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SUBJECTS — Sports/Soccer (Football); World/England;
        Parenting; Romantic Relationships;
        Respect; Caring.

Age: 13+; MPAA rated PG-13 for language and sexual content; Comedy; 2003; 112 minutes; Color; Available from

Description:     This story focuses on two English girls who want to play football (soccer) professionally. Jesminder (Jess) is from an Indian Sikh family that has immigrated to England. Julie is from a traditional English family. Each suffers from the prejudices of her parents. Jess' parents believe that playing football and displaying her legs to the world are not proper for a traditional Sikh girl. They forbid her to play. Julie's friendship with Jess, her interest in playing football, and her disinterest in things feminine lead her mother to fear that Julie is a lesbian. It all comes to a head at Jess' sister's version of the "Big Fat Sikh Wedding".

Benefits of the Movie: The primary academic uses for this movie are: (1) in a course or unit on ethics, to analyze Jess' decision to lie to her parents about playing football and (2) in physical education classes, to show girls being serious about sports, in this case football.

Jess breaks out of the life that her parents have mapped out for her. Julie resists considerable pressure from her mother to be feminine in the traditional way. "Bend It Like Beckham" is an interesting portrayal of families adapting to the unexpected paths their children take and of an Indian family assimilating to life in Britain. A core message is that "in the modern world children have to be allowed to forge their own futures. ... [W]hile we need to be reasonably understanding of parents and elderly folk who cling to the old ways, we don't need to make excuses for their intolerance."
Review of the Movie by Stephanie Zacharek in


Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cfast
Helpful Background
Discussion Questions
--- Social-Emotional Learning
--- Moral-Ethical Emphasis
      (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities

Click here for a series of discussion questions exploring the ethics of children deceiving their parents.

Possible Problems:     MODERATE. Jesminder and Pinky, her sister, lie to their parents: Jess to play football and Pinky to make love with her fiance. The viewer will want to root for Jess because, until the end of the film, Jess' parents won't let her play football, and playing football is Jess' dream. (Pinky's lie is not a major issue in the film and is neither endorsed nor criticized.) The best way to deal with this issue is probably to ignore it. Jess is uncomfortable with the lie and it doesn't work. Eventually, she and her parents come to an understanding.

In a good natured way, the movie points out some of the foibles of the Sikh community in Britain. There is also a good amount of profanity and sexually related dialog, much of it in British slang. There is at least one obscene gesture. The car in which Pinky and her boyfriend are making love is briefly shown rocking back and forth.

Parenting Points:     Before the movie, tell your child that the name of the film refers to the fact that early in his career, soccer superstar David Beckham appeared to be able to kick the ball so that it swerved in the air and out of the reach of defending goal keepers. Go over some of the British slang used in the movie. See Building Vocabulary.

After watching the film, tell your child that if you ever act like Jess' parents or Julie's mother, that he or she needs to tell you and the family will sit down and talk about it. No promises, but you'll talk. What your child should not do is lie to you. If your child's attention span will permit, go through the exercise set out for a class in The Ethics of Jess' Lie to Her Parents. In addition, an interesting comparison can be made with Jess' lies and the lies told by Casey in Ice Princess.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

Introduce students to the cinematic and theatrical techniques used by filmmakers. Click here for our lesson plan based on materials specially prepared for TWM by John Golden, a leading expert on using movies in the classroom. (The National Council of Teachers of English has published two books on this topic written by Mr. Golden. TWM recommends both of them highly. Click here for links to purchase Mr. Golden's books.)

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Give us your feedback! Was the Guide helpful? If so, which sections were most helpful? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Email us!

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

    Selected Awards: 2002 British Comedy Awards: Best Comedy Film; 2002 Golden Globe Awards Nominations: Writers Guild of America WGA Award Nominations: Best Original Screenplay.

    Featured Actors: Parminder Nagra as Jesminder ("Jess"); Keira Knightley as Juliette ("Julie"); Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Joe; Anupam Kher as Mr. Bhamra; Archie Panjabi as Pinky Bhamra; Shaznay Lewis as Mel; Frank Harper as Alan Paxton; Juliet Stevenson as Paula Paxton; Shaheen Khan as Mrs. Bhamra; and Ameet Chana as Tony.

    Director: Gurinder Chadha.

The scar shown on the leg of Parminder Nagra is very real. Like the character in the movie, she was injured in a spill of hot cooking oil. Originally, the scar was not in the script and the director, Gurinder Chada, didn't know that Ms. Nagra had the scar. The day after Ms. Nagra was selected for the role, the director got a call from the actress' agent who said, "Uhh, I think there's something you should know. She's got a bit of a scar, and it's gonna be visible." It was clear when Ms. Chada saw the scar that it couldn't be covered by make-up. Ms. Nagra was very upset, fearing that she'd lose the part. Ms. Chada, who also co-wrote the script, asked how it had happened and simply wrote the incident into the movie. Interview With Gurinder Chada by Cynthia Fuchs from Pop Matters.

TeachWithMovies suggests three ways to use the dilemma faced by Jess to motivate an exploration of the ethics of lying to parents. The teacher will provide most of the information while involving the class as much as possible. Unless students are already familiar with the ethical rules referred to in the sample lecture (see below), and students should be required to copy the rules in their notes.

One approach is to give the lecture set out below using questions to involve the class in the discussion. Lead the discussion so that it covers the information described in the "Discussion Points". We have broken up the content into several questions and discussion points. Frame as many additional questions as you can working with comments made by students in the discussion. Specific notes to teachers are in smaller type within brackets.

A second method is to assign a short text on ethics such as TeachWithMovies' Principled Decision Making -- How to Get the Results We Really Want, Maximize our Strength and Power, and Be Proud of Our Actions (six pages). Ask students to apply it to Jess' decision to lie to her parents. This should first be explored in class. The substance of the discussion should cover the content of the sample lecture. However, since the students have read the materials, they will play a much larger role in the discussion than in the sample.

A third technique for using "Bend It Like Beckham" to motivate students to think about issues of honesty with their parents is to use selected portions of the dialog to prompt class discussions. (See the sidebar.) Again, teachers should mold the discussion to cover the information contained in the sample lecture. Have class members read the dialog and then ask a question such as "What was [name of character] getting at?" or "Do you agree or disagree with [name of character]?" or "How does this dialog relate to a theme in the movie?"

If the students get involved, the discussion will probably not go as planned. If you are able to convey the process of making an ethical decision, you have succeeded. Engagement equals success even if students say they don't agree with the process or the conclusions you suggest. Many of them will think about it later and use these techniques in making decisions.

After the class discussion, assign an ethical dilemma and ask the students to write an essay setting out the values and the stakeholders, applying each of the ethical tests and what we call the Rule of the Most Honoring Choice. Suggested topics are set out in the Assignments, Projects and Activities section.


LECTURE PROMPT:   Jess lied to her parents but the movie leaves us with no doubt that she is basically a good girl who is going to be a responsible and honest adult. Is this realistic?

DISCUSSION POINTS: Yes. Most kids lie to their parents at some point. In this movie Jess cared about her parents. But she lied to them anyway.

LECTURE PROMPT:   Why do kids who love their parents lie to them on occasion?

DISCUSSION POINTS: [You'll get many answers: e.g., to avoid hurting the parents' feelings, to get something the child wants, to avoid ridiculous rules. Write some of these on the board. You might want to get back to them later.]

LECTURE PROMPT:   Today we're going to talk about the process that people go through when they decide whether or not to lie or to commit some other act that violates rules of ethics. We're not talking about scripture or a rule that says lying is always bad. But we're going to explore the way that most people think when they make a decision involving ethics.

Would you want a friend who lied to you? Aren't friends supposed to be there for each other when things get rough? Who would want as a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife, someone they couldn't trust? Except for extraordinary situations, lying is not good for relationships. It divides and separates people. True friendship and real love suffer when one person deceives another.

Often lying is a sign of disrespect. The liar is taking the position that the other person doesn't deserve to know the truth. Sometimes, a person is in a completely dependent position and feels that there is no way to get what they need except to lie. That's not a description of a good friendship or a good loving relationship. Or, lying can be a sign that the liar himself or herself has no self-respect or is ashamed of what he or she is doing.

In our discussion we're going to use two terms. The first is "value". Everyone has things in life that they value. These can include having good friends, being healthy, having children, having a happy family life, having a good marriage, buying a new car, being popular, getting rich, wearing stylish clothing, and last but not least, acting in an ethical manner. These "values" are not listed in any particular order. Some are more important than others. Some last a lifetime while others are temporary. Everyone's values are different: their importance is different and whether they are short term or long term is different. [It might be a good idea to give just a few examples and let the class add to the list.]

Sometimes values conflict. For example, if our job requires us to work long hours, having a happy family life might conflict with our career; or we may want something we can't get without violating our value of acting ethically.

We've all benefitted from the ethical conduct of others and we've all suffered from unethical conduct. Acting ethically is an especially important value because it sustains our relationships with others. Ethical actions are what hold society together. If everyone felt they could disobey the law, driving would be incredibly dangerous. If everyone felt that they could kill someone if that person made them very angry, who would be safe? If people felt they could be dishonest any time they wanted, whom could you trust?

The second term we're going to use today is "stakeholder". Every action we take affects other people. Actions are like stones thrown into a pool of water. The effects of our actions, like waves in a pool, ripple out in many directions. Every person affected by a decision that we make, including ourselves, is called a "stakeholder". Sometimes a part of us wants to do something but we don't do it because of how others will be affected. For example, if you are in a loving relationship and you meet another attractive girl or boy and would like to have a little fling on the side, a stakeholder in this decision is your girlfriend or boyfriend. His or her feelings would be hurt. If you're married and have children, the stakeholders in a decision to have an affair are not only your husband or wife, but also your children, your parents (who might be disappointed if the marriage broke up), and so on. To be able to determine if we really want to do something, we need to think about how what we do will affect the stakeholders and what they value in their lives.

Acting ethically sometimes involves sacrificing some other value, i.e., doing something we don't want to do or not doing something we want to do. If our values conflict, and there is no practical way to reconcile them, sometimes we just have to say, "No, I want to do this, but I'm not going to do it because it is wrong."

The movie deals with certain values that Jess held. What are they?

DISCUSSION POINTS: She loved playing football. She loved her parents. She didn't want to hurt them, to lie to them, or to end up hating them. She valued her friendships with Julie and Tony and her relationship with Joe. She didn't want to let her team down. [Many of these values are shown by the dialog. The kids may come up with other values. Write them on the board or have the students write them in their notes.]

LECTURE PROMPT:   Which of Jess' values were in conflict when she had to make her decision whether or not to lie to her parents and play football behind their backs?

DISCUSSION POINTS: Playing football and not wanting to end up hating her parents, on the one hand, and, on the other, telling the truth, obeying her parents, and not wanting to hurt her parents. [Diagram this on the board using the image of a scale or have the students write it in their notes.]

LECTURE PROMPT:   Who are the stakeholders in Jess' decision?

DISCUSSION POINTS: Jess herself and her parents. (These are easy.) There are other stakeholders that Jess didn't even know yet. If Jess tried out for the team the coach would probably spend time helping her improve her football skills. He could have used this time developing another player. If Jess' parents discovered what she was doing and stopped her from playing, the coach's time helping Jess would be wasted. In addition, the team could come to rely on Jess. There are usually only a certain number of positions on a team. If Jess takes a position, then another girl will be denied the opportunity to play and perhaps dropped from the team. If Jess' parents found out and she had to quit, the team wouldn't have its full compliment of players and the player who was dropped would have lost her chance to play. That almost happened in the movie.

LECTURE PROMPT:   No person on this earth is isolated. We rely on our family, our friends, and our community. And then each of us has our own conscience. Ethics is about interpersonal relationships. It's also about living with the decisions we make and how our actions compare to the requirements of our own conscience. It's not a good thing to realize that you are ashamed of some action that you have already taken. Very often you can't undo what you have already done or take advantage of an opportunity to act that you have let pass by.

Let's try to work through how people think about a situation when their ethics conflict with what they want to do. Experience has shown that if we apply the following ethical tests to any proposed action, it will help us determine how that action will affect our relations with others and how we'll feel about it over the long run. These tests are not absolute. Instead, they each factor into a carefully considered decision. The failure of a proposed course of action to meet any of these tests raises a warning flag that we should either not take the action or that we have to consider our conduct very carefully.

If you practice any of the Western religions (for example, Christianity, Islam or Judaism) these tests will usually help you understand how to act in a way sanctioned by your religion. If you are not religious, these tests apply as well. Humanist scholars who study ethics agree that ethical tests are important in determining how we should act. But what is important in this unit is that these tests describe a process that will help you to come to a decision that you will feel good about in the long run.
  1. The Golden Rule; ("Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." There are other ways to say it: "In every situation, act toward others in the same way that you would want others to act toward you." and "How would I like it if someone did that to me?")

    (Why did we put the Golden Rule first? Because it sums up the highest ethical standards of our society in one sentence. If you live your life by the Golden Rule you'll be an ethical person and a force for good in the world. But, as Jess found out, that's not always an easy thing to do.)

  2. Accepted general principles of ethical conduct; (For example, the Ten Commandments or the Six Pillars of Character.)

  3. The Rule of Universality; ("How would it be if everyone did it?");

  4. The Rule of Disclosure; ("How would I feel if the whole world knew what I was doing or going to do, especially my family, my friends, and people at my school or job?".)
[Write the ethical tests on the board, give them to the students in a handout, or have the students copy the tests in their notes.]

If any action we take violates any of these ethical tests, we shouldn't take the action unless we have a very good reason. In other words, when the warning flags are up we need to demonstrate to ourselves that violating ethical rules is the only way to attain that goal and that the values we seek to attain are worthy of acting in a manner that is, quite frankly, not ethical.

Let's apply each of these rules to Jess' decision to lie to her parents about playing football.

  1. The Golden Rule -- No one wants to be deceived. Jess' conduct failed this test and this is an indication of a violation of ethics. [Some students will come up with rationalizations for Jess' conduct: Her parents loved her and in the long run would want her to be happy and not to hate them. Or Jess was just saving her parents from their own mistake that they would later regret. Or, Jess' parents were not living up to their obligation to do what was best for her and therefore she didn't have to follow the Golden Rule on this point. Does this give Jess a free pass to violate the Golden Rule? The answer is, "no" but obviously the way in which Jess' parents were treating her makes a big difference. That comes into the analysis later.]

  2. Accepted general principles of ethical conduct -- These tell us not to lie and to obey our parents. They are another indication that Jess should not deceive her parents.

  3. The Rule of Universality -- Jess would state that people should follow their dreams. Others would say that the universality principle applies to Jess' lie. Jess knows that it wouldn't be good if everyone disobeyed their parents and lied whenever it suited them.

  4. The Rule of Disclosure -- Jess lies to her parents and she hides the truth. This test shows a probable violation of an ethical principle.
LECTURE PROMPT:   So, at least three of the four ethical tests tell us that Jess' conduct is wrong. This means that Jess is in a situation in which her values conflict. People get into situations in which their values conflict all the time. Sometimes ethical values are not involved. Say you want to excell in sports and in your classes at school, but the games and practices take away from your study time. What do you do in a situation like that?

DISCUSSION POINTS: You play computer games less or see your friends less frequently so that you can do both, or you learn to study faster, or, if none of those work you will have to choose which value is most important to you.

LECTURE PROMPT:   When you find that any of your values conflict, if one of them is ethical or otherwise, the first thing you should do is think really hard about whether there is a practical way to satisfy both values. Is there something that you could do to avoid the conflict? The only limit to the potential solutions is your own creativity, imagination, and motivation. Life is not a zero sum game and often there are ways to satisfy two apparently conflicting values.

Remember when Jess is talking in the park with her friend Tony? She is trying to figure out what to do and decides to lie without too much thought. But if she had thought about it, what avenues could have been open to her to act ethically and to play football?

DISCUSSION POINTS: In this situation, the discussion will revolve around what would have happened if Jess had told her parents how important playing football was to her, how a refusal on their part would hurt her, etc. She might have been able to convince them. Perhaps she could have worked out a compromise: "I'll play football for two years and if I can't make a college or a professional team, I'll stop and go to law school." That's probably how she felt about it anyway.

LECTURE PROMPT:   The movie does not show Jess really trying to get her parents to let her play. But this is a movie and let's give Jess the benefit of the doubt. Let's assume, like the movie does, that Jess' parents were unreasonably adamant: "Never, not even for a little while, will you be able to play football. Proper Indian girls don't play football and don't show their legs in public. You won't be able to get an Indian husband if you play football." What should Jess have done then?

Remember, a truly ethical person knows that at times doing the right thing means giving up something he or she really wants. In other words, ethical decisions sometimes mean giving up a value that is really important to us. Given that her parents were unreasonable, which is the assumption of the movie, what should Jess do now?

DISCUSSION POINTS: Playing football and then trying to play football professionally was a fundamental goal of Jess' life. It was a basic expression of who she was. It was an important and long term value for her.

LECTURE PROMPT:   Did her parents have a good reason to stop her from playing football?

DISCUSSION POINTS: No. They brought their daughter up in England, not in a Sikh community in the Punjab. It wasn't fair to their daughter to put her in this contradictory situation. Nor was it fair to their daughter for them to make a decision without looking at what would be good for her in the long run. They were violating an important obligation, the duty to care for their child.

LECTURE PROMPT:   When our values are in conflict and you can't figure any way out of it, good people like Jess instinctively use a way to make a decision that can be called the "Rule of the Most Honoring Choice". It states that when there is a conflict between our own values or between our values and those of other stakeholders, we should choose the alternative which honors the most important long term values for everyone involved, giving reasonable priority to the stakeholders to whom we owe duties of obligation or loyalty.

How does this rule of ethics apply to Jess' decision whether or not to play football and lie to her parents, again assuming she could not figure out a way to play football without lying to her parents? Which side of the scale has the most weight?

DISCUSSION POINTS: It could be said that Jess' parents put her into an impossible situation by having her grow up in England (a society with different expectations for girls than in India), and by demanding that she give up her dream for Indian Sikh traditions that had no meaning for their daughter. Jess was an English girl of Sikh Indian heritage. Her values were very different than her parents.

When people make decisions they balance the different alternatives. For Jess, the opportunity to play football was on one side of the scale. This was very important to her and the screenwriter for the film stressed this point through the story of Jess' father. He was a talented cricket player and always regretted that he gave up on the game after the English excluded him. Also on this side of the scale is the realization that Jess would resent giving up football if she were made to do it. It would hurt her relationship with her parents for decades, if not forever.

On the other side of the scale were Jess' values of obedience to her parents, being honest with her parents, and not hurting them. It is clear from the movie that Jess felt bad about disobeying her parents, lying to them, and hurting their feelings. But Jess' parents undermined their own position by failing to take into account what was best for their daughter.

[Let the class discuss and vote whether Jess made the right decision. We assume that most students will say that she did. Have them explain their reasons.]

LECTURE PROMPT:   The reason that this movie works is that this is one of the unusual times that a child is justified in disobeying and lying to her parents. It's still not an ethical decision, but we can understand how, in the long run, it was the right decision. Most of us reached this conclusion instinctively, without the long analysis. We make judgments like this all the time and so we use shortcuts. But knowing the analysis it is important because it helps us make the right decision in difficult cases.

Here is another example of a kid who lied to her mom about sports taken from the movie Ice Princess. Let's apply the analysis to her. Casey is a physics geek growing up in New England. She is a genius at physics but kind of clunky at school and definitely not in the popular crowd. Her mother is a college instructor who has dreamed of Casey attending Harvard all her life. And Harvard wants Casey, too. But Casey decides she wants to try a sport: competitive figure skating.

Casey's mother is appalled because super brain power isn't required for ice skating and the skaters wear those flimsy little costumes. Besides, it will interfere with her plans for Casey to attend Harvard. Casey is hurt that her mother won't listen to her and support her in her ice skating. Before this, her mother has always supported her in everything.

Casey lives in modern day America. If she had been willing to tell her mother that she was going to skate and put her foot down, her mother would have been hurt and angry, but Casey would have been able to skate. But it's not as simple as that. Casey is an only child and her parents are divorced. Casey always felt a responsibility to take care of her mother by being especially good. She finds it very hard to hurt her mother's feelings. So, Casey goes to the rink secretly: hiding her skates and her flimsy little suit and lying to her mother about what she does every day. Did Casey make the right decision?

Discussion Point: The answer is no. While skating was almost as important to Casey as playing football was to Jess, Casey would not have been grounded and restricted to home if she had just told her mother she was going to skate and that was it. In other words, the choice for Casey was between hurting her mother's feelings early by being honest about what she wanted to do or hurting her mother's feelings more profoundly later when her mother discovered that Casey was both lying to her and skating. Or, to analyze it another way, assume that Casey thought she could keep her skating secret forever, the Rule of the Most Honoring Choice doesn't provide a justification for lying because, in this case, Casey didn't have to lie. To justify the lie we would have to say that not hurting her mother's feelings was worth more than being honest with her mother.

How does this compare to Jess' decision to lie to her parents in "Bend It Like Beckham"? Again, we assume that there was nothing Jess could have done at the beginning of the film to get her parent's permission to play football. Casey had a much less compelling reason to lie and she shouldn't have done it. The different circumstances change the outcome.

End of sample lecture. ---- After the lecture, have the students write essays applying this analysis to ethical quandaries. See Assignments, Projects and Activities.

Think about Jess' lie to her parents. They were being unreasonable. Children often lie to parents who are being unreasonalbe. One way to look at the film is that Jess was in the process of resolving this issue. The initial lie allowed her to determine whether she really had a future as a football player. If she didn't, she would have stopped and gone to school to be a lawyer like her parents wanted her to. She would not have had to hurt their feelings and cause all the upset, because the lie would be short lived and wouldn't have been an issue. However, Jess was basically a good person and she was always uncomfortable with her lie. When the possibility of playing football in college and professionally became real, she forced the issue by telling her parents what she had done and demanding to be able to play. Fortunately, if belatedly, her parents responded in a correct manner.

Children should not lie to parents who would permit the child to lead the life they want to live.

Dialog and excerpts from the screenplay:

Jess: Anything I want is just not Indian enough for 'em! I never bunked off school. I don't wear make-up or tight clothes. They don't see that!

Tony: Parents never see the good things.

Jess: Anyone can cook aloo gobi, but who can bend a ball like Beckham?

Tony: Just play and don't tell them.

Jess: Pinky's been sneaking off for years to see Teets.

Tony: What your parents don't know won't hurt.

Jess: Why should I have to lie? It's not like I'm sleeping around with anyone!

Joe: Look, Jess. I saw it. She fouled you. She tugged your shirt. You just overreacted, that's all.

Jess: That's not all. She called me a Paki. But I guess that's something you wouldn't understand.

Joe: Jess, I'm Irish. Of course I understand what that feels like.

Joe: I can see what you're up against, but parents don't always know what's best.

Joe: Why are they so frightened to let you play?

Jess: They want to protect me.

Joe: From what?

Jess: This is taking me away from everything they know.

Joe: Whose life are you living, Jess? If you try pleasing 'em for ever, you're gonna end up blaming 'em.

Jess: What, like you? -- I'm sorry.

Joe: No, you're right. I stopped talking to my dad because we had nothing to talk about.

Julie: If you give up football, what will you have to give up next?

Jess: If I can't tell you what I want now, then I'll never be happy, whatever I do.

Teetu's mother: All I know is, the children are a map of their parents.

Jess' mother: Why have I two deceiving daughters?

Jess' mother: Look how dark you've become.


Go over the following English terms. Most are slang. These will help kids understand the movie.
    football = soccer;

    bollocks = rubbish, nonsense, drivel; e.g."That film was bollocks." This is a slightly obscene term originally referring to the testicles of an oxen;

    bunked off = To shirk your duties. Adolescents use it to refer to avoiding lessons at school;

    cow = a contemptible woman, a "bitch". This is a derogatory term but it can also be used as an affectionate aside, as in "silly cow";

    to fancy = to like, as in a girl likes a boy;

    gutted = not happy because of an event that has occurred that didn't go your way;

    kit = clothing; uniform, sports equipment;

    over the moon = very happy, extremely happy; e.g., "I'm over the moon about that";

    Paki = an insulting term for a person of Indian descent;

    pissed = drunk;

    right = very (it is used as an intensive, e.g."A right sob story" means "a very sad story";

    to sack = to fire from a job;

    to shag = to copulate or have sex with;

    slag = woman of loose morals;

    strop = a bad mood, a fit of fury, e.g. "I don't want you to get into a strop with me";

    stroppy = bad tempered, argumentative;

    a stuffing = a beating;

    tatty = junkie, tattered;

    wanker = a masturbator, or a contemptible person, or an idiot, an incompetent person.

Sources include: UK Slang Words and A Dictionary of Slang.

Hindi Terms used in the movie:
    goreh = white people;

    dhania = coriander seeds;

    achar = Indian pickle;

    punjabi = most popularly spoken language in Punjab province in India;

    dal = all varieties of dried beans, split peas, and lentils used in Indian cooking;

    chapatti = flat pancake-like bread cooked on a griddle;

    Aloo gobi = an Indian curry; aloo means potato and gobi means cauliflower;

    choli = a midriff-baring blouse worn in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and other countries where the sari is worn. The choli is cut to fit tightly to the body and has short sleeves with a low neck. The choli is usually cropped, allowing exposure of the navel; the cropped design is particularly well-suited for wear in the sultry South Asian summers. Cut-out backs and front-opening buttons are some of the features of contemporary designs;

    Saris = traditional dress for Indian women consisting of a long piece of cloth, usually brightly colored, wrapped around the body, the shoulder or the head.

Helpful Background:

  • Before the movie, tell kids that the title refers to football superstar David Beckham and his ability to make a goal from free-kicks. It looked like he could make the ball swerve in the air, its path "bending" out of the reach of a defending goal keeper. At the beginning of the movie Jess is dreaming about "bending it like Beckham".

  • The Sikh religion is the 9th largest religion in the world, with 29 million adherents. It is concentrated in the Indian province of Punjab, but adherents live all over the world. Sikh craftsmen were brought to East Africa by the British in the early twentieth century to build the Uganda-Kenya railway. Some stayed and Sikh communities were established in Uganda. In 1972 the erratic dictator of Uganda, Idi Amin, ordered the expulsion of all East Asians. Britain offered political asylum and many Indians, including Sikhs, settled in England. Most likely, this is how Jess and her family came to England.

  • Guru Nanak Dev Ji was one of the founders of Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh gurus (enlightened leaders) whose teachings define the religion.

  • The Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) sought to establish a soccer league for the United States. It played three seasons, 2001, 2002 and 2003. It was the first league of full-time professional women soccer players in the world. The WUSA lost its financial backing after the 2003 season and suspended operations.

  • Julie's mother says, "If the mountain won't come to Mohammed, Mohammed will go to the mountain." It is a way of saying that if a person can't get their own way they must adjust to the inevitable or that if someone wonít do this thing for me, Iíll do it for myself. "The legend goes that when the founder of Islam was asked to give proofs of his teaching, he ordered Mount Safa to come to him. When the mountain did not comply, Mohammed raised his hands toward heaven and said, 'God is merciful. Had it obeyed my words, it would have fallen on us to our destruction. I will therefore go to the mountain and thank God that he has had mercy on a stiff-necked generation.'" Sources: The Phrase Finder and Bartleby's Quotations.



    Discussion Questions:

    1.   Click here for Standard Questions Suitable for Any Film

    2.   Describe two things which serve as contrasting symbols in this movie. Here's a hint: It has to do with something on walls. Suggested Response: Jess' parents spoke to a painting of a Sikh religious leader that they had put on a living room wall. Jess spoke to a poster of Beckham on her bedroom wall. This is a symbol of the difference in their worlds.

    3.   Why is it so much harder for women's sports to receive the support and funding given to men's sports in a society in which women are supposed to be treated the same as men? Suggested Response: We don't know the right answer to this question, but it's great for discussion. Some possible answers are: There is a long tradition of men's sports. In ancient Greece and Rome, only men participated in sports and this custom came to the modern world through them. Men are usually physically stronger than women and can achieve more in sports. Society still suffers from sexism.

    4.   Does this movie perpetuate stereotypes? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer to this question. We thinks it challenges stereotypes. Jess and Jules play soccer really well. Jess is also quite feminine. While Julie's mother accuses her of not being interested in things feminine (remember the scene in the store), Julie gets into a knockout dress for the party in Germany. Pinky is a stereotypical girl interested in getting married and having children. Both mothers are stereotypes but this is a comedy and you need straight-men for comedies. Frankly, both of the mothers have more depth than most characters in comedies.

    5.   The director of this movie, Gurinder Chada stated that she tried to show the points of view of each of the characters. Was she successful? Suggested Response: To a great extent she was. We understand the parents' position, as well as that of the girls.

    6.   Homosexuality (or the fear of it) is a theme in this movie. Give some examples. Suggested Response: There are two obvious examples. Julia's mother is petrified that her tomboy daughter is a lesbian. Tony is a homosexual who is afraid to come out of the closet because homosexuality is not tolerated in the Indian community.

    Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


    See the Quick Discussion Questions.

    1.   Where do you draw the line between living up to your parent's expectations and living your own life? What does this movie have to say about it? Suggested Response: This is different for everyone and it depends on how reasonable the parents expectations are. The point of this movie is that you can't let what your parents want keep you from pursuing your own dream.

    2.   In this movie Julie and Joe were encouraging Jess to resist her parents' efforts to stop her from playing football. Were they being good friends or were they interfering in her life for their own interests? Suggested Response: They did have their own interests but friends encourage each other to live the life they want to live. But whenever your friends give you advice look to their self-interest and then evaluate what is best for you.

    3.   Remember the three Indian girls sitting on the bench that Jess referred to as "slags". Why did the filmmakers include this scene? Suggested Response: The purpose was to contrast Jess' adaptation to English life in which she wanted to play football with the adaptation where girls become cheap looking and sleep with anyone around.


    4.   As a parent, when your children are 15 years of age or older and start trying to make their own decisions, where will you draw the line between telling your children what kind of life to lead and allowing them to make their own decisions? Suggested Response: So long as children are not hurting themselves or others, parents have to let children go their own way. Parents should encourage children whenever they try to do something that contributes to society or is good for them. Certainly, parents can let their preferences be known, but at a certain age (it depends on the child), parents lead best by example.

    5.   The Bhamras had, as the mother put it "two deceitful daughters". One secretly had sexual relations with her boyfriend and the other secretly played football. Until Pinky's wedding, which of these deceits were worse (in the minds of the parents)? Why? Suggested Response: It was Jess' deceit in playing football and showing her legs to the world. This was because Pinky's deceit was something that was not subversive to the parents' way of life, while Jess' was. In fact, the parents knew all along what Pinky was doing and did nothing to stop it.

    6.   What does this movie tell us about parenting? Suggested Response: It tells us several things. First, you can make lots of mistakes (all parents will) but if your basic attitude toward your child is loving and nurturing, most of these mistakes can be corrected without great harm. Second, parents must let their child be his or her own person. Third, children will lie to their parents and can still love and care for their parents, and also respect them. Fourth, when parents bring a child into a culture that is different from their own (like Jess' parents) or the culture changes (girls didn't play football in leagues when Julie's mother was growing up), parents have to understand that their child is going to adapt to that new culture.


    7.   Do you agree that their different backgrounds should not be a deterrent to Joe and Jess having a romantic relationship? Suggested Response: A long lasting romantic relationship requires more than a physical attraction. Couples that last a long time find that they share basic values. (See definition of values above.) In melting pot cultures such as the U.S. and Great Britain, ethnic background usually has a minor effect on most people's values. Each couple must assess their own situation. The question for each couple, whether they are of the same ethnic background or not, is whether the values that they share plus their love for each other are enough to bridge the differences in their values.

    The director/writer Gurinder Chada explained the autobiographical nature of this film. As a girl she refused to follow the pattern for the perfect Indian girl, refusing to cook Indian food, wear Indian clothes, and serve the men. Gurinder Chadha - Success at Last as Beckham Finally Hits US Interview by Paul Fischer at

    MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: For other movies about South Asian immigrants see "My Beautiful Launderette" and "My Son the Fanatic". has not reviewed these movies.

    For other movies about girls and sports see: Edge of America and Ice Princess.

    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


    (Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)



    (Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don't threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements)

    1.   Was Jess being disrespectful to her parents? Suggested Response: No, it was her parents who were being disrespectful to her. They didn't look at who she was, they only saw who they wanted her to be.


    (Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)

    2.   Jess' parents made mistakes in their attempts to parent their children, but they also had a real strength. What was the strength? What was their mistake and why didn't it do real damage to Jess? Suggested Response: The strength was their basic and strong love for Jess. The problem was that they didn't look at who Jess had become. They saw her as they wanted her to be. This caused Jess to deceive them but didn't do her any real damage because, before it was too late, they saw what was important to their daughter and changed their position. Had they not done this, Jess would have had to choose between her relationship with her parents and her dream to be a football player. That would have really damaged their relationship.
   is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

    Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

    Bridges to Reading: Tangerine by Edward Bloor, Harcourt, Brace, 1997 (Twelve-year-old Paul, who lives in the shadow of his football hero brother Erik, fights for the right to play football despite his near blindness and slowly begins to remember the incident that damaged his eyesight.) [grades 7 - 10]

    This book suggested by Marilyn Taniguchi, Collection Services Manager, Beverly Hills Public Library.


    Assignments, Projects and Activities: Go through the Excerpts from the Screenplay and discuss how each relates to the themes of the movie. In addition, you can have students write an essay applying the system of making ethical decisions they have learned in class to several ethical situations such as:
    1. the family consists of a teenager and his mother (the father has left home), in order to do a good deed that child brings a homeless man home to eat, shower and shave (the man, it turns out, is a drug addict);
    2. a young hoodlum is waiting for treatment in a busy emergency room; a young girl and her father are sitting next to him; she is having trouble breathing due to an asthma attack; the girl is not turning blue from lack of oxygen but she is near panic; her father can't get the nurses (who are busy with other cases) to pay attention to her; the young hoodlum pulls out his gun and shoots up the ceiling to gain attention; he then instructs the nurses to pay attention to the young asthma patient; they comply;
    3. a man is fleeing police with an expensive stereo in one hand; a woman lets him hide in her car until the police have gone by;
    4. a child lies to his or her parents about having sexual relations with a girlfriend or boyfriend;
    5. a person cheats in a sports competition; and
    6. a person shoplifts from a large department store.
    (Examples 1 - 3 are discussed in the Learning Guide to "Pay It Forward".) Other projects for this film include:
    • Write a research paper about the history of women in sports in the U.S.;
    • Write a research paper about the Indian Diaspora, it's history and it's present condition;
    • and
    • Write an alternate ending for the film assuming that Jess' parents would not allow her to play football
    • .
    See also Assignments, Projects and Activities Suitable for Any Film.

    Bibliography: Great Films and How to Teach Them by William V. Costanzo, 2004, National Council of Teachers of English. In addition, we consulted websites which may be linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine.

    Last updated April 7, 2009.

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