Victoria & Abdul (2017) is a sweet little movie that wants to be liked but that can’t help but offend. Attacks on Victoria & Abdul from left-wing, grievance-mongering, race-mongering reviewers tell us much about how the left manipulates history, prostitutes art, and imprisons the human heart to keep hate alive, and to anathemize objective facts. Hypocritical, counterfactual, and anti-human Marxist myth-making marches on in critical pans of Victoria & Abdul.
There is a massive amount of media devoted to Victoria, queen of the empire on which the sun never set. It seems incredible that there might be a previously obscure chapter in Queen Victoria’s life, but there is. In her final thirteen years on earth, Victoria Regina Imperatrix took to her ample bosom a dark-skinned, India-born, Muslim commoner, Abdul Karim. In 1887, when Karim was 24 and Victoria was 68, Karim was tapped to present Victoria with a medal. He kissed her feet. She noticed how tall and good looking he was. They became so close that they once spent a night alone together at Glas-allt-Shiel, her isolated Scottish “cottage,” actually a modest mansion. Victoria had previously spent a night alone there with John Brown. After Brown died, a broken-hearted Victoria swore she would never return to Glas-allt-Shiel. But she did. With Karim.
Victoria’s household resented Karim. When many threatened to resign unless she axed him, the staid, plump, elderly monarch flew into a rage and swept the contents of her desk onto the floor. After Victoria died, in 1901 at age 81, Karim was the last person to see her remains before the solemn closure of her coffin. She had stipulated that he be among the intimate mourners at her funeral, along with her close family members.
Immediately after Victoria’s death, guards barged into Karim’s home and burned her letters to him, as his sobbing wife looked on. Victoria’s son Bertie, son to be King Edward VII, sent Karim and his wife packing back to India. Victoria’s daughter Beatrice erased Karim’s presence from Victoria’s diaries.
During a 2003 visit to Osborne House, Victoria’s summer retreat, journalist Shrabani Basu saw portraits of an alleged “servant.” Basu was intrigued. “He didn’t look a servant … He was painted to look like a nobleman. He was holding a book, looking sideways. Something about that expression struck me … I saw another portrait of him looking rather gentle.“
Basu traveled to Windsor Castle to study Victoria’s Hindustani journals, where Victoria practiced her lessons in this foreign language. Basu assumes that previous researchers, not able to read the script, or speak the language, simply ignored these thirteen volumes of Victoria’s writing. Blotting paper fell out of the journals; they had not been opened in one hundred years. Basu discovered the intimacy of Victoria and Abdul’s relationship. Victoria, for example, signed her surviving communications to Basu with, “Your dearest friend” and “Your dearest mother.” Victoria kept Karim’s portrait in her dressing room. Basu also uncovered Karim’s journal. In it, Karim praises Queen Victoria as kind and just.
Basu’s 2010 book, Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant, shows that, coached by Karim, Victoria favored Muslims over Hindus. Karim argued that since Muslims were a minority, they were mistreated by majority Hindus. When Hindus and Muslims clashed over Muharram processions honoring Hussain, Victoria wrote to the Viceroy arguing the Muslims’ case. “The Mohamedans are by far the most loyal of the Indian people.”
Victoria & Abdul the movie is based on Basu’s book. It’s directed by Stephen Frears, who also made My Beautiful Launderette, The Queen, and Florence Foster Jenkins. It stars Judi Dench – who else – as Victoria, and Bollywood newcomer Ali Fazal as Karim. Victoria & Abdul is sumptuously produced and gorgeous to look at. You are always inside a castle or on a Scottish heath.
Judi Dench is, of course, superb as Victoria. Ali Fazal is as adorable as a puppy. He’s eager and unsophisticated. Like the real Karim, he is imperfect. He eagerly takes to wearing pompous, exotic costumes with lots of medals on his chest. He sways Victoria toward his own group, Muslims, in a way that is not always completely honest or helpful to the queen. He is sterile, Victoria’s doctor discovers, because, like the real Abdul, he has VD. These two imperfect and very different people enter into a convincing relationship. There are deeply moving scenes where Victoria talks about how lonely she is, and where Abdul mourns her after her passing. I cried several times. I laughed and I was moved.
Victoria & Abdul realizes that it is telling a story that leftists will love to hate. Abdul, a brown-skinned, Muslim, oppressed Indian, comes to love his oppressor, Queen Victoria, a white, Christian, European monarch who is depicted as kind and loving. There is no way that story could pass the Political Correctness purity test.
The filmmakers tried hard to forfend the hate with revisions to real history. These PC fixes are as obvious as ugly patches sewn onto an exquisite gown so that the wearer can pass safely beyond an enforcer who demands that all be equally ugly.
Politically Correct, historically revisionist patch # 1: It is true that Victoria’s family and household objected to Karim. The film posits only one possible motivation for this hostility: whites are uniquely and uniformly ignorant, racist xenophobes and Islamophobes. The film places the burden of this stereotype on Bertie, Prince of Wales, Victoria’s oldest son. In the film, Bertie is depicted by comedian and leftist political activist Eddie Izzard as an anally-fixated, bug-eyed, rageaholic, white supremacist. In the past, Minstrel Shows marketed racist images of blacks. Today, Politically Correct entertainment gives us Minstrel Show whites, all privilege, ignorance, and sputtering racist hatred.
Izzard, to his credit, acknowledges in an interview that he played Bertie as a “two-dimensional battering ram.” Izzard knows that Bertie might have had complex reasons for resisting Karim. “It doesn’t matter what color skin [Karim] had, what sex … If he’s making Queen Victoria live longer, he’s stopping me from being king.” This complexity does not, alas, make it into the final film.
According to historians, the real Bertie was nothing like the Minstrel Show white supremacist of Victoria & Abdul. Bertie was a charming and genial world traveler who made friends wherever he went. He was also a notorious womanizer. The Daily Mail dubbed him “Dirty Bertie” and claimed that a piece of furniture, the “armchair of love,” consisting “of brocaded seats and bronze stirrups carved in elaborate Neo-Rococo style,” was invented so that Bertie could have sex with two women at once.
Bertie was no hidebound stick-in-the-mud when it came to relations between persons of different races, religions, or classes. The BBC records that during his eight-month stay in India, Bertie objected to use of the word “n – – – – r.” “Less than three weeks after his arrival in Bombay, the Prince protested formally to Lord Granville, then Foreign Secretary, that just ‘because a man has a black face and a different religion than our own, there is no reason why he should be treated as a brute.’” The success of Bertie’s mission contributed to Victoria’s being named Empress of India. In an era of increasing anti-Semitism, Bertie’s “close friends were as often Catholic or Jewish, nouveau riche or foreign, as old-school British aristocrats … He was concerned for the poor … and always interested in new things, from electricity to motorcars.” At the dedication of the Royal College of Music, which he helped bring into existence, Bertie said, “Class can no longer stand apart from class … I claim for music that it produces that union of feeling which I much desire to promote.” Historian Lord Esher summed Bertie up as “kind and debonair and not undignified – but too human.”
Abdul Karim was not the only man from the subcontinent who would rise in the British Empire. General Maharaja Sir Ganga Singh was a progressive Indian princely ruler. He was one of the first to outlaw child marriage. He served in the British army in China during the Boxer Rebellion. Singh served as aide-de-camp to Bertie’s son during Bertie’s coronation as King Edward VII. Singh became a member of the British Imperial War Cabinet during WW I. Neither Singh’s success nor Karim’s erases the existence of racism, but that men like Singh and Karim were able to become close to members of the royal family, including the badly caricatured Bertie, shows that Victoria & Abdul is rewriting history to meet current, Politically Correct demands.
Bertie had reasons to resent and compete with Karim, reasons that have nothing to do with religion or color. Queen Victoria expressed hostility toward her own son. She kept him out of office. Until Prince Charles, that more recent royal disappointment, Bertie was the longest serving heir apparent. Why did Victoria have a problem with her own son? During a walk in the rain, his father Albert remonstrated with teenage Bertie over his clandestine affair with actress Nellie Clifden. Albert died three weeks later. Victoria blamed Bertie for the death of her beloved cousin and spouse.
Historian and Bertie biographer Jane Ridley writes, “Relations with her eldest son Bertie … were especially fraught. From the start, he was a disappointment … His parents considered him a halfwit. Victoria remarked: ‘Handsome I cannot think him, with that painfully small and narrow head, those immense features and total want of chin.’ … She could not bear to have him near her. ‘I never can look at him without a shudder.’ … As Prince of Wales, Bertie lurched from one scandal to another. In spite of his repeated requests, Victoria never allowed him access to government documents.” Karim saw government documents daily.
The heartbreaking relationship between Victoria and Bertie, rejecting mother and needy son, loved by every woman he met except his mother, is a terribly poignant, human story, one too many commoners could identify with. This story is erased in Victoria & Abdul, as thoroughly as Trotsky is airbrushed out of Soviet photos. The real story is replaced with the narrative demanded by Political Correctness: the Minstrel Show white supremacist Islamophobe.
Anyone with two brain cells to rub together will recognize other reasons for hostility to Karim, reasons not explored by the film. Victoria was a tremendously powerful person. Royal households – just like those occupied by commoners – are always riven by jockeying. Princess Diana was no Muslim commoner; the royals hated and plotted against her nonetheless.
The film doesn’t explore one possible motivation Victoria may have had, consciously or unconsciously, for favoring Karim. Karim was a foreigner, of a different social class, language, and faith. He was unlikely to form alliances with anyone in the household but her. She had Karim all to herself. Monopolizing him, she could gift him with vulnerability she showed few others. She could allow herself to be as loving and open with him as she was with few others. Historian Ridley writes, “Being a daughter of Queen Victoria was like playing an endless game of musical chairs – there was always one who was out of favour. There was always a favourite, too.”
We don’t have to guess at this. We know that when Victoria elevated her Scottish ghillie, or servant, John Brown to favorite status, he was met with hostility and resentment, just as was Karim. Victoria’s relationship to Brown was condemned as “contrary to etiquette and even decency.” Just as after Karim’s death, after Brown’s death, Bertie tried to destroy evidence of Brown’s relationship with his mother, smashing busts and statues of Brown that Victoria had commissioned. Brown was, of course, white, European, and Christian.
Bertie is not the only Brit slandered as a thorough white supremacist. In the September 15, 2017 edition of the Daily Mail, Richard Ingrams, the grandson of Queen Victoria’s physician, Dr. James Reid, writes to say that his grandfather would never have spoken the racist words he is depicted as speaking in the film. “My grandfather would never have said [obscene and racist words]. He was a proper Scottish doctor not a racist.”
Politically Correct, historically revisionist patch # 2: Karim traveled to England with another subcontinental Muslim, Mohammed Buksh. Buksh was an experienced servant, used to catering to the whims of the powerful, no matter their creed or color. He had worked for the Rana of Dholepore, the head of a princely state. He had managed the home of Major-General Sir Thomas Dennehy, an officer who had suppressed rebels during the 1857 Mutiny against British rule. Basu writes that Buksh was a man of “practiced elegance” and an “almost princely” appearance who approached Queen Victoria “reverentially.” He was a man with a “very smiling expression,” “portly and good natured.” In photos, a hint of humor sparkles in his eyes. Like Karim, upon meeting Victoria, Buksh kissed her feet. Also like Karim, Buksh performed, with other members of the royal household, in costumed tableaux as a form of amusement. With Karim, Buksh “watched in wonder” at the decoration of the Osborne House Christmas Tree.
Victoria elevated Karim, while Buksh remained a waiter. But Victoria was solicitous of Buksh as well. Basu writes, “She did not want Karim and Buksh to suffer either on account of the weather or prejudice and wanted her household to have no doubt about the fact that the Indian servants occupied a special place in her heart. She wanted them to feel welcome in the Palace … Knowing that Karim and Buksh came from warmer climes, the Queen worried about how they would cope with the Highland weather. She felt they should let their bodies adjust slowly to the cold and instructed them not to put on their thickest underclothes at once.” She also gave special instructions for their rooms, to make sure that they would not get too cold.
What does Victoria & Abdul the movie do with Mohammed Buksh, this counterrevolutionary member of the lumpenproletariat? That is, this man who appears to thrive as a content member of the working class, who shows no interest in rising up and overturning the oppressive, colonialist structure? Who, rather, makes his living by meeting the needs of the powerful, whether they be Indian or British? Who does not hire a lawyer and sue for damages after witnessing the erection of an infidel Christmas tree?
The movie violates the real Mohammed Buksh’s real life, and turns him into a screeching, potty-mouthed, verbal bomb-throwing social justice warrior. Throughout the film, Buksh is shown cursing the English and reprimanding his colleague for being nice to them. Buksh calls Karim an “Uncle Tom,” a twentieth-century insult whose anachronism highlights the filmmakers’ ahistorical agenda. Buksh is played by Adeel Akhtar, whose stock-in-trade is to appear forever simmeringly furious and aggrieved. As Buksh, Akhtar, who chooses to live in England rather than his father’s homeland of Pakistan, delivers a scatological critique of the British Empire. Buksh is shivering in a freezing room and coughing up blood. Bertie sees that Buksh is cold, and offers no blanket. He sees that Buksh is sick and offers no doctor. Bertie promises Buksh that he will never allow him to return to India. Buksh must die in exile. So much for Bertie’s historic statements against race prejudice, and Victoria’s concern that Buksh be warm enough in her alien climate.
Not just the British royals, but the real Buksh himself is defamed here. Most Indians, like most poor people everywhere, did what they could to survive within the system they were born into. Buksh probably had not read Marx. Chances are working for rich Indians was as much of a PITA as working for rich Brits. Such a man would be of little value to the Politically Correct. The Marxist vanguard could see in Buksh only a member of the lumpenproletariat, that segment of the poor who refuse to adopt revolutionary consciousness. To them, Buksh could only be an ungrateful class traitor, a collaborator with the oppressor. In the real world, go-along and get-along Mohammed Buksh was as authentic an Indian as Nehru, the nationalist revolutionary.
Victoria & Abdul’s final reality adjustment is to offer a gauzy, soft-focus, whitewashed Islam. Gender apartheid is merely cute. Karim’s wife and mother-in-law appear in full black burkas, their faces invisible, their voices inaudible. The evil white Islamophobes of the court are horrified. Victoria declares the burkas “dignified.” Later there is a cute joke where Dr. Reid attempts to minister to Karim’s wife, but can’t get past her burka. There is nothing dignified or cute about forcibly enshrouding and silencing half of the human race, on the grounds that women are responsible for sexual assault, and they can fend off that assault by dressing in mobile prisons. Karim soothes Victoria’s poignant mourning about her lonely old age by quoting to her a Koran verse on the value of service.
You might think that with all these Politically Correct historical revisions, Victoria & Abdul might find favor with the left. Think again.
Highly decorated, Pakistan-born Bilal Qureshi rants in the Washington Post, “Why Does Hollywood Keep Churning Out Racist Fantasies Like ‘Victoria & Abdul’?” Qureshi is an NPR journalist working on a memoir about Muslim identity. But of course. In his author photo, he is wearing a pea cap and spectacles and looking terminally unhappy.
Victoria & Abdul is “a travesty of the highest order. The film is elegant and warm and entirely misleading. Its charming inoffensiveness is at the root of its insidious politics.” “Victoria’s empire was born in blood” Qureshi rails. The Brits “brutally crushed” Indians. A “brutal famine” took Indian lives. Rather than depicting Englishmen, oh, say, flogging sepoys, the film shows “hazy and cliched scenes of exotic marketplaces and in the distant tourist views of a glimmering Taj Mahal.” Karim himself is merely a “Manic Pixie Dream Brownie,” “an object of exotic eroticism” in an “exotic freak show.” “Imagine a film about slavery in America that shows the ways a whimsical, poetic slave could enliven massuh’s melancholia without addressing the structural reason for said condition.”
Rohan Naahar in The Hindustani Times calls Victoria & Abdul “disgusting,” “distorted,” and “obnoxious” because it “ignores” the brutal murder, torture and blah, blah, blah that undergird the Raj. Since you don’t see a sepoy being flogged in every scene, the movie is “fake.” Director Stephen Frears is also to blame because he “in my opinion, directs too many films.” Frears refuses “to make intelligent statements about the controversial practices of the British Raj and class divide.” Naahar admits that veteran Judi Dench commands the screen, and that newcomer Fazal turns in a fine performance. But, Naahar warns, “Don’t be taken in by the delightful sight of Queen Victoria speaking in broken Hindi, and don’t fall for a dreamy-eyed Ali Fazal reciting the decadent history of the Taj Mahal. Victoria & Abdul is a shameful attempt to normalise evil … behind those sparkling white teeth, there is a snake’s tongue … there is centuries of subtext; of oppression, murder, and the deeply flawed belief that one sort of human being is better than the other.” Queen Victoria is responsible “for killing thousands of his countrymen … and looting his country so mercilessly, that it would never be able to recover,” but “history is written by the victor.” Abdul “comes across like Samuel L Jackson’s turncoat character from Django Unchained.”
Andrea Gronvall writing in The Chicago Reader evokes Brexit in the very first sentence of her review. In her final sentence, Gronvall accuses Victoria & Abdul of “Orientalism,” a capital offense. The film’s “demeaning portrait of Abdul reinforces the Orientalism it purports to lampoon.”
Rob Thomas, in the Madison, Wisconsin Capital Times writes, “Spike Lee once coined a phrase called ‘Magical Negro,’ describing an African-American character who exists in a movie largely to improve the life of a white main character … Victoria & Abdul may be the first in a well-meaning but misguided new subgenre of ‘Magical Muslim’ movies, featuring Muslim characters that are heroic and inspiring to white audiences.“
Daniel Barnes in the Sacramento News and Review says, “It’s sort of like Driving Miss Daisy, only way more racist.” David Edelstein, writing in Vulture, brandishes his Politically Correct bona fides. The only scene in the movie he liked was the film’s most artificial one – the one in which Buksh is a proto-Bolshevik. “Only Akhtar’s interrogation scene hits home – his morbid satisfaction at Bertie’s rage is superb.”
Marxist, race-mongering and grievance-mongering critiques of Victoria & Abdul can be summed up thus: India was a happy, prosperous country of united and homogenous Indians before England came along and ruined everything. Victoria was a virtual Hitler presiding over a veritable Holocaust of Indians. Depicting a friendship between an Indian and an English person is, thus, obscene. The only appropriate response Abdul should have had to evil, white, Christian, European Victoria would be to cut her throat and embolden the enslaved masses by exhibiting her head on a pole.
Let’s examine this criticism.
First, there was no India. There were various kingdoms and empires in the Indian subcontinent. India has the second-highest number of languages of any nation on earth: 780. There are 22 official languages. One could find fifteen different languages in several different alphabets on modern Indian banknotes. Naahar’s reference to Karim’s “countrymen” is a nationalist fantasy with no historical substance.
Abdul Karim was a Muslim in a land with majority Hindus and centuries of genocidal Muslim-on-Hindu conflict. After independence from England, Karim’s surviving relatives fled. His wife paid for this flight with her life, as did many others. The partition of the Raj into Pakistan and India displaced fifteen million people. Hindu v Muslim massacres killed more than a million. There is no peace between Pakistan and India to this day, and some predict this conflict, dating back 1,300 years to the Muslim Conquest – before England came into political being – to be the one most likely to produce nuclear war.
Indians’ first significant rebellion against the British Empire was not about any feeling of standing up for one’s “countrymen” against “oppression.” It was not about the universal rights of man. Far from it. Hindus’ clinging to the reactionary, oppressive, and superstitious caste system sparked the 1857 Mutiny. The British modified their own practices to cater to Hindus’ focus on caste. Resentments simmered. The Enfield rifle required greased cartridges. Rumors circulated. Hindus said the grease was cow fat. Muslims suspected it was pig fat. Contact with either fat would compromise the soul of the soldier using the gun. These primitive foci, not an urge to uplift the downtrodden, feed the hungry, educate the orphan, or, God forbid, liberate women motivated mutineers. Gandhi’s revolution was more liberatory. Note that among Gandhi’s influences, including his own mother and the Bhagavad Gita, were Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Thoreau, an American, and Tolstoy, a European.
Rohan Naahar insists that England ruined India. The Empire’s impact on India is hotly debated. Not a few Indians will argue that the Empire did India some good, in the form of democracy, the English language, railroads, bureaucracy, surveys and maps, and educational institutions. The Empire worked to eradicate sati, or widow burning, and female infanticide, which remains, alas, a signature custom in India and Pakistan.
In any case it wasn’t the British Empire that did the worst damage India has ever seen, as Naahar insists. For that we have to turn to Karim’s Muslim forebears. As Will Durant famously wrote, “The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.” When, in the eighth century, Muhammad bin Qasim didn’t murder enough subcontinental infidels, his superior, al-Hajjaj, reminded him of the essential Islamic commandment. “The great God says in the Koran 47.4: ‘Oh True believers, when you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads.’ The above command of the Great God is a great command and must be respected and followed. You should not be so fond of showing mercy, as to nullify the virtue of the act. Henceforth grant pardon to no one of the enemy and spare none of them, or else all will consider you a weak-minded man.” Qasim obeyed. He massacred more Hindus. In the fourteenth century, Tamerlane, the Sword of Islam, destroyed Delhi. The city did not recover for a century afterward. The Mughal Empire praised by Bilal claimed descent from Tamerlane. It was creaky, without popular support, and ready to collapse when the British Empire stepped in to administer the subcontinent.
Famines? Injustice? Exploitation? Poverty? Fabulously wealthy, uncaring monarchs? All have been part and parcel of life in the Indian subcontinent before and after the Empire’s presence. Indian rulers have been notorious for their extravagant wealth and their lack of interest in the welfare of those they ruled. There have been dog weddings, Rolls Royce fleets used in garbage collection, diamond-soled shoes, and rulers paid their weight in gold. One of the worst famines on the subcontinent occurred in 1974, after Muslim Pakistan made war on Muslim Bangladesh. “In the aftermath of the Pakistani army’s rampage last March, a special team of inspectors from the World Bank observed that some cities looked ‘like the morning after a nuclear attack,’” TIME magazine reported.
As for poverty, hopelessness, and injustice, certainly Hindu India’s most wretched institution, that of caste, has crushed more lives than the British Empire ever did.
If Victoria & Abdul’s Politically Correct detractors really cared about justice and equality, they would not champion the Mughal Empire or burkas and they would not be imagining into existence an enlightened, liberated, democratic, peaceful, just, non-British India that never existed. They would not be insisting that only white-skinned people can be racist or can represent an imperialism that destroys the lives of the poor.
The fact is that Victoria & Abdul’s Politically Correct detractors don’t care about justice or equality or the lives of the poor. Rather, they care about one thing: demonizing white, Christian, Europeans and sanitizing, indeed, sanctifying, their own as blameless victims and virtue exemplars. Qureshi and Naahar rant that the ugly side of the British Empire is not depicted as vividly as it should be in Victoria & Abdul. Their complaint is insane; the film is rife with ahistorical, counterfactual, racist, evil whites. In any case, the Empire’s many sins have been graphically depicted in other, higher profile films. Watch, for example, here, the 1919 Armritsar Massacre, unflinchingly depicted in the Academy-Award-winning 1982 hagiography, Gandhi.
In a sense, Qureshi and Naahar are correct. There is much that is unspoken in Victoria & Abdul. When Karim quotes the Koran to the queen, he fails to mention that it commands that he be unkind to her (66:9, 48:29), permits him to rape her (33:50), and orders him to kill her (9:5). Nowhere in the film is it mentioned that Karim’s fellow Muslims raided the British Isles, and indeed all of Christian Europe for slaves for over a thousand years, taking, by one estimate, fifteen million European slaves, castrating the males, excising the females’ genitals and forcing them into sex slavery. These raids continued into Victoria’s lifetime, declining after the Barbary Wars and the 1830 French invasion of Algiers.
Me? I loved Victoria & Abdul. Unlike critics who have a Political Correctness stick up their fundaments, I am actually capable of recognizing a film’s aesthetic merits while disagreeing with some of its premises. I recommend Soy Cuba / I Am Cuba to anyone who will listen. It’s anti-American Soviet propaganda and a piece of uniquely virtuosic filmmaking.
In Victoria & Abdul, Judi Dench is 82 years old and she looks it. She wears no visible makeup. Her hair is thin and gray, her skin is sagging and wrinkly, and her body is large. Dench’s fearlessness in looking like an 82-year-old woman is much more impressive than Jane Fonda’s insistence on still being the glamor girl, although Fonda’s success at that is impressive in its own way. It is richly rewarding for this old lady movie fan to see an 82-year-old woman command both an empire and the movie screen. This movie says loudly and clearly much more than the tacky male fantasy Wonder Woman ever could, that women’s lives matter.
Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Czarina Alexandra, directly oppressed my grandmother, who, like most of her Polish peasant neighbors, lived on cabbage and never learned to read. It is not easy for me to feel sympathy for a member of the British royal family. It is not even easy for me to see them as human in the same way that I am human.
I loved Victoria & Abdul because it opened even the most anarchist, bomb-throwing chambers of my heart. Even the most powerful, most obscenely wealthy woman in the world was also a human being. Even she was lonely. As Victoria says in the film, “We are all prisoners, Mr. Karim.” For one moment, I completely understood this woman utterly separate from me in class, space, and time.
The Bilal Qureshis and Rohan Naahars, the Marxists, the race and grievance mongers, like all soulless totalitarians, want to vitiate art. Hitler, and his “Exhibition of Degenerate Art,” Fidel Castro, and his “Words to the Intellectuals,” the Soviets, in their destruction of artists like Wladyslaw Strzeminski, Mao, who said that there is no such thing as art for art’s sake, all have the same goal: to parasitize art, to prostitute it so that they can use its power to meet their own demands.
They insist that the viewer not allow art to do to her what it can do: to make her feel with her fellow human being. To make her understand her fellow human being.
The Naahars and the Qureshis are even more priggish, obsessive, anti-human and controlling than the film depicts the Victorian English as being. They do not want an upper class white woman to arouse love or loyalty in a Muslim commoner. They insist that that woman not be moved by the Muslim commoner. They want us to hate each other. They want us to be at each other’s throats. And that’s why they hate this movie, no matter how hard it tries to meet their politically correct demands.
_Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete. _
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