UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sickening fantasies and the subdued other : the big sick Tabassum, Mehnaz


South Asian Muslim characters leading ordinary, yet complex lives somehow remain uncharted territory in popular Hollywood cinema. Even in 2017, when The Big Sick was released, there were only a handful of films with representations of South Asian Muslims and most of those were set around predisposed concepts of Islamophobia, terrorism, and tales of socio-cultural conflicts between Muslims and liberal ideologies. This thesis considers how The Big Sick breaks a pattern of long-standing Muslim male underrepresentation in Hollywood, while also making the lives and existence of South Asian Muslim women as human beings with free will and agency almost unimaginable. It also draws upon a range of critical and popular commentary to understand how the film’s representations selectively humanize only some members of the South Asian community and challenges the popular reception of the film as a new and path-breaking work of inclusive cinema. This thesis contends that the narrative of the film as well as its reception history are crucial sites to understand the intersecting social and cultural politics of Muslim South Asian representation in contemporary Hollywood cinema.

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