But Is It Racist?

There is a mutiny afoot in the Sepia Mutiny bunker. About half of us think that Joel Stein’s piece published in Time on Edison NJ was ill-humored garbage. The other half thinks it’s RACIST ill-humored garbage. I’m of the camp that thinks it’s racist. In the past few days the Desi blogosphere, twitterverse and facebookdom have been in uproar over this piece but what I find the most striking is the debate – “Is it or isn’t it racist?” What is it about the “R” word that makes us recoil and run to words like “stereotype” “bigot” or “xenophobic”? Why are we scared to call things racist?

I thought the article “My Own Private India” was racist – but then again, I come at things from a Critical Race Theory perspective where racialization is an inherent part of our history and narrative. It permeates through every aspect of living in the U.S., whether in how public policies and laws are implemented, healthcare is accessed or in a simple Time satire article. I think a lot of things are racist, more so than the average brown person, whether it be internalized, institutional or blatant. I think implicit biases are real, and people can be racist without intentionally doing so.

But instead of dissecting the Stein piece again, I wanted to highlight another racially controversial piece in the news. Today is the official premier of the M. Night Shyamalan movie The Last Airbender. The movie is based on the Nickelodeon anime-styled cartoon series “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” which is a cartoon heavily influenced by East Asian philosophies, there’s martial arts in it, and the cartoons are brownish Asian looking kids. But the controversy has been around the casting process of the movie. White kids were cast as the main three roles, and the evil people? Why they were cast as the Desis: Dev Patel (as Prince Zuko), Summer Bishil (Princess Azula), Aasif Mandvi (Commander Zhao) and Persian actor Shaun Toub (Uncle Iroh). Question is, is it racist?

Floating World had a fantastic piece on their blog about the history of face painting in the industry, and the use of white people in the entertainment industry to play people of color.

…”The Last Airbender” offends even more [than "Prince of Persia"] with its casting of newcomer/lesser known White actors over equivalent Asian actors to portray its starring Asian characters. The marketing reasons attached to famous actors does not apply here; instead, the marketing assumption is that White actors are more “capable” than Asian actors for pulling in viewers, with a possible secondary assumption in their “superiority” in acting abilities. This overarching assumption is the basis for an institutionalized racism innate to Hollywood’s long, long history of ethnic narratives. [floatingworld]

The blog goes on to show the casting call flyer where it states, “Who we are looking for: Boys, Age 12 -15 – Caucasian or any other ethnicity.” From the get go, the studios are setting an implicit preference. If it really didn’t matter what ethnicity Aang was supposed to be cast, why did they bother to name it in the flyer at all? It goes on to argue the good vs. evil angle of the casting for the movie.

Perhaps the greatest offense that the “heroic” characters are portrayed by lily White actors while the “villainous” characters are portrayed dark-skinned Indian actors in lieu of the fact that all the characters have distinctly Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian and Inuit characteristics regardless of their “good” or “badness.” [floatingworld]

Good vs bad. White vs. Brown. If you watch the trailer – this is literally what it looks like – the good white characters are dressed up in light colored clothing and the dark evil characters are dressed up in dark and sinister clothing.

If the casting of the characters Aaang, Katara, and Sokka were so purposefully based on race blind casting – then how is it the casting of the evil characters just happened to be brown? In the cartoon version evil guy Zuko has a far lighter complexion than Sokka and Katara. Yet in this movie, Dev Patel is far darker than his cartoon counterpart. The people of the same tribe of Sokka and Katara are Native American and were cast with a distinctly East Asian/Native look to them, yet Sokka and Katara stand out in the tribe not looking at all like the tribe they are from.

The Last Airbender Cast.png

Desi, please.

This purports my conceit that Paramount blatantly reinforces racism at the institutional level, driven by innately racist assumptions and an ethnocentric desire to bundle Eastern culture – rich in history and human stories – into a big old Yellowface bowtie. Make it as pretty and shiny and “Asian-y” as you want – in the end, this movie is racist and a disrespectful slap in the face of the Eastern heritage it so wishes to profit off of. [floatingworld]

The kicker to all of this is that the director of the film is M. Night Shayamalan, a South Asian American. He should know better. Fine, maybe it’s wrong of me to hold fellow South Asian Americans to higher standards. Fact of the matter is he cast brown males that looked like him as the evil-doers. And that alone says a lot.

Dev Patel.jpg

So I’m calling it. I’m saying this movie version adaptation of The Last Airbender is racist. There was no outright hate speech said about one race to another. No name calling was had. But an event does not need to be outwardly explicit for racism to exist. When the studios chose to adapt an “Asian” cartoon and yellow-face the White cast, that was clearly an example of institutional racism. When they had an “open” casting call but chose White actors and actresses, it was a form of implicit bias towards White people. The casting of Asian Americans as secondary roles and backdrop was clearly a form of tokenism, or in other words, let’s cast people of color in lesser parts to make those protesters happy. Throw them a bone, give them a token. As for casting brown people as the evil fire-bending peoples, its clearly taking a stereotype and running with it. Finally, as much as it hurts me to say this, clearly Shyamalan has some internalized racism issues he has to deal with. Especially if he’s going to be influencing millions of people world wide with his movies.

Back to Stein’s piece. It was anti-immigrant, clearly a xenophobic piece. But was it racist? To me, yes it was racist. By virtue of it being a xenophobic piece, it was a racist piece. There was institutional racism with the way Time magazine let a piece like this through their filter and published. There was blatant stereotyping of the Desis living in Edison NJ, as well as the perpetuation of the model minority myth. Just because it was a satire didn’t give it a free pass to not be called racist – satires can be racist, too. Just because it was unintentional doesn’t give it a free pass, either. Our American history is wrought with unintentional racism.

Why does all this bug me? Why did I let the debate around one word affect me like this? Because, change needs to happen, now. We need to voice our dissent, now. We need to not shy away from words like “racism” and instead name it like we see it. Then move the dialogue forward. In the end, this may be a minor issue. The Last Airbender will be on the Blockbuster shelves within no time considering the reviews for the movie are that bad. Stein’s article will get lost in the recycling bin. In the end, these really are minor issues and we should be focusing on the bigger and badder fights out there. But I don’t just write on Sepia Mutiny because I like brown people. I write on Sepia Mutiny to tell the counter narrative of our South Asian American community. We are putting words in the form of a blog to narrate our community. These two incidents have had a profound affect on the South Asian American community, if only reminding us how the outside mainstream America perceives our community.

I’ll respect our differences. I understand that your definition of what is racist is different than my definition of racist. But I’m going to continue to call it like I see it. And promote the petition put out by SAALT to Time magazine. As well as personally boycott The Last Airbender and encourage others to do the same.

Don’t just take my word on not going to watch The Last Airbender. Angry Asian Man did just did a review on the movie, and his take away message? “You might not have to boycott this movie — it’s so bad, it could boycott itself.”

Things got heated on ANNA’s blog post on Stein’s piece. Let’s play nice in the comments here and have a fruitful dialogue.

This entry was posted in Community, Film, Identity, Musings by Taz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

205 thoughts on “But Is It Racist?

  1. Its not so much getting the white actor but getting the RIGHT actor. And by RIGHT I mean in the eyes of the powerbrokers who fund films. Largely white, largely myopic. So you see how this goes in the casting of “heroes”.

    As far as Airbender goes methinks it will be a huge flop.

    We’ll know in a few days,.

  2. renu, what are you talking about? i clearly said i’m indian in my posts. i live in new jersey just a few exits up the 287 from edison. i live in an indian household. why would i think indians are smelly dark and dangerous? my house smells like spice everyday during dinner. so chill. and thanks for calling me a racist, too. much appreciated.

    i don’t think you’re familiar with the change in the indian population in america that has occurred in the recent years. to put it bluntly, the new wave of indian immigrants is largely composed of a bunch of slumdogs trying to become millionaires. these are the people that run rampant in places like edison. they’re fobs. they’re not indian americans…having an h1-b doesn’t make them as american as me. they don’t assimilate because there is simply no need to in a place like edison. these are reasons why edison, to an outsider (even a 2nd gen IA like me), sucks. not to mention the god awful nj transit train at the metropark station in the mornings. try talking to an older generation of indian immigrants from the 70s and 80s, and i’m sure you’ll find that a lot of them feel the same way too.

    “Wow” was spot on when he said a lot of desis could easily have written stein’s piece. from what i’ve seen in my 20 something years of life, we absolutely love hating on other indian people, so wow’s statement especially rings true to me. and please, i have no problem with someone speaking with an accent or with someone retaining their cultural heritage. i have a problem with rude, uncivilized people.

  3. I cannot believe you would make such a racist comment here.

    I’m sorry, but I can’t respond to statements like that intelligibly. Instead, let me just let M. Night Shyamalan do the talking, as he did in an interview in the Washington Post:

    MNS: They’re aware I’m Asian, right?

    JC: I would think so.

    MNS: And that Dev [Patel]’s Asian, and Assif [Mandvi]’s Asian, and everybody’s, I mean – it’s incredible to think that there’s a correct Asian here. They don’t own this series. They don’t own all these cultures. The word Avatar is a Sanskrit word. So it’s all cultures that are put together. There’s no correct background here. They should ask: why does Noah Ringer look like a duplicate – a duplicate – of the cartoon guy? Why? He’s a dupe.

    Anime is based on ambiguous facial features. It’s meant to be interpretive. It’s meant to be inclusive of all races, and you can see yourself in all these characters. My daughter saw herself as Kitara and now her friend who’s Hispanic sees herself as Kitara, and that’s totally valid. This is a multicultural movie and I’m going to make it even more multicultural in my approach to its casting. There’s African-Americans in the movie … so it’s a source of pride for me. The irony that they would label this with anything but the greatest pride, that the movie poster has Noah and Dev on it and my name on it. I don’t know what else to do.

    JC: Does it offend you that they’re defining Asian in what you perceive as a limited way when you consider yourself Asian?

    MNS: I think it’s convenient for their argument. Their issue isn’t with me. Their issue is with the artists that invented anime. The story of “The Last Airbender” is an ambiguous story. These cultures are not defined. There is no Inuit woman who looks like Kitara. That’s not the reality of things. That’s not the way they’re drawn. Talk to the people who drew them. So you’re talking to the wrong person. I’m actually doing a very culturally diverse movie. In fact, I believe it’s the most culturally diverse tent pole movie ever made. And the series will be, if we’re lucky enough to make all three, without a peer — without a peer — one of the most culturally diverse movies ever made. It doesn’t have, like, a token person. The entire landscape will be ethnically diverse. That’s the entire point of the series.

    I just can’t even believe that having achieved this – I’m the one that fought to get this movie made – having to do all of this and the opportunities I’m getting to do this in this way, and bring all these cultures to the table and all these ideas to a mass audience. 85 percent of the audience will have not seen the show. Right? Around the world. And I’m going to introduce them to all of this. Like the Uncle Iroh character is literally the wisest person in the movie and I believe Shaun Toub [the actor who plays him] is Persian. I forget where he’s from, but he’s clearly not white. On and on.

    And Dev is what the movie’s about, his character, where he goes is what the movie’s about. Just that I have to defend this is — it’s outrageous.

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/celebritology/2010/07/talking_with_director_m_night.html

  4. they don’t assimilate because there is simply no need to in a place like edison. these are reasons why edison, to an outsider (even a 2nd gen IA like me), sucks. not to mention the god awful nj transit train at the metropark station in the mornings. try talking to an older generation of indian immigrants from the 70s and 80s, and i’m sure you’ll find that a lot of them feel the same way too.

    DAYUM, have some Haterade! You’re sounding like the chicanos in my area trashing the “mojados”. In other words, like a self-righteous fool.

  5. Having clueless M. Night make your case for you doesn’t strengthen your point. My point remains: East Asian men are marginalized. There is no reason why an East Asian man could not have been given the lead. M. Night hiring only South Asians (apparently there is a right Asian now) for this movie is just as disgusting because he is perpetuating the racist trend of Hollywood. M. Night should be ashamed of himself — for being a terrible filmmaker and for being so insular in his thinking.

  6. One other thing — Tezuka Osamu, the guy who basically invented modern manga and anime in Japan, got a lot of his visual characterization cues from Walt Disney. The “big eye” look characteristic of Japanese anime actually came from his attempt to imitate Disney cartoons like Mighty Mouse in the 1930s and 40s. (His “Mighty Atom” — Astro-Boy in English — was more or less a direct rip-off of Mighty Mouse, with some post-1945 elements thrown in, that were specific to the Japanese context)

    Later American cartoons used a different style of representing eyes. But Tezuka’s approach stuck in the Japanese manga tradition for a long time. Now we think of it as a “Japanese” style.

    Ironically, of course, the way manga has traditionally represented human faces looks nothing at all like the Asian physiognomy.

    Is the entire tradition of Japanese manga and anime therefore “racist”? (Or should I say, RACIST?)

  7. darth — yeah, i guess i do feel a little entitled. i blame it on my ivy league education. but i do try to keep myself grounded by realizing that no one person on this forum is the voice for an entire community. what i mean is, my desi dick is just as small as yours and jagr721′s.

  8. Taz, did you read his statement or my own earlier comment?

    Aasif IS Asian. Dev IS Asian. Another leading actor is Persian. The cast is a whole lot more multicultural than the vast majority of Hollywood films.

    The setting of Avatar is ambiguous. There is no obligation whatsoever that he use a lead of East Asian origin for this film. This is a work of fantasy adapted from a cartoon with ambiguously racialized characters that, I gather, you haven’t even watched (either the film or the cartoon).

    Ok, whatever. I’m out.

  9. Amardeep I think the issue we have with MNIGHT is that the VILLAINS are asian actors and the HEROES are white actors…if there is no obligation to cast race as you stated, why such a clear cut division.

  10. Amardeep,

    Your info on anime is limited and short-sighted. The history of anime is much more complicated than what you presented. What you are saying is basically: Japanese anime is nothing more than a Disney derivative, and therefore WHITE, and therefore only white people should be cast because, you know, it’s all white and stuff. Oh and White people created animation, so yeah, like, White Power. And then the trendy Asian (M Knight and his followers) goes, Oh Wait, I am in the White club so I must be White and I will make White decisions.

    If that isn’t textbook case of internalized racism, I don’t know what is.

  11. Hey Amardeep, Save yourself and your kid the heartburn and skip this movie. It’s getting awful reviews.

  12. This is why I think Stein’s piece is racist.

    1. It is not born from anything violent. Most of the times, when you hear people talk about “How things used to be” it is about how you would know your neighbors and you could leave your house without locking it, but now the town has more crime. When people talk about Arizona, the drug crime that is rising is the main reason for people’s anger, but Stein’s complaint is not about safety, but just the presence of Indians. His biggest complaint is how he couldnt come up with a better way to hurt their feelings with a more creative racist word.

    2. His facebook account said something about him thinking all Indians were “Gandhian” and that the emails he has been getting doesnt reflect that thought. This is something racist people say when they hear about black people being involved in something violent. “Ohhhh I thought they were all like Martin Luther King. So much for that dream of his.” It is holding other people to higher standards than you hold for yourself and as soon as they deviate from that standard, they are flawed and thus deserving of your ridicule.

  13. First I take Abhi’s side and now I’m on Amardeep’s.

    I’m scared people. WHAT HATH JOEL STEIN WROUGHT!?

  14. I’m still curious as to when Indians became trendy. Did I mess a memo somewhere? I could have sworn that up until 2009 East Asians were way better represented in arts and media than Indians/South Asians were. Every local news channel has a token East Asian correspondent.

    I totally agree that the casting decisions in Avatar were a bit unfortunate. But the idea of trying to turn this into the GREAT BATTLE OF OUR TIMES is inane. It’s part of a larger pattern of Asians not getting leading man roles, but Avatar isn’t really the prime culprit for something like that.

  15. Will have to agree almost entirely with Deep except for his dick length. Have been told mine is longer than most. Not matter of pride, just genetics. Now to the issue at hand – Madam Renu seems to think that there is something profound about the smell and taste of Indian spices. Madam, the desi experience is very diverse. Somebody from South Bombay will not want to live and breathe in the same Indian ambience as somebody from South Arcot. I lived in the NYC tristate area for all of 6 years and went to Edison a grand total of 3 times. Each time I was goaded by the in-laws who wanted some arbit daal maida shit that wasn’t locally available. Honestly there is nothing special about using eating shitload of spices or wheat flour or white rice everyday in the name of culture and habit. Every country across the world seems to have gotten some things right, some things wrong. Indians seem to have gotten right the part about getting most of the multiplication tables and nerd-giri into the brain in the formative years of the child, when the neurons and synapses are numerous. Nordic countries seem to have gotten the focus on athleticism right. The Japanese have the zen thing cornered, the American kids set up lemonade stands at the age of six, the Brazilians kick ball and the Mediterraneans have figured out the food angle. Even within India, I wouldn’t want to compete with a Patel when it comes to business, but I can prolly kick his ass at math. So this insistence that Edison is great presumably because it has this local monopoly on Indian food items and cultural trinkets is complete bunkum. Have to been to Edison ? Edison is a complete shithole community. It sucks ass. In the Edison I’ve seen, they don’t follow traffic rules, they jaywalk, they have no parking, they swear and haggle loudly, the shops don’t pay sales tax, they have price differentials depending on how well you know the shopkeeper, the CDs are clearly pirated ’cause they tell you so, the bindis and hennas are suspect, I could go on and on. But mostly, you will do yourself and your body a huge favor by staying away from Indian food for an extended period of time. There is nothing of nutritional value in all of Indian cooking, no matter how you slice and dice it. We may have figured out arithmetic but we’ve clearly slipped up on the food. Why do you think our aam junta is gol-matol with layers of fat hidden beneath sarees and salwar kameezes, men in their mid-20s with tummies held back by tight belts ? Do some introspection. Oh wait, that’s the Japanese thingy.

  16. Yoga Fire:

    First I take Abhi’s side and now I’m on Amardeep’s.

    Fret not, you still disagree with me.

  17. @47 psamty who said, “It’s really pathetic to see this kind of victim mentality among posters here. Every person is racist to some degree, in that they are typically more comfortable with people who look like them, and share a common culture. Trying to eliminate this natural behavior is like trying to eliminate human nature and make us into machines who treat everyone equally.”

    There’s nothing wrong in challenging people on why they feel the need to engage or relate to people other than their own kind in a questionable manner. As I keep saying, it’s a quality of discourse thing. Why go there? Because you can? It’s your right to but it is cracked/dumb, too. Let’s put it this way: I will defend to the death the KKK’s right to exist and to say what they want to say because we have freedom of speech, but I will also go beyond that and question their motivations and why they say what they say to their face. That’s my right.

    Also, asking people to work against their human nature and elevate themselves is actually very human. This is why we have laws and such.

  18. I have been (India-store) shopping in Edison and the prices blew me away. Fantabulous fresh and packed groceries at “it’s a steal prices”. Although I had a seven hour trip to make back to the Midwest, I called my wife and had her read out the entire shopping list and loaded up the dickey (dirty minded folks that’s Indian for the car’s trunk/boot) with stuff. And >1/2 the customers at the store I went to were “americans” – aka white – there were a couple of folks who were very clearly West Africans (got every Hindi tune playing right), aunties ran the store and Joses and Marias were keeping it spotlessly clean. I am going back to Edison – fun isn’t it? As for the Last Airbender (I hope that means there will be no sequel/prequel), they used to make movies that way in Hollywood yeeeeeears ago - white guy = good/black guy = bad. Manoj is exploring genre after genre and is about 40 years behind the curve, that’s why he is making Last… like Hollywood used to make movies like “Stranger from Borneo…” a movie about a stowaway (a white actor in blackface) who alights from a trans-Pacific boat ride in SF, crawling out of a cargo crate and then going berserk at some family farm – eating chickens live, fighting off the family’s dogs, and is finally felled by the mustard – he can’t handle the hot stuff. So in about 20 years from now when Manoj makes his own “Star Bores” we will have all the correct role reversal etc.

  19. rabnewhatever

    Wow, you are so right. We deserve to be insulted as we are indeed smelly and our food sucks.. Out of interest do you find that most non-Indians clearly differentiate between the obviously superior desi’s such as yourself and the riif raff who clog up Edision ?

  20. Sam, I didn’t say we deserve to be insulted. I didn’t say our food sucks. My food does not suck. I will say that your food sucks, if what you eat is indeed traditional Indian food. Replace your Dalda with flaxseed oil and stop frying vegetables and instead use a steamer and begin your day with muesli instead of puri baazi or worse yidli sambar and get rid of your white rice and see the difference in 6 months for yourself. And when you see the difference, stop kidding yourself by saying its still Indian food with some cosmetic changes, yeah ? And if you use smelly spices, you will smell. Its not rocket science, yeah ?

    Dude, lets get one thing straight. There’s not one homogeneous brand called “sepia mutiny indian” which subscribes to all things India that you happen to like, while conveniently ignoring the India that you don’t happen to like. There are Indians and there are Indians. I don’t play cricket and don’t eat Indian food but have watched every single Bollywood film, most of them multiple times. People get off on different things, yeah ?

  21. It’s nice to hear claims of racism refuted by statements like “You smell and your food sucks, you raghead. Stop snivelling and go home.”

    Is this satire ? Do you need to have lived some period of time in some particular place to learn to appreciate it ?

    Where is a good ‘comments policy’ when you need it ? :-)

  22. rabnebanadibeedi you need to get yourself medicated you’re clearly mentally imbalanced yeah?

  23. I think a lot of things are racist, more so than the average brown person, whether it be internalized, institutional or blatant. I think implicit biases are real, and people can be racist without intentionally doing so.

    this succeeds better as a parody of the po-mo discourse that makes the left shoot itself in the foot when it comes to discussion of racism. at the point you claim to be able to see racism where many sane people do not, expect to be the target of ridicule.

  24. Replace your Dalda with flaxseed oil and stop frying vegetables and instead use a steamer and begin your day with muesli

    I swear to God you nutrition-nazis are the most tiresome kinds of liberals. Worse even than the PC-Police.

  25. “I suspect it will be better than the reviews are allowing, especially from the kid point of view.” In my earlier drive-by post I meant reviews from people/Kids who really like the animated series. Their beef was legit: compressing a looong narrative into a movie and working with special effects need Peter Jackson-type skills. Shymalan scores a big fat on both counts.

  26. And then you get the obligatory “I am a desi and watch Bollywood films” or “Here let me make a token remark about white people being stupid” to prove one can’t be accused of being racist.

    It’s like gorging on chips and beer and then drinking a diet coke.

  27. wunderbar, I think the point is that everybody doesn’t have to be simultaneously engaged in refuting claims of racism. Like jagr721 has said, I should STFU because I am just a mathnerd who is tonedeaf while he is the real ommunications/Racism expert. So fine, let him engage in refuting racism. After all, he is the expert. I am not the expert. So let me just read the Time article and see if there is any merit to it. Ok, I finished reading it. Any merit ? Why, yes. That part about Edison rings true. Why ? Well, As I wrote above, I personally went there, saw whatever I saw, and didn’t particularly care for it. That’s why I wrote what I did. The part about spicy smelly food rings true too. I don’t think you want to know how Indian food items labelled Priya, MRT, Deep, Jyoti etc, bearing the moniker “Product of India. For Export purposes only” are actually made. I happen to know in some harrowing detail what ingredients are actually used and why they should probably be fed to the dogs instead of being ingested by a human. Regulations on coloring agents and preservatives are very lax in India. Things that are explicitly banned out here out of health concerns are very freely added to “enhance flavor”, simply because there’s no real FDA monkey sitting on their necks. I don’t know if you subscribe to Indian pay channels – both Aajtak and Samay have done atleast 5 “breaking news expose” on coloring agents in Indian food this year alone. But nothing actionable happens. People are paid off and the news moves on to other things. If you buy paneer or diary products from any Indian store, chances are very high they are tainted. Wait, what does this have to do with Stein and racism ? Why, nothing. You see, racism is an exclusive topic that only the eminent likes of jagr721 can take on because we are tone-deaf, so let me stick to banal topics I actually give a hoot about that are incidentally talked about in the article as well.

  28. lol, I see myself agreeing with rabnebanadi on the nutritional aspects (badly made Indian food tends to be overcooked vegetables that kill half the nutrition. A lot of curries are just a medium to consume spices.) except that the guy lacks imagination when it comes to cooking.

    Dude, you can still make Indian food which is nutritious and delicious by cutting down on the crap side of things. Getting your knickers in a knot and disparaging all Indian food is as stupid a concept as being a 100% believer in Indian food. Try making a little quinoa upma. Or kale-mutter in olive oil with a dash or turmeric and garlic (two wonder ingredients used in most Indian preparations). Or maybe ground lean turkey kebabs with a dash of mint chutney. Or maybe a little tofu in your pulao. And don’t forget the million different varieties of dals with proteins and omega-3s sans the cholesterol and saturateds, delicious boiled. And when you cook spices, open the god damn window and get some ventilation going for God’s sake. Just because you are unable think outside the box does not mean Indian food has no merits.

  29. @#80: I scrolled up to see what jagr721 said to you and can’t find a comment by him after yours. But perhaps you posted before under a different name ? Or maybe he did after you with a different name ?)

    In any case, let us say for the sake of argument that he said something and then you contradicted him and then he said STFU.

    How does saying “all of you smell and suck” etc. etc. constitute a refutation of his point of view ? By saying what you are saying you are actually proving him right. It’s like watching a team score a self-goal at the world cup.

    Don’t get mad at me please. I confess to liking smelly food and my sense of fashion isn’t what it ought to be. ;-)

  30. i frankly dont care for stein—i think he is a closet racist. i have seen several like them in real life as well. just don’t give them a limelight, let them sink by their own incompetence.

    but i take deep offense when it comes to people, ignorant ones like rabnesadfjakdjf above, who probably doesn’t even know the very basics—why you put spices in oil, or why you pour tadka at the end—diss my food! i am sure rabnepomtiddlypom goes to a fish market and goes about the aroma of dead beasts there—but thinks spices are offensive in smell—that dual standard i never got. almost all human food stinks—just ask a bear.

    rabnebanadibeedi, i stink with spices and eat that “zero nutritional value” indian food all the time and no supplements or steroids. i am even vegetarian (unless i am a guest). as an amateur, i run marathons in under 3:45, so that puts me fairly high in athletic performance even among the people you worship. i even eat “yidlis” (sic) for breakfast practically every day—i find it even helps me. and in races in india, other ignorants who are not enlightened like rabnetomuncle actually eat idlis instead of bagels—and they complete 50 miles (roughly twice the marathon distance) in 7 hours or so—which would place them very very high in athletic performance.

    perhaps it isn’t the food, it is probably you.

    and there is no such thing as MRT—it is MTR. the quality of food that comes from MTR is perhaps far higher than any brand you can name—do you even know what you are talking about? do you realize that most spices are chock full of minerals and antioxidants? very few things help in recovery after training as much as them.

    closet racists like stein, i can stand. uncle toms, not so much.

  31. wunderbar, see @#25. I am an engg nerd and do not disagree with Stein’s observations, in fact I do agree with the part about sucky Edison and suckier Indian food. My dear Yunhi, quinoa and olive oil and turkey and tofu are explicitly NOT Indian foods. Lets not pretend to be something we are not. Why not just think a little bit more outside the box, marry a WASP and deck her in a sari and get her to prostrate on all fours in front of your father and call her an Indian bahu, yeah ? After all, sari = Indian, WASP = just thinking out of the box. You think your dad will buy that ? If he does, I can get my mom to buy tofu as well :) Last time I tried quinoa, she explicitly forbade me from any experimentation with Indian food atleast as long as she was in charge of (my) kitchen. I had to finally pony up for a firstclass ticket in British Airways at 75% premium just to ship her out of here so me and my nutrition-nazi wife could stay alive on our lean quinoa burritos while my mom drowns herself in palm oil back in the desh because “If you buy 5 kg palm oil you will get one silver spoon free”. Real Indian food sucks, no two ways about it. And if you modify Indian food with tofu and turkey, it ain’t Indian food anymore, just some hybrid-mutt concoction you’ve come up with. Mango ice cream with mexican mango and soy milk is not mango ice cream, its worse than drinking straight out of the gutter. If you want mango ice cream, go to Edison, put up with the leery Indian uncles who will ogle your hot wife ’cause she’s not roly-poly like their own, put up with the sucky traffic, put up with paying no sales tax to uncle sam, put up with a ding on the bumper in those tight parking spots, and buy a tiny 6 oz mango ice cream cup made out of the real deal, the high caloric Indian sugar, Indian mango, white Indian whole milk with 20% Indian fat, and eat a spoonful and then spend the next two hours jogging on your treadmill.

  32. posts like this really spur me to accelerate my research in AI. The sooner we reach singularity the better.

  33. If it was a late-night post-excessive-marijuana-session entry at FunnyOrDie, it would’ve made more sense.

    If it was a late-night post-excessive-marijuana-session entry at FunnyOrDie, it would’ve been more funny. Instead it was a let-me-use-my-satire-space-to-vent-about-some-unfamiliar-irritating-people entry.

    Despite what he says in the article, he doesn’t come across as having run with the homeboys, brown or otherwise. Yet he tried to pull off what Russell Peters manages to do so casually in that tricky district. It takes years in the trenches to develop that kind of suave, to walk that fine line; not just the few years Stein seems to have spent in the corner office of the laugh factory (after his Ivy League education, I think). Like my old pharmacology professor used to say, ‘he will learn sometime before he retires.’

    I actually like Stein. I just don’t think he is consistent. There are some topics he is not qualified to even go near.

    Here is Sandip Roy’s response to Stein’s article. My apologies if soembody has already posted this.

    I’m pretty sure Melvin is a dad.

    Make that a 3-time dad.

    Perhaps parenthood mellows you out a little on issues like these…

    Parenthood tires you out…

  34. Well, a 49 year old Indian father was just beaten to death as he went for a walk with his 2 sons in a New Jersey suburb on Monday.

    Stein can breath a little easier today now that there is one less in his home state.

  35. Rabnebanadi

    So the article is ok because it’s all true ? Indian poverty is down to the fact that the population is genetically stupid ? If you honestly feel that “Indian” food all tastes like crap, then I feel sorry for you that you whoever was making the Indian food that you had was so bad at preparing it.

  36. 84: Ah, ok, I see your point entirely now.

    Actually, I am quite grateful to you. See, there were all these engineering nerds (not you, you are clearly well-adjusted and socially adept) saying stuff like “Oh, cut poor Stein a break. He is not a racist or nothing. You idiots don’t understand satire. You have to have stayed in the US long enough to grasp it.” and you know, stuff like that.

    Then you come along and your support for Stein is principled and casts this bright light of reason on everything and we know what Stein really stands for. And you know, stuff like that….

  37. shallowthinker, the beating was not racially motivated. try again. http://www.philly.com/philly/wires/ap/news/state/new_jersey/97373944.html?cmpid=15585797

    sam, the article shouldn’t be causing such a fuss because it’s mostly true about the indian population in edison. stereotypes are suprisingly accurate…get over it. you all are acting like those grimey, rude indians don’t even exist. but they do. just go to edison and you’ll find out.

    rabnebanadibeedi, fine, you’re bigger than me. you win. but based on his comments, we’re both bigger than jagr. not surprising. :-)

  38. @#83, “Very very high Athletic Performance” ? In India ? Where/When/How ? Dude, have you even seen our exceedingly stellar performance at the Olympics and Asiads and FIFA and yes, the marathons as well. We are number 1 from the very bottom. And dude, as a very patriotic fellow Indian, let me give you some very patriotic friendly advice. Take a packet of MTR Puliyogare mix and ship it to any independent nutritional testing facility in the USA. Alongwith a bottle of Priya garlic pickle, Kashmiri pulao, Chatpata Maggi, and a few other items you are much more familiar with I. The report you get will astonish you. That is, if you are still alive after eating all that trans-fat. Most Indian paneer is not even milk, it is a fucking synthetic concoction straight out of Uttarakhand. And this is not me, it is your own Indian TV channel Aajtak beaming straight out of Navi Mumbai telling you this. @#88, did I ever mention taste and poverty and population ? If you must know, Indian food is very,very tasty.We as a nation seem to have nailed that part. Now lets focus on the nutrition. There is this interesting program on Samay TV these days every other morning where there is this tall hotel chef with a roly-poly Indian woman, who together attempt to make healthy breakfast. Please watch it. The chef dabs a smear of olive oil on some spinach omlette and the woman is already going “ye sab kya hai” and makes snide remarks on how “we Indians” don’t cook like that, and the chef patiently says this is what modern India needs and she says “par taste ke liye thoda sugar” and he is like “nahi nahi behenji no sugar!” and so on and so forth, after which they have a yoga segment in which a clearly overweight Preity Zinta type chunky lady leads a group of overweight teens through some ab routines where they wave their arms like crazy. Funny as hell. Dekhna mat boolna, like they say. @#89, I don’t support Stein, I support certain portions of his article which I find are factual. The rest, ie. racism, etc – where do I start. If I tell you the kind of racism a northie experiences in Bangalore or Medras, you will be shocked. So ye sab koyi nayi baat nahi. Go on any Indian IT message board, 90% of the comments are from people of Delhi dealing with clearcut racism in Bangalore. Compared to that, this is just some lame article in some bankrupt magazine that Reliance will buy out within a year. @Deep, pleasure all mine:) Phir kabhi. Uncle Tom over and out.

  39. shallowthinker, the beating was not racially motivated. try again.

    So all the Indian people that showed up at a meeting in that town to complain about the amount of harrassment they feel, should rest easy because you said “Think again?”

  40. There is this interesting program on Samay TV these days every other morning where there is this tall hotel chef with a roly-poly Indian woman, who together attempt to make healthy breakfast. Please watch it. The chef dabs a smear of olive oil on some spinach omlette and the woman is already going “ye sab kya hai”

    Quite obviously you have never seen a Guy Fieri episode on the food porn channels!

    @#89, I don’t support Stein, I support certain portions of his article which I find are factual. The rest, ie. racism, etc – where do I start. If I tell you the kind of racism a northie experiences in Bangalore or Medras, you will be shocked. So ye sab koyi nayi baat nahi. Go on any Indian IT message board, 90% of the comments are from people of Delhi dealing with clearcut racism in Bangalore. Compared to that, this is just some lame article in some bankrupt magazine that Reliance will buy out within a year.

    This is interesting because you read about the experiences of some anonymous punters and mawaalis at the hands of porikkis and kaydis from S.India you decided to dump on desis living in NJ?

    BTW since you are a beediwala you can’t have too many friends this side of the world.

  41. jagr721, I’m glad I don’t know you in person because from your comments, I can tell you’re a dick. Everyone has an opinion here, but don’t try to put others down and make yourself look smart.

  42. jagr721, I’m glad I don’t know you in person because from your comments, I can tell you’re a dick. Everyone has an opinion here, but don’t try to put others down and make yourself look smart.

    Rahul,

    Trust me; I don’t have to try very hard to look smart in comparison when people like yourself post juvenile ad-hominem. I have a point of view- I get it across effectively. Maybe you should try that sometime. It is way more rewarding than writing about getting butt-hurt over someone else’s comments.

  43. rabne… i am not sure where “patriotism” came into picture. but yeah, 50 miles under 7 hours is very very high level of athletic performance. no, not one of these people are professional, neither do they care. they have jobs and kids like the rest of us, and they aren’t young either. the point was you are making random statements about the nutritional content of desi foods without any basis. you might be a terrible cook, but blame yourself not the technique.

    and preity zinta is overweight? wtf? if all you can say about her is that she is overweight, you need to go and take a good look at yourself. she may not be the world’s foremost actress, but she is a very smart and charismatic young woman. and have you seen cooking shows on food network? emeril and his dollops of cheese and cream? paula deen who uses butter in slabs and not tablespoons?

    and why did cooking with quinoa become non indian? tell the swiss that chocolate isn’t theirs or the italians that tomato bruschetta is foreign to them. for that matter tell the italians pasta isn’t theirs.

    there was never any place named “medras” in s. india. but you do have a point that people in different parts of india dont always look kindly to each other. but it is not so simple—the barriers usually go away the moment people realize you share mutual respect. for example, a northie who speaks or attempts to speak kannada is not going to subject to rudeness, while one who calls ppl in b’lore as madrasi and insist they learn hindi will be treated like crap. that is the reason long term residents in any part of india do not have problems.

    it is a two way street—and remember both kannada and tamil have longer histories and more literature than hindi. but i agree, the sooner we deal with learning to respect others in india, the better. only, people like you don’t help.

  44. Right, so the racism of some Indians means we deserve to be an easy target for a bunch of bigoted generalizations couched as satire and published in a ‘serious’ magazine such as Time ? I somehow doubt that Joel Stein was doing this to ‘get back’ at Indians for being bigoted to other Indians..

  45. The minute you lower yourself to denigrating peoples’ physical appearances, you lose the battle. Yes, there are overweight Indian women, as there are overweight Caucasian women and overweight African women and equal amounts of overweight men. Why is this at all relevant to the discussion at hand? All it does is make you seem unclassy and snobby. By the way, it’s easy to pass judgment on the way way others’ look from behind the anonymity of a keyboard…

  46. Rahul,

    Trust me; I don’t have to try very hard to look smart in comparison when people like yourself post juvenile ad-hominem. I have a point of view- I get it across effectively. Maybe you should try that sometime. It is way more rewarding than writing about getting butt-hurt over someone else’s comments.

    jagr721, no seriously, you’re still a dick.

  47. Angry Asian Man has been covering this issue terrifically. However, I have to say that the more I hear about it, the more Shyamalan seems clueless rather than racist. On one hand, he does have a diverse cast but on the other he does yellowface the characters. I’ve seen this happen before, borrowing heavily from a culture and then making all the characters white. People from ignored ethnic groups (in the entertainment media) get excited when they see a representation of their ‘themselves’ on tv with no explanations and no ‘otherness’ to it. I’m not familiar with the casting process but how much of a say does the studio have on who gets cast?

    btw, the best review I’ve seen of the movie is this one: http://io9.com/5576076/m-night-shyamalan-finally-made-a-comedy