The curious case of Tala and Laila in the film Fire & I Can’t Think Straight by Sarif Shamim (2010) brings forth the question of the social construct of homophobia in relation to their different personal backgrounds. Whereas Tala, a Palestinian Christian with roots from Jordan and raised in England and Laila, a timid Muslim, are both initially depicted as being involved in heterosexual relationships, their innate attraction to women has brought them together as lovers later in the film (Shamim, 2010). Although one may easily view the relationship of Tala and Laila, as well as their various exploits in dealing with the numerous social confines surrounding them, as one that may fit well within the concept of existentialism raised by Chaffee (2011) given the rational choices of both women in defying the restrictions of homophobia (Chai, 2001), it is also possible that the inner workings of their sexuality may make their situation more determinist in nature (Chaffee, 2011). This discussion paper briefly assesses the foregoing contentions, emphasizing the fluidity of gender and the consequent view that gender is shaped by preferences not necessarily shaped by external value-systems, but by personal interests primarily driven by attraction.
The idea that gender is fluid and not predetermined genetically by birth, but by social experiences not limited to external value-systems is a crucial point of view that defies the applicability of determinism in the rather existentialist case of Tala and Laila in Fire I Can’t Think Straight (Chaffee, 2011; Shamim, 2010). Determinism, given the case of Tala and Laila, would most likely adhere to the view that gender is genetically defined and thus provides a fixed set of gender preferences that cannot be changed over time by social experiences, given it provides that the existence of specific conditions that can only lead to only one kind of event shapes human action. But gender is a matter where specific conditions can lead to different kinds of events, given its fluidity as discussed, and it thrives within social norms that can either support or suppress its development among individuals.
Such therefore leaves no room for determinism in analyzing all the actions Tala and Laila did in the film (Chaffee, 2011). Tala and Laila, in this case, are two individuals pressed by the homophobic nature of their personal backgrounds, as their respective cultures would not look at same-sex relationships favorably. With that, Tala and Laila acted rationally in favor of their preferences on gender and fought the social structures that have been suppressing them in the process to achieve the goal of fighting for their love for one another, hence making their exploits in the film existentialist in nature (Chaffee, 2011; Chai, 2001; Shamim, 2010).
Chaffee, J. (2011). The philosopher's way: A text with readings: Thinking critically about profound ideas. Boston, MA: Prentice Hall.
Chai, S.-K. (2001). Choosing an identity: A general model of preference and belief formation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Shamin, S. (2010). Fire and I can’t think straight: London, Enlightenment.