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The Problem with the Lack of Bengali Representation in Hollywood

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As a brown girl, I grasp at anything in popular culture that represents me, but truthfully, I have found nothing in Hollywood that truly reflects me and my culture. I am Bengali and amongst millions of other Bengali’s, yet I haven’t seen any representation of us. Mostly because people think that we’re part of India. But, we’re not, we have our own country, our own culture, our own quirks. It seems like we’re extinct in Hollywood as I’ve never seen a Bengali character in any modern movie or TV show.

South Asian characters have the typical stereotypes, a thick Indian accent, often used as a comic relief or just used as a token character to show diversity in an all white cast. However, there have been some shows and movies that celebrate South Asians, mainly Indian, where their brown characters actually have important roles, such as The Mindy Project, Master of None and Lion. As much as that pleases me, I haven’t seen one single Bengali character played by a Bengali actress or actor, which is sad because we don’t have any characters that really represent and relate to us entirely.

Brown people aren’t just from India, They’re also from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, they’re found all over the world in different countries with our own stories and while we are on the topic, we don’t get many characters who are from those countries either. If Hollywood really wants to be diverse then they need to start showing characters from different places around the world. For example, the casting for Princess Jasmine as Naomi Scott really upset me because it’s not showing the real representation of her character. She’s Middle Eastern, she’s Arab, while the actress who is portraying her is half White and half Indian. Characters with brown skin aren’t interchangeable, you can’t replace them with an Indian actress/actor, when the character isn’t from India, just because they’re easy to find or for the sake of lazy casting.

Get someone who actually knows the culture and also represents it as a whole. People who are from that descent and ethnicity will feel appreciated because they finally have someone to relate to.

Create characters who are from different countries because there are plenty of countries out there with brown people that aren’t from India. Create stories about them that are different without including any stereotypes about brown culture, unless you’re actually brown and you’re making fun of the stereotype. Don’t get me wrong, I love the representation that brown people are getting so far but we have so much work to do if we want to make an actual change.

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Juie is an 19 year old writer & poet based in London, England. She likes to read books written by celebrities and watch mystery dramas on TV

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