Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oh, Beefaroni. I think I'll miss you most of all.

The central plot line of last night's Big Bang Theory was that Koothrappali had lost his job and was about to be deported. As such, it was chock-a-block with jokes on our shared 'motherland,' India. "I'll have to put up with the sarcastic remarks from my cousin Sanjay," he opined. "Or as you may know him, Dave from AT&T technical support." Up for comedic grabs was also the Hindu lifestyle that so many Indian Americans give up, specifically in regards to beef (see the title of this post).

For me, when I gave up beef in the 10th grade, it was Arby's ...
until I realized I was just addicted to the special sauce.

In my freshman year in college, I was deeply offended when a character on Will and Grace remarked of a threesome she had actually backed out of, "There were arms and legs everywhere - Hindus were worshipping us!" This off-handed slight caused me (and possibly other Hindus, though one can't be sure) to abandon the show until it went into syndication. A few years earlier there was a huge uproar when Xena: Warrior Princess and her 'sidekick' (*cough*lesbian lover*cough*) Gabrielle met the Hindu god Vishnu. In blue-face. The principals had to appear in a PSA to beg forgiveness alongside a prominent figure in the Hindu community (for what that was worth - we're not like Catholics, we don't have much of a hierarchy). So how did I react to last night's fresh blandishments of Indian society and Hindu culture?

I closed my eyes and chanted "Ommmm..." NOT.

I laughed my ass off. And you know why? The jokes on BBT were being made by and Indian. There's a huge difference between saying, "aren't we funny?" and saying "aren't they funny?" For all that comedy = tragedy + distance, jokes that are inherently distancing are just not fun for me. When white characters make a joke/utilize a stereotype about India/Hindus, it makes me feel like I'm the only one of my kind in the world. When Koothrappali jokes about how dirty the Ganges is, or erroneously states that Hindus believe cows are gods, I feel closer to him as a character. I can't claim to speak for every Indian (American or not, Hindu or not) but I thoroughly enjoyed what felt like, to me, good-natured ribbing from one of my favorite shows.

Stay classy, Big Bang Theory.


Anonymous said...

aside from who made the comment, it was rather distasteful nevertheless.

Monkey Sri said...

Well, you are entitled to your opinion. Thanks for commenting!

Liz said...

i think of you every time raj makes an indian joke/reference (and when sheldon corrects his perceptions of hinduism). it doesn't hurt that he's adorable!

Monkey Sri said...

Hee hee, indeed.