedness!

My mum and I watched Christmas as Usual, a Netflix production which tells the story of Jashan and Thea, an intercultural couple. Let me tell you, we were not impressed.

We need better representation of mixedness!

My mum and I have this tradition: each Christmas we make tea, grab some cookies, sit on the bed and watch a romantic, cheesy and fun Christmas movie. This year we stumbled upon “Christmas as usual” a Netflix production telling the story of an intercultural couple navigating the holidays. We started watching the movie, hoping in a fun but modern representation of cultural mixedness … instead we found the old and obvious cliché about cultural clash. But let’s proceed with order.

The protagonists of this movie are Jashan and Thea, a young couple who lives in the United States. Jashan is Indian in origins while Thea is Norwegian. After Jashan proposes to Thea the couple decides to spend Christmas with Thea’s family in Norway to announce their wedding.

Ok, it’s minute 5 of the movie and things are already weird because Thea’s family DOES NOT know that Jashan is Indian. They don’t even know his first name.

Hold on.

It's not that they don't know that Thea has a boyfriend, they clearly have been knowing that for a bit, but apparently they have never felt the need to see a picture nor enquire about him. (My mum's comment: what kind of mother would do that???). Because of this miscommunication (?), I don’t even know how to describe it, when the couple arrives Thea’s mother mistakes the white and Norwegian taxi driver for Thea’s boyfriend...

*heavy eye rolling*

Anyway, Jashan (and my mum and I) survives the awkward introduction to Thea's mum and is welcomed in the house. Now, two things happen which made me raise an eye-brow:

1) Thea's dog starts barking at Jashan which is pretty normal given that he is a stranger. Thea looks at her mum very worried (why? it's just a dog doing what dogs do) to which she replies that the dog is not used to people who look so unfamiliar.

2) Jashan starts going around the house, commenting on every and each Christmas decoration as if he had never seen some - reminder: Jashan and Thea live in the US! When he sees a wonky-looking, clearly homemade Christmas decor, he asks about it and finds out that had been made by Thea's late father. How can this couple be engaged but he doesn't know that her father is dead?

The rest of the movie continues weaving miscommunication with racism and bigotry. While Thea’s family blindly wants to maintain their Christmas traditions, Jashan ruins everything he touches and repeatedly fails to fit in with his fiancée's Christmas activities. He cannot ski, he doesn’t have the stamina to take an ice bath and he almost kills everyone because the Indian food he cooks is too spicy … In all of this, Thea doesn't mediate until the very last moment when after a fight Jashan decides to leave.

The movie finishes with the family reunited again for the following Christmas dancing on Bollywood music around the Christmas tree.

What bothers me in this movie is the fact that it is completely centred on stereotypes and the two protagonists - who are engaged! - act as if they didn’t know anything of the traditions of one another. What many people don’t understand is that cultural differences are not a tabu in mixed couples or families. We know that we have differences and for this reason, we do talk about them! In real life, Jashan would have gone to Thea’s family knowing EVERYTHING about all her family’s Christmas traditions. At the same time, Thea would have made sure to talk about Jashan and his traditions to her own family - especially if this was a bit narrow-minded.

Jashan and Thea love each other right? Why is it weird then to suppose that they love each other because - and not despite, as this movie suggests - cultural differences?

Netflix, you can do (much) better.

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