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The Big Sick explores important cultural issues

The film uses lighthearted comedy to discuss topics that are deeply rooted in modern society.

By Olivia Jackson | Aug. 30, 2017

Tags: Movies


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The Big Sick, playing at Ragtag Cinema Aug. 31 through Sept. 6, is a new film directed by Michael Showalter. It tells the story of Kumail, a twentysomething Pakistani comic. A normal day for Kumail consists of performing at stand-up gigs, driving for Uber and the occasional dinner with his conventionally Muslim family, which usually ends with his mother attempting to set him up with a Pakistani woman.

At one of his shows, Kumail meets snarky graduate student Emily. After a night spent together, the two fall into a pattern of seeing each other, which eventually develops into a quasi-relationship.

An intense disagreement concerning the future of their relationship ensues one night after Emily discovers that, due to the traditional nature of Kumail’s family, their relationship may have an expiration date. The two go a while without seeing each other. However, when Emily contracts an illness that leaves her in a coma, Kumail flies to her side and stumbles into an initially awkward friendship with Emily’s parents.

The Big Sick is wrought with themes of significant cultural relevance. Perhaps the strongest is the exploration into the demands felt by young Muslim individuals to conform to their religious practices while also navigating the modern romantic world.

Kumail reacts to the great amount of pressure he is under from his family throughout the film. His brother is in a successful arranged marriage and advises him to pursue the same lifestyle. Feeling trapped by his family's expectations for him, Kumail attempts to hide his relationship with Emily, a white woman. Once he finally confesses his love for Emily to his mother and father, their initial reaction is to exile him from the family entirely.

The film also explores the complex nature of contemporary relationships. Kumail and Emily navigate awkward and uneasy situations every other minute. Whether attempting to maintain a casual, non-committal relationship or tackling the issue of how soon is too soon to introduce your significant other to your parents, the duo finds themselves having difficult conversations frequently.

Coping with the conflicts of his family and his relationship causes an intense amount of pressure in Kumail’s life, and this reaches its climax when he delivers an emotionally charged stand-up show. He expresses the extreme pressure he felt from trying to balance all of the societal expectations placed upon him.

The cultural significance of the film is perfectly exemplified in this scene. Kumail’s experiences throughout the story are reality for many people in their daily lives. Being aware of this can aid others in the pursuit of becoming more understanding.

Due to the fact that the importance of this film is heightened by the social climate of the country at the time of its release, I would recommend seeing The Big Sick to anyone interested in expanding their cultural intelligence.

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