I think it’s fair to say that, aside from The Office and the first three episodes of The Book Group, Hulu has some questionable British shows on their site. But they surprised me one day and acquired a real gem through White Teeth. This four-part British miniseries captures the complex, comedic, and heart-wrenching lives of three immigrant families over three decades in London. The show is based on Zadie Smith’s award-winning first novel of the same title and depicts with piercing honesty the struggle of foreigners attempting to settle and live comfortably in a Western land so different from their own. They have to decide which parts of their identity to keep, which to discard, and how much of the new culture to adopt.
As a constant immigrant (and one who still feels like a foreigner in her own home), I fully identified with the series. Being raised between West Africa and the Western world, my identity became a thing of confusion. The characters in White Teeth struggle with this tremendously—with race, religion, and culture. Some end up fully rejecting the ways of the land (like Clara’s fanatic Jamaican Jehovah’s Witness mother); some fully embrace it (like Clara herself who ends up running away from home and marrying a white Londoner); and then there are the children who were born in London to immigrant parents and whose journeys to self discovery are arduous and sometimes dark (like Millat who goes from being a fervent womanizer to becoming an angry member of a radical Islamic brotherhood and attempts murder in the name of Allah).
As long as people move around in this world, and as long as we interact and fall in love with people of different cultures and races, the stories in White Teeth will be relevant and inevitable.
Bio: Adaeze Elechi is Guernica’s blog editor. Read her last recommendation of Bob Dylan’s album “Desire” “here”:https://guernicamag.com/blog/1645/rec_room_adaeze_elechi_desire/.