Colonialism is Racism

29 Nov

Canada’s educational system needs to get it together, especially when it comes to discussing colonialism.

Colonialism is an ideology of oppression that requires a hierarchical, dualistic view. When European explorers first “discovered” a world that other humans had long-since known to be there, these colonialists quickly divided humans into categories of “us” and “them,” making colonialism synonymous with racism, sexism, and homophobia.

European colonialism has always thought in binaries: god/devil, heaven/hell, man/woman, white/black, humans/nature…etc., with the former always “above” the latter. It is disappointing to me that from primary school up until post-secondary, us Canadian students are never taught to critique colonialism. Few history professors dare to expose this ideology for the white-heterosexual-male supremism that it represents. Perhaps they are scared. Or perhaps they just don’t know. Some friends of mine have said that our curriculum is Eurocentric; that it only represents the history of one group. I would go even farther and say that it is no one’s history–it is non-history.

My first experience learning non-history was back in seventh grade. Our history class consisted of memorizing a series of names: Samuel de Champlain, John A MacDonald, Christopher Columbus, and a bunch of other dead white dudes. We learned about the battles over Canada between the British and the French; the Native population was non-existent. Or maybe they just didn’t matter enough to be mentioned in our textbooks. When they were mentioned, it was in passing, such as when one of my teachers told us, “there were some Native Canadians around who allied themselves with various white male “discovers,” “explorers,” or “heroes,” if you will, but they died on contact because “they did not have the vaccinations to protect themselves against European illnesses.” Something about that phrase always made me wonder what more went on that remained unsaid in our textbooks. The vaccinations could easily have been shipped along with the thousands of Europeans coming in, but they weren’t. They weren’t because the genocide was intentional, although no teacher would ever say this aloud, in fear of being politically incorrect. Positive Aboriginal role models like Louis Reil are either ignored by the educational system or mentioned with slight contempt. And one of Canada’s cruelest politicians, Duncan Campbell Scott, is having his name purged from our history.

Canadian history is taught as revolving around the British and the French despite that the true founding fathers arrived tens of thousands of years earlier, and we are taught useless tidbits about these two colonial groups, such as who attacked who, what battle strategies they used, the various treaties that were signed and the dates they were signed on (but not what they entailed), and more political jargon. Author Adam Hochschild says “treaties are a euphemism.”

The truth about history is that it is not a dry, apolitical, and impersonal non-history. History shapes the lives of real people, especially those that remain unmentioned in our textbooks.


Women, Food and Fame

24 Sep

Many of us women have a love/hate relationship with food.

Until a few years ago, I was actually one of them. But as a feminist, certain things about the philosophy of food-hating started to make me question my former beliefs.

Why is it that female celebs are expected to keep unreasonably svelte figures, while their male co-stars can often look however they want and not only get roles, but still be considered “a good catch” and a viable love interest for the female protagonist. (A classic case would be Katherine Heigl vs. Seth Rogen in Knocked Up. There have got to be about a trillion things wrong with that movie.  There’s also Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Zach and Miri Make a Porno…and just about every Seth Rogen movie.) While expectations for women’s looks increase tenfold, standards for men plummet.

Moreover, it is ironic that the rise in dieting fads and eating disorders correlates with the era of the women’s movement. As women in the media strived to make their bodies lank and unfeminine, asserting the place of the modern woman in the working world, we failed to realize that we were merely taking up the burden of woman-hating upon ourselves, through self-punishment.

Celebrities nowadays look more like starvation victims than our country’s top earners. It is ironic when the richest people in North America’s most prosperous cities live in far worse conditions than the rural poor of the “developing” nations. (If the actresses in some of these nations got to even close to the size of North American actresses, their careers would be over.) And what’s even more disturbing is that us, the regular girls, watch these celebrities’ movies and buy their albums and pretend that everything is normal. We sit behind HD TVs and critique these women when they gain a pound or show a wrinkle or two in their smiles, telling ourselves that we’d look better if we had what they had. We watch and judge their every break-up and break-down not just onscreen, but in real life, telling ourselves that if we were in their shoes, we’d still find a way to hold it together.

I’m sorry, but I just can’t do it; I cannot lie or pretend. No, it’s not normal to die of a heart-attack in your early thirties like Brittany Murphy. It’s not just another “normal, successful diet” when your shoulder bones and ribcage end up emaciated to the point of protrusion, like those of almost all reality stars. And no, Britney Spears was never fat in any way, shape, or form, especially not at the VMAs a few years ago.

Who needs good old-fashioned misogynists when women are torturing themselves with semi-starvation diets and unrealistic beauty standards? When we are critiquing each other harsher than any male chauvinist pig could ever hope for? When we work hard to obtain high salaries yet literally deny ourselves the fruits of our earnings by beating ourselves up for every morsel of dessert or delicacy we reluctantly allow ourselves to eat? They’ve sure trained us well, because now they’ve even taken our feminist movements from us.

I’m sick of trying to be converted.

2 Sep

I am a good Christian,
Very pure of heart and true,
That is why I cannot stand to see,
These heathens who have no clue.

I am a pious man,
It’s obvious by my word.
That is why I detest all,
Who speak with no concern for the Lord.

Temptress! Vile being! Harlet!
I scream into the night,
Whenever I see a woman,
Who walks with confidence, free of blight.

Sinners! Demons! Heathens!
I shout on the street,
Whenever I find two men,
Whose lust for one another appears deep.

Bitches! Whores! Cunts!
I begin to gasp,
Each and every time,
That abortion clinic I pass.

Assholes! Motherfuckers!
I begin to scream,
At every single person,
Who isn’t exactly just like me.

But let me tell you a secret,
I was once just like you.
I was wordly, carefree, faithless,
I did whatever I wanted to.

I was once a non-believer,
Till a woman came along,
She lied, she cheated, she stole,
Yet she captivated me with her song.

Then I discovered a way,
to enact my sweet revenge,
I discovered my saviour,
I started seeing through a new lens.

But I am a loving Christian,
I’m much happier now, I swear.
But this world full of demons,
‘Tis really hard to bare!

Slutwalk transcends race, class, and gender barriers

21 Jun

I am in love with the idea of the Slutwalk.

Last January, a policeman in Toronto* angered university students after telling women not to dress like “sluts” during a campus information session on safety tips for women.

When I first heard this news, it made me want to cry.

Women had to make sure to dot every “i” and cross every “t” to get every little scrap that we have in Canada, and that an authority figure like a law-enforcement officer would come into an academic setting, an environment where women have already been oppressed for hundreds of years,** and make such a hateful comment was like spitting on all of the accomplishments of modern women — a reminder that we still have so much farther to go, and that the end is nowhere near as close as we’d like to think.

Then something awesome happened.

On April 3, One woman decided to organize a local protest, and invite all her Facebook associates. This elicited such a powerful public response that what was intended to be a one-time local gathering of mostly Torontonian university students became an international annual movement. This girl cleverly titled the march “Slutwalk,” which was a catchy, tongue-in-cheek response to the cop’s misogynistic comment.

Of course, as we live in a predominantly patriarchal world, the statement of that particular Torontonian cop was not a one-off remark caused by a temporary moment of insanity; therefore, despite that it roused tonnes of feminists to the point of protest, these protesters also received huge backlash.

One of the major issues that people had with the Slutwalk was the title itself. It’s been accused of being contradictory, misguided, counter-productive, offensive, degrading…and so much more. How can women march for equality while referring to themselves using the very title that men have used for so long to assert their superiority?

Although I can see where such arguments are coming from, I disagree. That women in Canada could overcome such hurdles only to be proverbially pushed back into place by the malicious interjection of one boor is testiment to the fact that we need to stop letting men hold the power. As long as they hold it, they can always use it against us. The word “slut” is like an invisible weapon that can be whipped out at any time, anywhere, against any woman. Although women do not hold the power in our society, and therefore cannot truly take back what they do not possess, it is essential that we try.*** I acknowledge that we may never be able to reclaim the word “slut,” but that does not mean I will not support the women brave enough to own it. Calling the protest the “don’t rape women” walk may still be semi-affective, but the “Slutwalk” is somehow more compelling, it makes us do a double-take because it’s so in-your-face — and frankly, this issue is too urgent for us to be worrying about political correctness. I realize that the title of the protest is controversial, but this incendiariness is also part of what makes it so fabulous.

Other people resent the Slutwalk because they feel it represents a very white, middle-class ideal of women’s liberation based on the Western conception of what it means to “dress like a slut,” while in other parts of the world, or within the sex-industry, the clothing of the survivor is not necessarily what is used as the primary scapegoat for sexual offenders. They say that the Slutwalk disregards women in sex trade by not considering their safety or ordeals as one of the key values to fight for in the Slutwalk. To this I would respond that although the seeds of the Slutwalk sprouted from a Western university campus, women from any profession, in any class-background, in any nation can find relevance in its ideals because despite that what it means to “be a slut,” “be promiscuous,” or “ask for it” varies between social environments, yet the underlying root of misogyny is what draws all of these sundry notions together.

Moreover, in the new age of social networking and globalization, the world is a much smaller place than it used to be. Sure, the first Slutwalk was a retort to Western conceptions of “slutiness,” but as one tweeter living under a dictatorship in Tunisia sparked an international uprising, why not follow suit, especially with a cause as important as women’s rights? On June 12, a Slutwalk was held in Mexico City, and this Saturday, New Delhi will become the first Asian city to hold one. I hope that all global cities will do the same. It is so amazing and inspiring to see the world-wide outrage that the Toronto cop has sparked.

* As a sidenote, this particular cop was from the 31 Division of Toronto — the division dealing specifically with the locally stigmatized so-called “ghetto” of the Jane and Finch area. Cops in this division are known for their police brutality, specifically towards black male youths. In fact, within the community they are even known to get away with murder.
** In fact, women were not even allowed into Canadian law schools until 1950.
*** I firmly believe that a day will come when the patriarchy is fully dismantled, but as Martin Luther King Jr. united a country by inviting all Americans to participate in the Civil Rights movement, similarly, men cannot be isolated from our freedom struggle. I am excited to see that although the Slutwalk was initially organized by a woman, many men have come out to join the protest.

XOX or WTF? Gossip Girl and misogyny

30 May

Gossip Girl is an insanely popular show with a huge fan base, so I really hope I am not the only person who finds it completely messed up that in the pilot episode of Gossip Girl, Chuck tried to rape Jenny, but then two seasons later (S3, E 22 – Last Tango, Then Paris) they have “consensual” sex?

GG used to be kind of a guilty pleasure for me. I wasn’t delusional; I was aware that my age-group wan’t exactly its target audience, but I was absolutely in love with the idea of New York: the lifestyle, the scenery, so I supposed the show had its redeeming qualities.

Yet if I had a little sister, I’m not sure that I’d have ever wanted her watching it.

This wasn’t even Chuck’s first case of sexual assault: earlier in the episode, he had also attacked Serena after confronting her for sleeping with her best friend’s boyfriend. When Serena helped Jenny escape from Chuck before it was too late, his response was, “Your life is over, slut!”

The preachy, stifling attitude that most characters had towards Serena and her sexuality were annoying at best, and downright bigoted at worst. I disliked that the character who had once been described by her lover Dan as someone who “never apologizes for who she is” soon became reduced to a “reformed bad girl” by the writers. How boring! Her character became completely  irrelevant, as even Gossip Girl herself admitted during their graduation.

It still bothers me that Serena had to be re-written as a “good girl with a past” to be accepted. Meanwhile, Chuck suffered zero ramifications for his actions with Serena, sending the message to young viewers that while promiscuous sex is just about the worst thing a woman can do, there’s nothing wrong with a man assaulting a “slut” who probably “asked for it.”

And the misogyny only worsened from there:

Last Tango, Then Paris, is a deeply disturbing episode wherein an underage Jenny loses her virginity to a would-be rapist and a repeat offendor, Chuck. It certainly ended with that “OMG” bang that GG writers will strive for at any cost, but not in the way you’d hope to see.

I needed to know if others shared my views, so I went online to see what people had posted. I came across an interview with the writers, and I thought that this was a good way to see how they would justify their plot twist. The answer was horrifying:

“It’s a move that’s been in the DNA of the show since the first episode,” revealed co-writer Josh Schwartz.

O-M-G, I thought to myself. So Chuck trying to rape Jenny is a precursor to them having relations later on? What message does this send for young viewers? I wondered. I read on:

“That relationship is something that was in the pilot—it was Chuck being a predator. And here they meet in a place where they are almost equals, in terms of where they are emotionally. It was a way to track the evolution of the characters over three seasons,” Schwartz continued.

Co-writer Stephanie Savage added, “Jenny at her lowest is choosing to do the thing that she so resisted doing in the pilot, and Chuck at his lowest does the act that he’s been so remorseful for since the pilot.”

Obviously, he wasn’t all that remorseful.

Secondly, I would argue with the statement that Chuck and Jenny were even close to being equals in any way. The class, gender, and highschool-clique differences are astounding enough, but the reactions of the other characters revealed who was truly on top in our misogynistic society.

Rather than confronting Chuck, Blair instead turned her anger towards the under-aged Jenny, slut-shamed her, and “banished” her from NYC, thus branding her like a character in an 1850s Hawthorne novel, except this show lacked that isn’t-this-backwards double-meaning.

Jenny has since been removed from Gossip Girl, and is no longer allowed in the city without special permission from Blair. She was only seventeen years old and basically branded a dirty whore and ran out of town.

Rather than confronting Chuck, even Jenny’s father Rufus was upset with his daughter, quick to send her off to her mother’s for her own “good” and “a fresh start.”

Because men always know what’s best for women–which is clearly whatever ensures that she maintains her honour and chastity.

And although Rufus wasn’t exactly eager to forgive Jenny, her dad really jumped on board when it came to forgiving Chuck. In Season 4, episode 3, The Undergraduates, Rufus buried the hatched altogether, remarking that “Jenny keeps telling me it wasn’t [Chuck’s] fault. Maybe it’s time I believed her.”

Not his fault that he took advantage of an under-age girl at a time when she was vulnerable?

Am I the only person who finds this to be ludicrous parental behaviour?

And why are Chuck and Dan friends for a brief moment in Season 5? Why are they even talking?

Glorifying assault as some sort of sexy forshadowing for subsequent liasons is not only repulsive, but sends extremely oppressive messages for female sexuality at a time when girls are just starting puberty and coming to understand who they are sexually.

PS – Did Chuck seriously try to pawn Blair in a business deal in Season 4? Wtf?! Why isn’t he in jail yet??

Orientalism still alive and kicking: UCLA girl, Macleans, and anti-Asian racism beyond The Big Bang Theory

15 May

Unfortunately, it turns out that my recent disappointment with The Big Bang Theory is only one small part of a much larger trend: anti-Asian racism in the West. This racism occurs in all media types, such as in newspapers (with these recent articles in the Canadian publications  The Toronto Star and Macleans magazine), Facebook (for example, this new Australian anti-Asian Facebook group), YouTube (as seen through the ramblings of the infamous “UCLA Girl“), and of course, hit sitcoms and films in America.

This racism is malignant and festering, and the scariest thing about it is that it doesn’t even try to be covert, as much of the discrimination in the West does. The killings of Indian students in Australia over the last year and the recent rape and murder of Asian university students Tosha Thakkar in Sydney, Australia, and Qian Liu in Toronto, Canada, expose how deep-seated this hatred is. And although I wish I could blog otherwise, this intense loathing is not limited to the sentiments of a few parochial rubes–it’s a dominant Western ideology.

The low-brow Facebook “like” titled “Trying to figure out if your [sic] in Asia or Australia when your [sic] in the city” managed to acquire over 12,000 members in a matter of days despite having a wall full of pro-colonial rhetoric and comments such as “we should shoot them on site,” while the counter-racist Facebook group “‘Too Asian’? TALK BACK” dwindles at just over 1,000 members. Meanwhile, little-miss-UCLA’s father revealed that her viral rambling was meant to be only one part of a series of vlogs that clearly neither he nor she saw anything wrong with. This isn’t even the first time that some of the most widely read Canadian publications have made gross generalizations about Asians. And despite the poor reviews for the blatantly Orientalist Sex and the City 2, the fact remains that it was still the highest grossing rom-com in 2010.

Edward Said, who coined the term “Orientalism” in his book of the same name, stresses that it is hardly a new development in Western thought. It dates back to the days of Marco Polo’s [alleged] travels to the exotic-but-inferior “East.” But nowadays, as the economies of China and India continue to expand, recent anti-Asian backlash from white-pride supporters is hitting the West hard. And this time it’s taking a different turn than back in the days of the Head Tax and the Komagata Maru.

As IT and outsourcing become the way of the future, closet white supremacists fear for their jobs, their social benefits, and what they see as their “loss of culture” as they slowly begin to realize, in terror, that due to the phenomenon of the birth dearth, our economies depend on immigrants to stay afloat. These small-minded lunatics resent every sushi restaurant they pass when they deign to make their way downtown. They grimace when they find that their walk-in doctor’s appointment is received by a olive-skinned face. They scowl when they hear fireworks on festival dates that are not known to them.

Anti-Asian racism has existed since the pre-Columbus era, but this particular wave of racism is different in one fundamental way: in these particular cases, Anti-Asian racism is almost exclusively targeting students. But unfortunately for the racists, our governments still need immigrants.

And the Western governments’ immigrants of choice? The professional, educated class.

This time, the wave of racism is tinged with a hint of not only fear of the unknown, but flat-out jealousy. Unlike stereotypes towards other racialized groups, it is the stereotype of the smart, over-achieving, academically-gifted-but-socially-stunted Asian that prevails in current media. So-called “credible” newspapers dish with condescension and mock-concern about the tribulations of the “unassimilated” Asian student while Asian actors struggle to get roles outside of “the smart one” or “the nerdy one.” Positive media representation of Asians is hard to come by, and this is only if Asian actors manage to find roles at all.

Yet even so, note the tone of envy in UCLA girl’s voice, as she rails about her annoyance at the amount of friends Asians have to call; the loud, weekly get-togethers which she’s neither been invited to nor had the privilege of holding herself; and the horrors of the Asian extended family system while she is left to “fend for herself”–something she claims Asians do not know how to do.

I don’t know, UCLA girl, with a professional class of diaspora living around the world, rapidly growing economies, and major world powers despite what you tactlessly dubbed “the tsunami thing,” Asia seems to be doing quite well for itself.

Globalization is unavoidable. Larger-scale interracial dating, Hakka restaurants, and cultural mixing are not only inevitable, but embraceable aspects of the future. Nationalism died with the 20th century. So get over it.

Racist, anti-asian sentiments in CBS’s The Big Bang Theory

28 Apr

I’ve been hearing about The Big Bang Theory for a while now, and it has been recommended to me a few times by associates within my academic circle–by friends with both Asian and non-Asian backgrounds.

Interesting… I thought to myself. A clever comedy? That could be refreshing. And of course, I was also interested to see how they would play out the character of Raj Koothrappali, as East Indians are rarely favourably portrayed (or even included) in American sitcoms.

I’ll have to admit I was less than impressed with the initial episode I watched. What had been sold to me as a “smart sitcom” seemed more like a series of dull, mildly depressing and unintelligent ramblings of grown-up Superbad characters. But it’s alright for light-entertainment before bed, I convinced myself, slightly out of desperation as there are so few quality shows on the air nowadays.

Still, there was something that didn’t quite sit right with me about the show. I even felt mildly uncomfortable watching it. After a few more episodes, I started to admit to myself that I really disliked the show’s attitude toward Raj, but once again, the critic in me acquiesced to the more naive part of myself, and I told myself that I was just being hypersensitive.

Then the racist element really started to get under my skin, and I started documenting the evidence for social observance purposes. That and blog fodder.

The first moment that I probably felt that internal burn that we all feel when we know we are being discriminated against is during the first episode, when Penny (the show’s token “hot girl,” who actually is pretty adorable) addresses Raj, and he doesn’t answer her. Her immediate response is, “I’m sorry, do you speak English?”

This problematic assumption is worsened by the fact that it is sidekick Howard who steps in and speaks for him, explaining that he cannot answer her because he is “a nerd.” Great, I said to myself, so the one time an East Indian is cast in a lead role in an American sitcom, not only is he part of a group with questionable attitudes towards women, a group so pathetic, so painfully nerdy that even I want to give them all wedgies, but he also has to be silenced.

Raj Koothrappali is robbed of his voice: a key feature of colonialism, sexism, slavery, and oppression in general. Is it the tale of Columbus, or of the scores of  humans he slaughtered, that we are taught of with semi-folklore status in our history classes today? Is it the women or the men who are noted as the prime social reformers and philosophers of their time? When we discuss politics, both national and foreign, ancient and modern, who has their say? Certainly not those whom it would be most relevant to hear from. And let’s face it, in American history, it’s the Anglo-saxon version that dominates despite the myth of the melting pot. This is what subjugation is all about.

Is Raj’s inability to speak a comedic aspect of his character, or a symptom of something more insidious in The Big Bang Theory? Why couldn’t it be the socially inept Sheldon, the uncouth and sexually repulsive Wallowitz, or even lame Leonard who is rendered with this ignominy?

Relax! You say to me. You are over-analyzing it! It’s just a show. And anyways, Wallowitz is Jewish. He is also a member of a minority group that has faced extreme discrimination in American society. So what if he spoke for Raj in this instance? He does not have the agency to be racist.

Okay, let’s agree to disagree and say that Raj’s fleeting loss-of-voice isn’t racist. But it isn’t only Wallowitz who speaks for–and even defines–who Raj is. In The Precious Fragmentation, (S3 E17), it is the leading-nerd Sheldon Cooper, a Texan of Anglo-saxon ancestry, who distinguishes Raj as “the foreigner who tries to understand our culture and fails.”

This instance draws parallels to the Hegelian master/slave dialectic, wherein the slave, through systemic oppression, is (at least initially) only able to see himself through the eyes of his oppressor. His oppressor ends up being the one who provides him with his identity.  Moreover, why is Raj’s character forever seen as an outsider incapable of assimilation? He is a smart, functional (aside from his encounters with women) member of society who speaks fluent English and almost seems to abhor anything remotely “Indian.” Yet he is not “one of them.” He is not an American, and in the eyes of Sheldon, who emblematizes not only the dorky Anglo-saxon, but also small-town, white American nerd-dom, he never will be.

The show doesn’t stop there with Sheldon’s sense of entitlement to speak as the wiser, more advanced counterpart to his foreign comrade. In The Gorilla Experiment (S3, E10), after Penny cutely throws and catches food in her mouth, Sheldon makes a condescending remark about how he dislikes when she acts “willy nilly” towards food without concern for its equitable distribution. He then addresses Raj with an uncalled-for and inaccurate attack, stating “Raj, this is essentially why you have famine in India.” This is an instance of the classic “ruler-knows-best” colonial symptom.

It doesn’t take a self-proclaimed genius like Cooper to know that India, a major exporter of the world’s food, hasn’t had a famine since after the British left. Under British rule, millions Indians died of starvation during at least 25 well-documented famines, while the colonists gained inspiration for their later behaviour in Ireland by inducing Indian famines through looting the country’s food and goods and taxing people for everything (see: The Bengal Famine, which killed 1/3 of the population, or 15 million people). Interesting how colonial thought enjoys distorting these basic facts.

In The Jiminy Conjecture (S3 E2), Sheldon even reminds Raj of his ancestral colonial connection during a disagreement where Raj remarks he would be “kicking [Sheldon’s] butt” if this argument was in his Native tongue.

“English is your Native language!” Sheldon quickly and thoughtlessly repudiates, met by the laughter of the audience.

So Sheldon can state that Raj’s Native tongue is English, however Raj is still far from an American, “failing” to comprehend its cultural norms. This attitude is typical of the British Raj, who forever tried to Anglocize India, while never agreeing that India was “Anglo” enough. For example, Sir Babington Macaulay, a hailed reformer of the Indian education system (whose role in the outlawing of all homosexual activity is conveniently ignored) and a fierce proponent of English-medium schools despite his inefficiency in the English language, had this to say about India: “I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit [sic] or Arabic, but […] a single shelf of a good European library are [sic] worth the whole literature of India and Arabia.”* Even after Macaulay had done his damage and outlawed homosexuality, Vicery Elgin still referred to homosexual amour as “special Oriental vices.”** Macaulay’s “reforms” reveal an example of the British colonial view that although India was English-speaking, it’s still not English. Their so-called “backwardness” was basically an inherent “Oriental vice.” Similarly, Raj may speak English, but Sheldon will never see him as on-par with his fellow Americans.

It’s not racist, it’s funny! you protest. Raj knows he is “the foreigner” and he plays upon it, calling his friends out on their racism and coming back with witty remarks whenever he’s faced with it! This show is far from depicting Raj’s role as that of the inferior immigrant.

Not always. Again in The Jiminy Conjecture, when the nerds meet with a cricket expert (who has just been fired) to settle their asinine dispute, he lashes out at them with comical irrationality–at least, until he gets to Raj, where his anger takes on a racist turn.

“What’s your deal?” he says to Raj, as he gives him the cat-eye. “Are they out-sourcing my job to Bangalore?” Again, this question is met with audience laughter. Raj’s retort is simply, “I’m from New Delhi.” Although this response does elicit the sense of incomprehension that educated people when confronted with extreme ignorance, I was disappointed that none of Raj’s friends stood up for him, and I was left with that same uncomfortable feeling in my stomach.

Further, I would argue that Raj’s homeland is seen as subordinate to The Land of Opportunity. In The Pirate Solution (S3 E17) when Raj faces deportation, he whines incessantly about how he doesn’t want to go back. After all, India is “hot, it’s loud, and there are so many people! You have no idea–they’re everywhere!” He rebukes the McDonald’s in Mumbai for not selling beef, degrading his culture while glorifying this ethically questionable MNC by going on and on about the wonders of animal flesh. As an animal rights activist, frankly, I was horrified to watch this episode.

Yes, this is just Raj’s opinion of India I’m discussing here, but none of the other characters even attempt to cheer him up. Rather, Sheldon suggests becoming a pirate as a suitable alternative to living in India, contending that it’s what he would do in Raj’s position. To the Big Bang nerds, India is a strange, uninteresting, faraway land they wouldn’t visit even for one of their closest friends. Howard remarks that India is a very far plane-ride away, and that instead they should “Skype.”

(I could probably find even more instances of racism in a show that is so chock-full of it, but as you can probably tell, I only watched Season 3, and I feel that that is more than enough for a lifetime.)

So overall, this is The Big Bang Theory‘s stance on India: boring, far, hot, and inferior. A place undeserving of even fact-checking before you throw a few reproachful comments its way. In fact, India is so unworthy that even Howard wouldn’t go there for his best friend, with whom he shares a latent but palpable bi-curiousity.

The end.


* Quote from Macaulay’s Minute on Education can be found here. PS–Why Macaulay took an opportunity to diss Arabia when he was supposed to be commenting on education in India will always be beyond me.

** Suparna Bhaskaran. “The Politics of Penetration: Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code,” in Queering India, ed. Ruth Vanita, p. 17. Routledge, 2002.

***Other great posts about The Big Bang Theory here and here.

****Update May 3, 2016: I love that this blog post continues to get visceral reactions from people years later. I am also amazed at all the hypersensitive people who got offended at my being offended all the while missing the irony in that.