“Bend It Like Beckham” was already a film with a disappointing approach to sexuality. I can appreciate wanting to tackle the prejudice that assumes that any girls who play football are lesbians. But the film risks making that point so clearly that it ends up being exclusionary – surely such a plot line could have been enlivened and illuminated by having at least one lesbian on the team.
As it is, gay representation is held up by poor old Tony, the best friend of lead character Jess. The setup is commendable, with Tony’s identity struggle within a traditional Indian family seemingly intended to mirror Jess’s efforts to gain approval from her parents for her sporting career. But in reality, Tony’s dilemma is given barely a moment’s screen time.
Gurinder Chadha has said that in early drafts, Jess and Jules (who spend the film squabbling over a hunky male coach) did actually end up having a romantic relationship, but this plot line was deemed too controversial. Perhaps she saw Tony as an alternative way to include such a theme. It’s just a shame she was only able to do it so limitedly that it comes across as tokenism.