The said to be a story with

The Princess and the Pauper- a classic story known to many as a story about a friendship formed between the wealthy and the poor. Victoria and Abdul, at first glance, can also be said to be a story with a similar plotline. However, there is more to Victoria and Abdul than just being a simple story about a queen and a servant. The film is abundant with underlying messages that give a realistic take on the classic fairytale. Behind what is romanticized as a platonic relationship between a witty queen and handsome servant, light is also shed on the not-so-romantic aspects of the real-life setting of the story. It shows a story in which countries are suffering from corruption and injustice in society is prominent through racism and religious intolerance. Because of these underlying details, people who watch the film in the 21st century may be surprised at the realities this expected “fairytale” reveals. A nation’s overall corruption, more specifically the Indian nation, is an alarming aspect of the film. While Britain was a rich booming nation with a successful monarchy and economy completed with the greatest luxuries during the late 19th century, India’s society was sharply contradictory. Most of the country’s population, like Abdul, faced poverty without receiving quality education, health care, etc. from its government. Abdul, a commoner from India, was not educated with former schooling but rather with life experiences with his job in a prison and suffered from a sexually transmitted disease, in which a lack of  proper education and health-care systems is shown in 19th century India.  While poverty still exists in third-world countries today, it is also increasingly being unheard of as economies of most countries have prospered over the years. In the present time, with more people enjoying life’s simple luxuries such as having easy access to schools and clinics in countries like the United States, most people would not be used to seeing the realities of poverty right in front of their eyes because it is not a reality for them in their privileged neighborhoods. Nonetheless, it can be an eye-opening experience to see a privilege-deprived society from the past being openly portrayed in the film to learn from both the good and the bad it can offer. An issue of racism and prejudice, more specifically towards the Indian nationality, is also prominent in the film. In the 19th century, most people of Britain perceived people of color as inferior and linked them to stereotypes of belonging in a lower social standing. When Queen Victoria befriended Abdul, an Indian servant, and upgraded him to become her Munshi, or personal teacher, her other household members were skeptical of his high social standing around the Queen simply because he was colored. When Queen Victoria attempted to knight Abdul, the household members attempted to sabotage Abdul by belittling his Indian background in front of the Queen to emphasize that it was untraditional for a person of color to become a knight in a British kingdom. This shows the close-mindedness of Caucasians when trying to accept the companionship of people of other races and the negative stereotypes, such as automatically being considered as servants, they had for people of color in the past. In today’s generation, with societies being more integrated and socially aware of races and issues of racism, stereotypes may still exist but are continuously being bent as integration of races diminishes social labels, such as the situation of Barack Obama, who belongs in a race considered inferior and unable to even vote in the past, becoming the leader of the United States in the 21st century. In the film,  it is shocking to see that racism was normalized in the past while it is today a sensitive topic that is avoided or overcome.  Lastly, the issue of intolerance for religions, more specifically Islam compared to Christianity, is shown in the film. Britain is a nation dominated by Christianity, and Queen Victoria was a leader of the Church of England. Thus, when Queen Victoria befriends a Abdul, a Muslim, and encourages him to teach her about the Qur’an, a Muslim equivalent of the Bible, and other religious traditions, the other household members reacted bitterly. Even if Queen Victoria decorated the kingdom with traditional Muslim architecture and decorations, they are burnt and hidden by the household once the Queen dies. Although some people today have conservative perspectives, many people are increasingly becoming liberal in accepting and respecting others of various religious backgrounds in the evolving world. More people in the 21st century are increasingly becoming like Victoria and Abdul, in which friendships and relationships are formed among people in respects to their religious identities. Therefore, to some people, it can be alarming to see that, similar to racism, people were not respectful of or open-minded about other religious backgrounds other than theirs in the film.To conclude, corruption in countries, racism, and religious intolerance are alarming issues present in the depths of the film Victoria and Abdul. Although these issues may still be present in certain locations today, times have changed to evolve most societies to now question the issues that were normalized in the past. Most people in the present time perceive the importance of government matters such as receiving quality education and health care and social matters such as handling people of diverse races and religious backgrounds when they now think of an ideal society. With the culture shock that people from the 21st century may receive when faced with societal issues in the film, they can then use that newfound knowledge to combat these issues that may still currently exist in some places. Real-life examples of how this can be done include donating money to help build schools in third-world countries, partaking in protests to fight for the rights minority groups, or befriending people of other religious backgrounds. Just like how a friendship was formed between a wealthy Christian queen from Britain and a poor Muslim servant from India, people should not be discouraged to form friendships with people that are polar opposites. It is hoped that people may be able to grasp the main concept of the film, aside from the theme of friendship between the two main characters, in which peace, well-being, and a mindset of equality may be promoted by learning from the mistakes of societies in the past and creating an even better society in the present.  


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