In the last decade or so, Indians seem to be taking Hollywood and the rest of the world by storm. Whether they are American-Indians, Canadian-Indians or British Indians, their ability to influence the Western world has been stronger than ever. Most young people would remember their first taste of Indian culture mixed into the western world through the Indian family in “Bend it Like Beckham” or the well known character Apu from the Simpsons. Nowadays, there’s a whole lot more Indians who are just dying to provide the world with entertainment. There’s Youtbe sensation IIsuperwomanII and Russell Peters, whom from Indian heritage were brought up in Canada, but are sending laughs all around the world. Both have taken to showcasing their ethnicity through satire, namely Indian stereotypes. As mentioned in the Times of India, “Being ‘Indian’ made me a misfit in ‘white’ society when I was younger, but not anymore” explains Peters.Today he has turned being an outcast into being one of Forbes Top 10 Grossing Comedians in the U.S. Both stars have used comedy to pull themselves out of being outcast in a foreign land. Whether its through thick Indian accents or comedic hand gestures, that’s their way of breaking down the barriers between Indian and western cultures.
People would walk up to me on the streets. “*indian accent* RUSSELL, RUSSELL, RUSSELLLLLLLL. Your show last night, russell your show last night. TOO good.. TOOOOO good. First Class. A1. Fantastic. The show was fantastic. The show was mind blasting”.”You mean mind blowing”.”No, no anything can blow your mind, it BLASTED my mind”
Now, however, there’s a new face to add into the mix — Mindy Kaling. And she’s got a whole new way of doing things. Despite being American-Indian, Kaling is well aware that a distinction still exists between cultures. Instead of emphasizing on the fact that she is Indian, she instead makes almost no mention of it. Despite her dark skin tone, nothing much sets her apart from the average American. Kaling’s aim is to remove this distinction that we place among Asian cultures in the western world. She believes my making no mention of her family’s heritage, she will be able to remove the stereotypes that are often associated with being an American-Indian.
In other words, Kaling is all about embracing Indian culture and making things such as darkskin colour and “different” accents a normal thing. In an interview with Racialicious, it taks about an experience where she was confronted with a computer screen of just white babies to which she proclaimed;
“Weren’t we going to have some babies of color? We’re going to have all white babies?”
Its clear that she’s keen to get to a place where differences in skin colour and heritage is no longer noticed.
“I don’t really think of myself so much as in terms of being Indian,”
And then there’s Aziz Ansari who’s sort of a mix between Mindy Kaling and Russell Peters. Yes, he’s and American born comedian, born in South Carolina with parents of Indian descent. As mentioned in the Guardian, he talks about what it was like going to school in a state where Indians are a minority.
“It wasn’t all peaches and cream, but, you know, kids are mean and they’ll pick on differences. So if you’re the only minority kid in an all-white school, that’s a difference but no one ever threw rocks at me or anything like that. Really, it was about as bad as being a fat kid”
Well despite what he had to go through during his schooling years, Ansari managed to make quite a name for himself in Hollywood in recent years. However, much like Mindy Kaling, he chooses not to dwell on Indian stereotypes or talk about the fact that he might look different from the average westerner.
It’s like when Indian people come to my show and they’re like, oh, he’s Indian! Let’s check out his comedy! That’s weird to me, I don’t do that,”.
So let me ask, is there a better way to break Indian culture into America? Is comedy and stereotypes they way to go, or are we better off by removing the distinctions placed between American-Indians and your everyday Americans?