Curry metaphors are a must when writing about desis

by guest contributor Manish, originally published at Ultrabrown

The New York Times licks its typing finger and reels off Yet Another Curry Review, because after all these years, it’s so original. Even lamer, the movie is about a 2nd genner. You can take India out of Shelley Conn, but Shelley can’t take herself out of India — the Times won’t let her:

A cloying blend of Bollywood sentiment and Amélie whimsy, Nina’s Heavenly Delights is a lesbian-foodie fairy tale… the director, Pratibha Parmar, is more interested in pappadams than passion… Fetch the turmeric! … groans beneath ethnic stereotypes and half-baked performances. Blander than a cumin-free curry… cringeworthy dance routines (courtesy of a flamboyant troupe known as the Chutney Queens)… [Link]

One can only imagine how the Times reviewed Alfonso Cuarón:

A cloying blend of mariachi music and lucha libre whimsy, Y Tu Mamá También is more interested in tacos than pasión. Fetch the cayenne pepper! Acting worse than a two-dollar chimichanga and blander than a chili-free burrito.

Oh, it didn’t? Not even a whiff of exoticism?

… one of those Bildungsroman films… The director, Alfonso Cuarón, works with a quicksilver fluidity, and the movie is fast, funny, unafraid of sexuality and finally devastating. The film, which takes place in Mexico, follows two hormonally consumed teenage boys, Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna), whose infantile macho games seem more like baby steps when they meet Luisa (Maribel Verdú), a sad-eyed young woman who is married to Tenoch’s older cousin. [Link]

Snark is great, but what’s with the baby talk? On the plus side, the Times has finally run a review as badly-written as its movie. Much respect. There’s a kind of beauty in that.

Update: Reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis writes back that the piece’s clichés were partly intentional:

… When reviewing a film in 200 words or less, I usually try to give readers a flavor (no pun intended!) of what to expect, and, to be honest, this film was one long cliché. I responded with clichés of my own, mostly out of irritation and disappointment. As for the curry/spice issue, I grew up in Britain (in Glasgow, which had made me more excited about the film), and was probably corrupted at a very early age. No excuse, however, for falling into the pit of knee-jerk regional metaphors — however well they seem to suit the tone of a particular film…

But most of the time the Great Curry Metaphor strikes papers unironically and with maximum kitsch.