Can you believe that’s actually a line of dialogue in the movie Love is a Many Splendored Thing???

I burst out laughing when I heard ‘third’ uncle, say that to his Eurasian niece.

Okay, maybe I should give the movie a break. A love affair between a white guy and a half Chinese woman in Hong Kong was ‘cutting edge’ back in 1955.

I can just imagine how scandalous it must have seemed to white audiences in drive in theatres!

Talk about a ridiculous movie!

Oh and the score…Da da da da da daaaaa da da! wasn’t half as bad until you actually hear the silly soprano singing the words: Love is a many splendored thing…blah blah blah bla blaaaah blah blah!

Oh, just gag me now and let the pain in my ears be over.

So why’d I watch such a silly movie?

Two reasons.

I confused it for another movie and two, because it was set in Hong Kong.

I’ve never actually ‘been’ to Hong Kong. I’ve been in the airport looking out at the skyscrapers and the magnificent mountains across the bay, waiting for either a plane to Singapore or a plane back home to Toronto–four times. And in a couple of weeks I will do it two more times insha Allah.

Never actually took the ferry across to see the city, and to be perfectly honest, I never really wanted to.

I imagine it’s just full of modern looking buildings with modern looking Chinese people.

I can see those in Toronto!

But this movie was set in 1955, and boy can you see how Hong Kong was different back then.

That was fun to see.

But oh what a sappy story line!

And a white actress plays the half Chinese broad.

I kept waiting for a particular scene to show up. You know the iconic one where the two lovers are in the sand and a wave crashes over them?

I kept waiting and waiting and waiting–enduring the lamest dialogue imaginable, including that gem up there at the top, that I started this post with!

And the scene never came.

The closest I got was this scene on a beach in Hong Kong where they go swimming.

It was the wrong movie!

That scene with the wave crashing over the lovers on the beach is in From Here to Eternity.


I sat through a whole hour and forty-five minutes and didn’t even check that iconic image off my ‘to see’ list.

Yes… I have a ‘to see’ list.

Basically anything I think that is rather ‘iconic’ I do try to ‘experience’. At least once.

I think it’s kind of important.

If you purport to write for mainstream audiences, you should familiarize yourself with mainstream icongraphy, don’t you think?

Even if it means you’re gagging while you’re watching it.

Which bring me to another point.

I’m really getting tired of *white* sensibilities.

Did you know that in order to appeal to mainstream/white audiences,  you have to have a major role for a white person in your story.

And if the story features the white perspective person saving the dark skinned/native it’s all the better!

Even when I was writing my Hajj novel. I had filled in all the plot holes, strengthened all the story lines and then my agent said basically I needed to punch up the storyline between the main character and her white friend.

She actually said that it would broaden the appeal of the book. White audiences needed a white character to identify with.

My first thought was, “Whaaaa? The white girl doesn’t matter. It’s not about her!”

And then I went ahead and did it.

For two reasons. First, I remembered that George Lucas interview when he was talking about his movie Red Tails, about the African American flyboys of world war two. Biggest criticism, biggest reason he was given for the major outlets NOT distributing the movie was because it didn’t contain any strong white characters. It had an all black cast.

The cinema execs said to Lucas, that only Tyler Perry does that, and his movies have limited appeal to white audiences. Plus there’d be no foreign market for the film.

So Lucas went ahead and financed all that himself.

Have you heard much buzz about the movie?

I haven’t.

And I thought of Dances with Wolves and The Last Samurai and Last of the Mohicans, and even Avatar all stories about white characters out shining the members of another ethnicity.

Really really pathetic! But….blockbusters!

And the other reason I went ahead and made the changes was because of Wanting Mor. It has no white characters in it and I wondered if that didn’t, just as my agent said, ‘limit’ its appeal.

Mind you Wanting Mor’s  done fine, but I kind of wonder if it wouldn’t have done better…

So I went ahead and strengthened the white girl’s role in the story.

I didn’t exactly cave.

There was actually a legitimate role that the white girl could play, and in fact it strengthened the story immensely!

And if it did broaden the appeal of the book, then hey, what’s the problem?

But I do look forward to the time when white audiences can get much more beyond their ethnicity and appreciate a more authentic cultural experience.

I mean how come I can watch a movie like Pride and Prejudice that does not contain any South Asian characters, and still relate to it, but it doesn’t go the other way?

A few weeks ago I went to a ecumenical gathering/workshop. We were talking about issues of peace and justice. I thought it was very magnanimous of them to invite an obvious Muslim like me to it.

But it’s funny. During break one of the ladies came up and started asking me about the God I worshipped.

“You call Him Al-la don’t you?” she said.

I said, “Allah means God. He’s the same God.”

But she shook her head. “But you call Him Al-la.”

It’s God. Christian Arabs call God Allah too. It’s just the word for God. Actually it means ‘Creator’.”

For about five minutes, she failed to get beyond this point, to say anything else.

It was really sad.

They don’t even know that we worship the same God!


How absurd!