Wadjda act rebellious differently to Wadjda, these girls rebel

(Haifaa al-Mansour, 2012), is a coming of age story about a 10-year-old girl
living in the suburb of Riyadh. The story of Wadjda expresses how people live
their lives in Saudi Arabia through the experiences of a 10-year-old girl and how
women have to cope with the patriarchal restrictive society of Saudi Arabia. In
this essay, I will be discussing how the social norms of Saudi Arabian society
are subverted through the theme of rebellion. The theme of rebellion is
demonstrated throughout the film in different areas by the use of
cinematography, dialogue and clothing.

The opening scene is a very
important scene in the film as it is where we establish her rebellious
character in contrast between her and the obedient girls in her class. In the
scene, we are instantly drawn to Wadjda’s canvas shoes in contrast to the other
girl’s black shoes which are used to portray a depiction of Wadjda’s individuality
and aspects of her personality to the audience advocating that she is rebellious
to the social norms of society and not following basic rules. The opening scene
is important as it introduces her character and her personality to the
audience, in order to a general understanding for the audience when they see
her perform more acts of rebellious behaviour against the social norms of
society throughout the film.

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The types of
girls at Wadjda’s school differ to her massively. In the film, we establish
that she has a selective group of friends that like to hang out behind the
school and do rebellious actions such as paint their toenails. A few of the
girls at Wajda’s school act rebellious differently to Wadjda, these girls rebel
minimally simply trying to make their way through a society and the paradoxes
of Saudi Arabian society are displayed through their rebellious attributes.

The role of women in Saudi Arabian
Society is considered to be quite controversial. In Saudi Arabian Culture,
women are taught to participate in roles that affect the life inside of the
household such as cooking, cleaning and tidying the house and taking care of
the children and some decisions regarding the children’s upbringing. The role
of women is basic to maintaining the structure of the family which is due to
the fact that women are controlled more by men, keeping their chastity and
therefore their family honour in check which makes the family’s bonds and
society stronger.



Wadjda decorates her
personality and individuality with her clothing, style of music and her independence.

She rebels against the social norms of Saudi Arabian society to show people how
different people embrace different concepts of Islam. Her
small gestures of spirited individuality contrasted in a world that seems
organized to suppress any such expression. In the film, we establish that the
plot of the story suggests that people, children, in particular, should have
some means to express themselves, especially when they have hard worked to
achieve their goals.

tomboyish behaviour goes against what is viewed as “right” in the
Society of Saudi Arabia. The actions she does may be viewed by the western
audience as normal actions, however, these specific rebellious acts that she
does reflect on the issues that the women face in the society. Simple traits
such as listening to western
pop music, hanging out with Abdullah are all examples of things that women
shouldn’t do in this society and are considered to be frowned upon. Wadjda is
determined to have her own bicycle which symbolises freedom. A woman riding a bike is widely frowned on
and strongly discouraged in Saudi Arabian society. However, the reason she is
so determined to buy this bicycle is that she is astute enough to realise that
she may be able to get away with it if she’s financially independent.


Throughout the film, we begin to see that
Wadjda’s mother’s personality unfolds and we establish that she is a relatively
liberal woman, relaxed enough to sing at home, on the other hand, she is
conservative enough to disapprove of the mixed tapes that Wadjda creates. We as
the audience begin to understand more about Wadjda’s behaviour when we see life
at home. Wadjda has a relatively close relationship with her mother. Her father
on the hand seems very laid back and is not like a stereotypical Saudi Arabian
father who is strict on their wives and children. In the scene where Wadjda’s
dad comes home from work we establish him sitting in the living room playing a
video game, in this scene Wadjda tells her father that she wants a bike, as the
audience we expect a Stereotypical father would be angry and give her a lecture
about how it is wrong and tell her how a woman “should act. But he doesn’t
even respond or seems as though he even acknowledged what she had said. In
Saudi Arabian Society, the structure of the families is traditionally
patriarchal, with the male being the head of the household and in charge of
duties that are usually found outside of the household such as protecting and
providing for his family. 
Stereotypically, we as the audience expected Wadjda’s father to react in
a certain way but doesn’t. From this, we establish that Wadjda has taken
certain traits from her father such as being laid back and doing the opposite
of what is expected in social norms of Saudi Arabian society. What is expected
of Wadjda is not how she responds to certain situations. So, given the fact
that her father didn’t really have much to say given the situation with the
bicycle, her other behaviour such as her choice of clothing, and perhaps the
loud music wouldn’t have bothered him, and for this reason we could say that
perhaps because there was no “man of the house” to tell her off and
be the “man of the house”, which is why she acts so rebellious in the
first place. Throughout the film we witness Wadjda get into trouble for
numerous things, however not once does she get told off by her father which
suggests that he is the least of her worries. In typical Saudi Arabian society,
if the children particularly the child does something wrong, their father would
be the one to set them straight.

According to Ceuterick “‘When the father
or other male relatives are not present, Wadjda can sing with her mother, play
subversively with her abaya and the two women can find a hiding spot on the
roof. When the father is present the spatiality of the house changes. The house
then appears as a divided space that determines gender roles, responsibilities
and labour” (Ceuterick 189)


aspect which affects Wadjda is the fact that only the men of the family appear
on the family tree. Later on, in the film, we see Wadjda add herself to it only
to find that she had been taken off. At the edge of adolescence, Wadjda
discovers many severe limitations placed on herself and the women in society in
the name of culture, Islam and family honour. 
However, all of these situations that Wadjda finds herself in is what
pushes her and determines her to want the bike even more. As mentioned before,
the bike is a symbol of freedom in the film and by her being able to buy the
bike and riding it gives her freedom and a sense of liberation.

Us as the audience could say that Wadjda gets away with her behaviour
because she doesn’t know better, the fact that the man of the house being her
father is not strict there for lets her get away with a lot. On the other hand,
the truth is, she does know better and is fully aware of the way
things are the way they are.

In the film, everyone around Wadjda thinks that she is just a child and
doesn’t know any better, however as the film goes on you begin to establish the
reactions of the elder, people such as her teachers, parents and family
friends, towards her. We discover later and later in the film that Wadjda’s
rebellious trait symbolises her wisdom and intelligence towards the situation.

Her personality sets an example for all women in Saudi Arabian society that if
you want something you can get it if you are determined. It also symbolises
that by you going for what you want for something such as a bike doesn’t make
you any less of a Muslim. This is portrayed when Wadjda learns the Quran and
strives to be the best in order to win the competition to get the bike. She
achieved both goals of her religious side as well as striving for what she
wants and what she believes in.



discussion on how the social norms of Saudi Arabian society are subverted
through the theme of rebellion and represented throughout the film in different
ways with many messages behind each scene. Each scene was well thought out and
there are meanings to each part.

Despite the
absurdities that women face every day we can relate to the characters and the
themes in this film. Haifaa al-Mansour told the story about Saudi Arabian
society without being bias or obvious political agenda. Haifaa al-Mansour
changed the ending of the film and originally the mother was going to die,
instead, she changed it to her buying Wadjda the bicycle instead. This changed
the whole meaning of the film as the two endings are the complete polar
opposite. If the ending of the film had led to the mother dying, in a way it
throws the whole message of the film out the window because then Wadjda would
not have got her bike which we explained symbolises freedom and she would have
then lost her mother and have to live with her father’s new family. On the
other hand, by changing the ending to Wadjda’s mother buying her the bike this
then shows that her mother accepted and agreed with Wadjda after her husband
had left her for another woman, and the fact that it ended with them symbolised
empowering women and the fact that she got her bike in the end also symbolised
freedom and liberation. The two endings change the meaning very drastically and
so the ending that Haifa changed it to fitted the story and the moral also.