The title sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Yes it does, because I borrowed it from one of Chicklet’s old posts on Osho [Link]. Why is it that we like something and we cut some slack for the directors so they can poke fun at stereotypes? And then the hidden elephant in the room, aka the director’s phobia, just comes screaming out.
Besides ignoring a lot of my co-desis’ point of view that this show is not meant for people who don’t have critical thinking ability, I continued to watch it. I said to myself, its ok. Most comedians take a stereotype and pick on it – Jerry Seinfeld, Carlos Mencia, Russell Peters, Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, … everyone does that. We as a community seem to allow people of our own race or orientation poke fun at us but not others. Something that we view as part of reclaiming? And that was the same thing I thought of while watching Outsourced – There are so many Indian characters and maybe it’s just that we are poking fun at ourselves. I feel like putting my foot in the mouth now.
So why did the recent episode bother me?
The scene goes like this … Todd’s uber-horny friend arranges a bachelor party for Rajeev, the uber-sulky-mean manager of the Indian operations. However, he does not realize that the person invited to entertain for the Bachelor party is a transgender woman, until Rajeev identifies her so. They mix up the pronouns and the gender markers and try to push a very cis-sexist[Link] image of gender. There is an effort to objectify the person purely based on physiology.
People do not realise that a surgery does not make or break a person. What was appalling in this episode is Rajeev’s and others’ mix up of pronouns (transphobic) and adherence to a binary gender system, and the disgust in his eyes that the person dancing is a male (homophobic and transphobic). This has been far too commonly used in other movies like Ace Ventura and I really do not think its is funny. It is funny when both of us laugh, not you alone!
And, I really don’t think it is funny when you call a transwoman, a he-she or a man-woman. The same applies to other trans folks too. I have come across non-T folks who use the word; they say “Oh! I so look like a transvestite” to mean they look funny. And these are the very people who would come for a fight should anyone say “Its so gay” to remark on one’s fashion sense or to mean “stupid”. I don’t know about the rest of you but I view all these subtle remarks as pejoratives. It just means, these people do not want to respect other folks. And puh-lease do not tell me I am over-reacting. I am sure you would not like it if I would crack a “Your momma” joke on you. So, in your face folks for those who defend such behavior or just keep quiet and thus become complicit to such remarks.
The Hijra community is already such a marginalized community that such remarks are bound to evoke common stereotypes and further discrimination. The least the directors could have done is consult an Indian trans person and identify what is funny and what is not. The bottom-line is, if you do not understand something about a community, particularly in a cross-cultural context, at the least refrain from insulting them.
NBC, that aired this show, should take responsibility for these sitcoms. They cannot just shrug and become another Fox news. Shame on you NBC! Shame on you!
postrscript: I filed an incident with GLAAD but they did not think it was worthy of representation. Instead, there was an ‘educational’ article about the Hijra community [Link].
Note: Special thanks to Anurag for editing this post.