A while back, I had the distinct pleasure of catching up with the lovely ladies behind the Tribeca sensation, “Farah Goes Bang.” Writer/Director Meera Menon and Writer/Producer Laura Goode shed light on women in film, brown people, virginity and even carnivals during our discussion.
I was hoping to put the entire interview in one post, but I think we had too much fun talking for close to an hour. I also thought 3,000 words in one page would be overkill. So here is the final part of this fantastic conversation. Part three discusses the race and gender questions that went into making “Farah Goes Bang.” The girls discuss everything from sexual identity to “The Mindy Project”.
IIF: I wanted to ask you about the nature of race in the film. It’s acknowledged and it’s there, but the great thing about the movie is you eventually forget about race. You forget that Farah is Iranian and all that stuff. Was that a conscience decision? Talk a little bit about that.
Menon: Yeah I’ll take that being the brown girl. That was a very conscience decision. I think if you have a first generation immigrant identity in this country and you’re a storyteller [then] I think there is this kind of moral imperative to integrate that immigrant status into a totally American identity. If there was a show like “The Mindy Project” on television when I was growing up, that would have substantively kind of influenced the way I saw myself and my sense of difference. And I think the kind of images and characters we see in popular culture and our media culture, directly kind-of form how young people see themselves. So if there had been a more diversified effort on my television screen growing up, it would have really changed how I felt about myself and I guess my sense of myself if that makes sense.
And so absolutely, as a storyteller, as a first generation immigrant storyteller, as a person with an immigrant identity, I feel like there is a responsibility to tell stories that integrate that identity into a totally American identity. So that is kind of the tactic we used in “Farah Goes Bang.” We wanted to show these girls, show there faces, hint at their backgrounds, but really totally make their story, at it’s base level, an American story that could be any other’s that we saw growing up. A Kevin Smith movie, a Richard Linklater movie. One of those movies that I was obsessed with growing up but never saw myself in.
IIF: I kind of got the vibe of the film “Sideways” a little bit.
Menon: Yeah totally. Alexander Payne (director of “Sideways”) is a huge influence for me. He tells quintessentially American stories and I’d love to do the same with faces that I could recognize myself in.
IIF: You obviously have the whole race aspect and then the female aspect, which we touched on earlier. Can you go into that a little bit more in terms of it’s uniqueness. Like I said earlier, I’ve never seen a story about a female losing her virginity in pop culture much and I guess I want to discuss why that is. Why do you think that hasn’t been touched on until now really or hasn’t really been approached? I mean a movie like “Bridesmaids” did so well recently and that was totally from the female perspective. People said you couldn’t really make a raunchy female comedy and then they came out with “Bridesmaids.” And now you have “Farah Goes Bang.” Do you wonder why this is happening now and why it didn’t happen earlier?
Menon: There is this adage that the history of art is the history of men looking at women and I think that’s absolutely true. I think that desire, as we’ve seen it in cinema was cultivated through the male gaze and that’s kind of the film theory 101, dorktastic truth. And I think the representation of female desire, visually, is a complicated thing because we are conditioned to see desire located and transplanted on the female body. So to represent female desire, I don’t know if we’ve unlocked that key with “Farah Goes Bang.” I think that is a difficult question and that’s why these stories are hard to tell and haven’t been told yet. Because we’ve been socially conditioned to see images as they are meant to reflect and reproduce male desire.
Goode: I would just build on that by adding that one of the questions we’ve gotten most consistently throughout the scripting process, to screenings, to Q&As at Tribeca was why does Farrah have a such a hard time losing her virginity. And particularly once we cast this stunningly beautiful woman in Nikohl Boosheri, that question became attached to the question of her desirability. I think there is this conflation of female desire and desirability being the same thing. Vis-a-vis, if a girl is hot it must not be hard for her to have sex. The sexual experience itself is different because I don’t know anyone who feels hot while they are having sex or who has an appearance that even figures in to their sexual experience in the act of sex. So I think it’s a really fallacious question at it’s root and I think that it’s a question that exposes this conflation, that female desirability and desire are the same things. So I think we really wanted to just show that process from the inside and I loved the priorities that Meera really chose as the director from Farah’s point-of-view to show what she’s seeing. What she’s feeling. What she’s experiencing and, like she says, it’s a very delicate thing to achieve but I think it’s an absolutely imperative one. I really think, in a way, it’s a matter of life and death to see these women’s experiences on screen. Meera was talking about what really affects your experience of yourself, whether you see representations of you onscreen or in media and so I really think that it just couldn’t be more important in that sense.