To us, Jess and Jules ended up together
BY ELLA PORTEOUS, IMAGE BY FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES
Yesterday (20 July) marked the start of the Women’s World Cup season, and I couldn’t be more excited. 2022 was a massive year for women’s football; global television viewing figures were at an all-time high and attendance records were broken, with 87,192 fans present at the Women’s Euro final.
In honour of the World Cup starting and the fact that women’s football is getting the recognition it deserves, I thought it would be nice to take a moment to examine everyone’s favourite football film, Bend It Like Beckham.
Despite not technically being an LGBTQIA film, Bend It Like Beckham has been beloved by the LGBTQIA community since its release over 20 years ago. Is it because of all the Adidas tracksuits? Keira Knightly in a sports bra? The definitely-more-than-friends gazing between Jess and Jules? Well, yes, but it’s a lot more than all that and I’m here to show exactly why Bend It Like Beckham is cherished by us gays.
If, for some reason, you haven’t heard of the 2002 sports-comedy masterpiece that is Bend It Like Beckham, here is a quick summary. We follow Jess (Parminder Nagra) who, during her summer before university, is desperate to play football despite her family’s disapproval. After sneaking out to play in the park, she is spotted by Jules (Keira Knightly) who is impressed by her skills and convinces her to play for the local semi-pro team. Jess’ pursuit of football places a strain on her relationship with her family, and her crush on her football coach Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) puts a strain on her friendship with Jules (just not for the reason we’d like; Jules also fancies Joe).
The cult classic deals with a lot of themes, from racism and gender roles to culture clashes and friendship. However, it has also been noted for its symbolic queer undertones. Jess and Jules are extremely close throughout the film; even as a child I picked up on the chemistry between the pair. There are many quintessential gay moments peppered through Bend It, from Jess cringing and showing visible disgust when her relatives tease her about boys, to the club scene where Jules and Jess dance to I Turn To You by Melanie C – a gay icon to many.
However, one of the most significant aspects of the film for the LGBTQIA community is the fact that gay acceptance is such a key theme. Jess lovingly accepts her best friend Tony after he comes out to her and Jules challenges her homophobic mother, telling her that: “Being a lesbian isn’t that big of a deal.”
Therefore, it’s no surprise that Bend It Like Beckham has been responsible for the sexual awakening of many young gays (after all, an obsession with Keira Knightly is a universal gay experience).
Over the years, there has been an increasing outcry online about the fact that Bend It Like Beckham isn’t a lesbian film. The gays have been calling for a remake or sequel, and we absolutely agree.
Even Keria Knightly wants a sequel where Jules and Jess end up together. When asked about a possible gay sequel in an interview with PrideSource in 2018, Keria said: “Fuck yeah! That would’ve been amazing. I think they should’ve been too. I think that would’ve been great. We need a sequel.”
Over the years there have been many rumours that Bend It was originally supposed to be a lesbian film, with Jules and Jess ending the film as a couple. However, when asked about this in the same PrideSource interview, Keria said she was unaware of this ever being true. “I never read that version of the script! I mean, not as far as I know. But you might have information that I don’t have. No, the only version of the script that I ever read was the one that we shot, so it was as it was.”
With iconic lines like “Get your lesbian feet out of my shoes!” and “Lesbian? I thought she was a Pisces”, it’s no wonder that Bend It Like Beckham is considered a queer classic. It would have been revolutionary to have an interracial gay love story in the early 2000s, and I will forever hope for a queer remake. The sapphics deserve a love story starring two footballers in Adidas tracksuits and one day we will get it.
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