This class has been a real eye opening experience for me and I really do mean that. I have kind of been the person that has always been shouting America is the best. I am a patriotic person. I served in the military. I am a proud American. However, I was also an ignorant American as well. I have said many times that the greatest experiences that I’ve had are when I get to leave the United States and see the world. Having been to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai, Bahrain, and Turkey has shown me parts of the world I’d never see otherwhise. However, I’ve still remained ignorant to the struggles of different groups from around the world.
In souteast Asia there is a huge problem with sex trafficing and under age girls being sold into a life of abuse. There is a problem with sanitary conditions for people all over Asia. Food is hard to get in some places. Yet all I can think about is what I’m having for dinner or why does McDonald’s always screw up my order? It’s embarassing to think that I might not be as opened mineded and willing to help others as I thought I was.
Maybe I need to travel more but instead of going to the tourist attractions, I should take my ass to places where people genuinelly need help. Seeing my father come back from his mission trips in Honduras really opened my eyes to the joy that he receives when he helps people. I honestly believe the problem with America today is that we’re too selfish. We have the ability to help others yet we lack the desire to do so. In conclusion, I’m glad I took this class because I needed to be reminded that America is a great country but it has great problems. I will aways remember to see the other side of the coin before I make any judgements.
This class has really opened my eyes on a lot of things, but I think my biggest take away is the idea that we have so much in common with cultures that before seemed so different to me. This sounds like some sort of obvious, cliché, all humans are the same type of idea, but I definitely have gained a new appreciation for just how universal so many ideas are. I think the thing that makes this stand out the most to me is the problems we’ve discussed in class. So many of the issues that we discussed in terms of India could also be applied to the United States. Whether it had to do with education or class inequality, all of the problems that India has/had are also issues here. They might not always be completely the same. Different problems might be better or worse in different places, but for the most part people want pretty similar things.
Class inequality was one area that stood out to me in particular. There seems to be this idea that India is so unfair to the lower class. All people think about is the caste system and the lack of economic mobility. This may be true, but it’s not like we aren’t being faced with the same sort of problem here. The wealth inequality in the United States is astounding and it’s only growing. We always like to think that problems like this are just things people in other countries have to deal with, but really we’re not so different. So many perceived differences are just imaginary divides. For the most part people all want the same things.
One topic that we briefly mentioned in the beginning of the class was how Indians and South Asians are represented in American television. One of the most well-known shows with an Indian character is The Big Bang Theory. The character, Rajesh Koothrappali, played by Kunal Nayyar, fills the role of the “funny foreigner.” This common trope in American television can be seen in various other comedies such as The Simpsons and Family Guy. TV Tropes describes and criticizes this trope by saying, “Foreigners are funny! Or so say a good number of comedy shows. The jokes practically write themselves; foreigners mangle the language(especially idioms) in funny ways, they are ignorant of customs in the show’s home country, and they have their own bizarre little customs that make no sense. They will either be unsure of themselves, or (more frequently) totally oblivious to how odd everybody finds them.”
Closely related to this trope, Raj’s character plays into many of the stereotypes surrounding Indian immigrants: he is portrayed as socially awkward, nerdy, and effeminate. He is unable to talk to women without being drunk, hangs out with a group of other “nerdy” scientists, and as the article “The Raj Prototype” points out, he “likes fru-fru drinks and The Blue Man Group.” While the show started off being written for an American audience, it is now attempting to cater to a more global audience. Despite this, the show fails to give Raj the opportunity for significant character growth, generally focusing on immigrant Indian stereotypes, Raj’s failed relationships with women, and his ignorance of American customs for humor’s sake.
What do you guys think? Is this portrayal of Indians acceptable just because a “Western” audience finds humor in it? What other shows come to mind when considering American television’s portrayal of Indians and South Asians?