Quote Originally Posted by Keyan View Post
I think you have given yourself a tricky problem: You want to criticize the customs of a different culture, in fictional form. (If I'm hearing you correctly.) This is tough to do - and I'm not for a moment suggesting they don't need to be criticized. But. By just laying it out for a Western audience, it almost by definition means that it will be examined through a different cultural lens.
Absolutely. And I don't want to say that I have any authority to criticize any of the actual cultures myself- how could I? Even if I do all the research in the world, I'll never know what it's like to be born a part of one. Which is why I would rather take the issues and transplant them into a culture of my own making that I can define myself, and then say, "well, this is how this issue works out on the society of my own design, not necessarily in real life." But it's fairly obvious where my source material is coming from, and I think it might even be presumptuous of me to try and erase that entirely.

Quote Originally Posted by Keyan View Post
I personally don't have a major problem with that when the lens is part of the story. For instance the indie movie "Sita Sings the Blues" is an examination of the Ramayana from the viewpoint of an American woman who follows her (American) boyfriend to India and is dumped. I think it's entirely legit, since it reflects her personal engagement with the Ramayana, and it's a great movie.

However, there are people who do mind, a lot, and consider it the worst kind of cultural appropriation because there are millions of people for whom the Ramayana is not just an epic, it's considered the religious truth - as there are people who believe in the Bible the same way in the US. (And those believers would probably be infuriated if an Indian woman came to Los Angeles and made a movie about the role of Mary or Mary Magdalene.)?
I love Sita Sings the Blues! Fantastic animation. And it's funny you should bring it up, since I was actually thinking about it recently. Even though I like the movie and I think it brings up an interesting discussion about the Ramayana, I agree that it is a decidedly western and one-sided interpretation... and I wonder at the presumption of the creator aligning her own breakup experience with Sita's in such a way. (I also thought it weakened the narrative, personally, because Sita's heartbreak and the creator's heartbreak were from entirely different causes.) It is nice that she consulted with Actual Indian People for the myth retelling, though!

(I would love to see an Indian interpretation of any of the western myths, omg, but that is probably because I am not a particularly pious person myself.)

Les Mis is another good example because I was thinking about how glad I was that they kept the heavy religious undertones of the book in the movie and didn't sanitize them as today's big-budget movies are wont to do... I only wish they'd done the same with the anti-church undertones in The Golden Compass or given it a decent movie in the first place- ANYWAY! This is entirely off-topic.

The point about Cosette is a good one, though. Someone above mentioned the effects of British colonialism, too, which is something I definitely need to look into. So I've got lots and lots of things to think about.