Aliens in America: stereotyping for fun and profit

by guest contributor Manish, originally published at Ultrabrown

Oh, wow. This Aliens in America sitcom pilot is far worse than Apu and Fez (thanks, Jyoti):

The previews being shown on the CW Web site… have drawn criticism on the Internet saying the program perpetuates negative stereotypes of Muslims — not to mention of the clueless American Midwesterners — and that it conflates numerous, distinct Middle Eastern and South Asian cultures. [Link]

Where to begin. An international exchange student would probably be middle class and just a regular guy. He’d wear jeans, not a kurta and skull cap. He might use ceremonial expressions like ‘inshallah (if God wills it),’ but he wouldn’t make a show of raising his hands to heaven.

But say you suspend disbelief and grant the show its hick-out-of-water premise. The Nordic blonde is exalted, the brown guy is the lowest man on the totem pole of foreign students and treated as a potential terrorist. A Pakistani Muslim would probably have a Muslim name, not ‘Raja.’ The azaan on the soundtrack sounds Middle Eastern, not Pakistani.

Young actor Adhir Kalyan’s accent is terrible. My 2nd gen brothers, I implore you, get some accent training, stat. My buddy’s nani will be glad to help. She runs Phonemes Anonymous for five bucks an hour over Skype.

The character’s name is Raja Musharraf, and like Pervez, he arrived unwanted There’s no ‘zh’ in Raja. It’s like anything foreign should be pronounced like French. Unless you’re the villain, in which case it’s with a British accent. Unless you’re French.

I enjoy subtle, intelligent humor that doesn’t require a laugh track to remind me to laugh. [Link]

Subtle and intelligent don’t even begin to cover it. And the sad thing is, the writers are probably convinced they’re helping dispel ignorance about Muslims. Interestingly, one of the intentionally racist lines in the clip is ‘Apu! Where’s my slushie?’

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Imagine growing up as a white American in India. You’re stared at a lot and assumed to be ignorant, lazy and promiscuous. Everywhere you go, you get gouged on prices, even at national monuments where they refuse to believe you’re Indian. A few years later, a large TV network puts out a show about an exchange student from New York. The actor is actually an Indian guy doing a fakey American accent, and he dresses like a corn farmer. All the jokes are about how the kid is ignorant, lazy and promiscuous, just like what many people assume of you. Everybody thinks it’s hilarious.

Lighten up, you humorless PC thug, it’s just a comedy!

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Here’s an edit someone on the West Coast contributed to the Wikipedia article. It lasted 25 minutes before being reverted:

This show is racially offensive to the South Asian community and Muslims at large. It is problematic to represent the South Asian community as militant, fanatical, or as props that can serve as some white nerd’s toy to boost his popularity or provide him friendship. This sitcom is a modern day minstrel show, where the “comical” friendly “terrorist” can win the hearts of a white community and an American viewership. [Link]

Silly contributor. Don’t you know the Wikipedia way is to use neutral language and link to the rant?

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Here’s another scene from the show, which comes out this fall: