When confronted with creating an Indian character, Hollywood leans towards the many stereotypes that have been so tragically established over the years. The result?–International audiences have come to associate all Indian people with these stereotypes. This daily stereotyping does not stem from social interaction, but rather from what they see of Indian characters on the big screen and on television.
When they think of Indian people, most people seem to think of curry-eating, sex-deprived hairy nerds with a penchant for speaking with heavy, almost unintelligible accents. The store owner with a big family also comes to mind quite often, as does the sari-clad helicopter mother. Due to the widespread acceptance of these stereotypes, Indians have, in a way, lost their true identity in most places around the world.
Raj and Apu do not define Indian people, just as Sheldon and Homer do not define white people. This false depiction of Indian people is incredibly insulting, and it is about time that people learn that these stereotypes are wrong.
The exaggerated accent, accompanied with the head bobble, seems to be one of the most common stereotypes. Understand this- every person who speaks English as a second language would have an accent. There’s nothing wrong with that. The Indian accent is certainly not embarrassing and funny, even though western media often try to portray it that way. The exaggeration of an accent for comedic purposes is actually quite insulting.
Due to the widespread acceptance of these stereotypes, Indians have, in a way, lost their true identity in most places around the world.
Indian characters on television are often portrayed as awkward, timid geeks who find it hard to handle social interactions. They’re almost always doctors, engineers or someone within the IT industry. Is it fair to force one personality type on an entire race? No, it certainly isn’t. Just as every race, Indian people are diverse in personality types and personal traits. Forcing a single personality type on us is extremely dehumanizing.
The stereotype that all Indian people are awkward and timid enforces and supports the idea that the only way we can establish a romantic relationship is through arranged marriages. While some people do adhere to the concept, it is not a true representation of Indian culture today. The constructs of relationships are the same for us, as it is for the rest of the world.
Hollywood does have a few moments in which Indian people are represented accurately, but this doesn’t occur often enough. The stereotypes that have already been established require much more to break, and we can only hope that Hollywood starts to look beyond Apu as the Indian character mold.