How Does the Indian Diaspora Affect Hollywood?

Merriam Webster’s simple definition of diaspora is “a group of people who live outside the area in which they had lived for a long time or in which their ancestors lived.” In America, this usually refers to immigrants or descendants of immigrants, especially if they are non-white. It’s interesting to see how Indians and others are portrayed in American pop culture, and how in recent years they are portrayed less as stereotypes and instead as just other characters. Some films and shows which flesh out Indian characters beyond just their “Indian-ness” are Kumar from the “Harold and Kumar” series, who is a brilliant but slacking stoner with the classic strict Asian parents who push him to become a doctor, Tom Haverford from “Parks and Rec” who obsesses over technology and starts a business called Rent-A-Swag, and Apu from “The Simpsons,” who comedically plays with Indian stereotypes like owning a convenience store and entering an arranged marriage yet who knows much more about America than the “standard” white American Homer, as demonstrated when Apu shows off his knowledge of American history and law.

As Indian-Americans grow in population, and as India’s influence spreads throughout the world, people of Indian descent will hopefully show up more frequently in American cinema and will break more barriers for people of color, especially Asians, who still remain underrepresented and shorted by Hollywood. Some already have pushed forward into the spotlight, like Aziz Anzari and his success as a comedian and actor, and Mindy Kaling, who gained her own show on television, “The Mindy Project.”


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