Lately we’ve started to realize that some people are horrible enough to keep pretending to be someone else for the rest of their lives. Also, while we understand why Shekhar Kapoor, the Indian-born director, might take a primarily British perspective, we can’t fathom that he bought into the story’s white savior complex in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” . Also, why does Hollywood seem to think that any time a woman faces a setback, the only way she can deal with it is by trying to sleep with someone? And as horrible as Kaz was, we can’t say we don’t know men like him. But why was Zoe so badly written? It’s almost like people don’t understand that an independent woman isn’t necessarily alone. Again, if they accepted that, they couldn’t sell you the concept of marriage.
But if we’re being honest, as long as we don’t get into the quagmire of ignorance of misogyny in Asian marriages, “What’s love got to do with it?” it’s decently entertaining. But if you understand even basic Instagram feminism, you’ll want to scratch your eyes. And the audacity to tie the white savior trope on top is commendable. But that’s enough about its drawbacks because we don’t bother anymore. This movie doesn’t give a reality check, and we don’t intend to waste it on this. Let’s get into what happens in Shekhar Kapoor’s film.
Kaz’s Assisted Marriage
Kaz and Zoe have been neighbors and friends all their lives. Kaz plans to marry a girl of her parents’ choice, something he likes to call an assisted marriage instead of an arranged marriage. We did not know that the terminology had changed. But regardless, Zoe is surprised by her decision to do it because she can’t understand how one can marry a complete stranger. We wish more people would stop to ask this. But on the other hand, in Zoe’s life, she’s an award-winning filmmaker looking for her next big movie idea. When all her ideas are deemed a bit shady, she says she could cover her neighbours’ arranged marriage, a concept that still baffles the British. She calls it “contract love,” and yes, the name says it all. But unfortunately for Zoe, Kaz isn’t immediately on board with the idea. We don’t like to admit it, but the “arranged” marriage system is one of extreme classism and sexism and is also a display of the racism that Asian households are capable of. But that’s not why Kaz is against being followed by a camera. It’s just initial resistance that soon disappears when Zoe wins a bet against her. When Zoe starts following him around with a camera, she finds the process both intriguing and traumatizing to most Asians. The complexion, ethnicity and ambition of the future girl are debated and decided. Why did Zoe fall for Kaz even after witnessing how misogynistic her family is?
While documenting Kaz’s arranged marriage trip, she accompanies him on a sort of speed matchmaking where a group of singles find someone to marry within a group – something akin to speed dating we suppose. She is also there when Kaz’s parents set him up with a girl and they are talking on Skype. Sajal Aly is so graceful on screen, and we just can’t take our eyes off the beauty in her eyes. It turns out that, even though she’s less than interested when she talks to Kaz, neither he nor her parents take her hint, and think it’s her being coy. This is somehow enough for them to arrange the wedding.
Meanwhile, in Zoe’s life, she finds out that her sister’s husband is cheating on her, which has been devastating for the latter, not to mention that she can’t leave him for the kids. This hits Zoe hard, and when she says something a little nasty while she’s filming Kaz telling her that she’s engaged, he tells her that she needs a vacation in Pakistan. Kaz is getting married in a month and it’s time for the next stage of the drama. The whole family goes to Pakistan for the wedding, along with Zoe and her mother. There they meet her girlfriend, Maymouna, and her family. Zoe wants to take a video with her boyfriends and it’s as awkward as she gets. Two people who clearly don’t love each other but have agreed to adjust based on each other’s superficial qualities. It’s never a good argument that arranged marriages have less chance of divorce; that’s why they are better. When a person walks in with no expectations, he’s not likely to have any complaints. But that’s not how relationships are built. However, it will be years before we learn that.
But back to the wedding celebrations: Kaz takes Zoe to the market to give her a tour of the place. They get closer through some shopping, discussions about their cultural differences, and understanding each other more. When they are having dinner at a restaurant, it turns out that Zoe was Kaz’s first kiss. They also talk about Jamila, Kaz’s sister, who married out of her race. This had broken the hearts of her entire family to the point that her grandfather passed away just a week later. Jamila did not attend her funeral because she wanted her husband to accompany her and treat her with respect, but her family did not agree to make that concession. Kaz goes for an arranged marriage because she doesn’t want to dishonor her family anymore. Now, we said that Kaz was horrible, but this is just horrible. Of course, she blamed her sister for the monstrosity of the facts instead of acknowledging how obtuse her parents were. But then why wouldn’t she do that? Men in Asian families are treated like demigods and rarely attempt to challenge the status quo with discernment of what is right and wrong. But the reason she gives Zoe is the culture and how she lives in a racist country.
On mehendi night, Kaz and Zoe get to see a different side of Maymouna. He’s a much more open-minded and fun person than either Kaz or Zoe could ever hope to be. When the whole place is wrapped up in the party, these two sneak out and spend some time alone. Seeing Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s cameo was nice. But the fact of the matter is that Kaz and Zoe are getting closer than they should be. Kaz tells her that he never forgot that she was her first kiss, another thing he shouldn’t have bothered saying.
The next day, a few hours before the wedding, Zoe asks Kaz for a video. When they are talking, she tells him that she doesn’t want him to marry someone he doesn’t want. This, right here, is why we thought Zoe was horrible. She was fine with Kaz’s decision so far, but now that her own feelings are involved, she’s expressing the worst opinion at the worst time, not caring what effect she might have on so many people. She should have continued to keep her distance from her. But besides being horrible, we also think that she might be a little dumb because she wants to be a part of her family after seeing the utter misogyny of her system. However, Kaz tells her that this is what she wants to do and calls her out on her own dating options. Can women on screen have different problems than the disappointing men they choose to date?
Cut to the wedding: Maymouna doesn’t look too happy, but no one notices. Either way, promises are made and contracts are signed. The wedding is done and everyone returns to Britain. It was all so irritating, but we were thinking about how a movie directed by Jeremy Garelick, the director of “”, had much better fashion and ethnic music than the one directed by Shekhar Kapoor, who is Indian.
After the wedding
Back in Britain, Kaz is trying to settle down with Maymouna, and Zoe begins dating James, the vet her mother had been trying to set her up with. The hype of the arranged marriage has rubbed off on Zoe, and she’s with James because she thinks of him as the reliable choice. But the fact does not remain hidden from him for long. On the day of the movie screening, Kaz and his entire family are there. As they watch the movie, Zoe walks out and James comes to meet her. He breaks up with her because, unlike Zoe, he doesn’t want to settle down in life or be anyone’s Plan B. Kaz, and we love him for it. But going back, the movie has some footage of Jamila, where she talks about how she wants to go back to her family. Once the screening is done, Kaz rightly points out that Zoe shouldn’t have done that without asking her family. She was not given access to that part of the story. If she really wanted to talk about the negative aspects of the arranged marriage, she should have chosen a different family that would have given her permission to do so. But like any entitled white person, Zoe doesn’t see why this could be humiliating for Kaz’s family, not realizing that it’s not her choice.
However, the women in Kaz’s family seem happy with the documentary. We can understand this. The voices of women in Asian homes are often ignored. They may have had a softer perspective on what Jamila did, but they never got around to expressing it. Seeing it on the screen was what they wanted to say for a long time. But this still doesn’t negate Zoe’s mistakes. Zoe also tells her mother that she and James have broken up. She is upset because she thinks that James is the “solution” to Zoe’s problem. Zoe rightly questions her mother if she values her less if she’s not dating. Finally, her mother admits that she doesn’t want her daughter to feel alone. Perhaps she is still unaware of the loneliness that is generated in most Indian and Pakistani families due to the way society is structured.
‘What does love have to do with it?’ Ending explanation: Do Kaz and Maymouna stay together?
That night, Maymouna admits to Kaz that she has been having an affair and was unintentionally married to her parents. She came to Britain to try to live the life she wanted, and Kaz was the only way to do it. Come on, Eid, Cath and Zoe, go to the Khans for lunch. Kaz is there without Maymouna and tells everything to her family. He and Maymouna have divorced and she is preparing to tell her parents how she wants to live her life. She also brings Jamila into the house, and it is indeed a tearful reunion, with her returning with her daughter.
It literally took everything to come crashing down for the family to see the merit of leading a different kind of life, but here they are. And this is what we mean by the white savior complex. Zoe’s use of her story without her permission brought the family together. But now that things are good, Kaz tries to meet Zoe and looks everywhere for her, only to find her in the tree house. They both kiss, and that’s the weirdest, most awkward kiss we could have ever seen on TV. These two just had “friendship chemistry”. They would not be good lovers. In the end credits of “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”, we see that all is well. Maymouna has become a human rights lawyer and her parents are proud of her. Cath continues to enjoy the culture and the world is rosy again.
The writer certainly has a romanticized view of families, and all the racism and misogyny is not a real problem but part of the “fun” of the process. It was not lost on us that in the film, Kaz is 32 and Maymouna is 22. Such a match was arranged, and no one stopped to think or ask Maymouna what she wanted. It was about Kaz’s “choice”. South Asian stories need to be told on screen in English, but we need better storytellers. Until then, everything will be a superficial reading of “culture, color and exoticism”.