When it comes to us desis, we do like being represented. Even small references to our culture make us jump with excitement, and deep-down even proud of it. And, representation in pop culture is important and even healthy. Of course, we all appreciate honest depiction or the one that doesn't end up stereotyping people.
It's not always easy, because every culture, every country is diverse, with roots that have much history to them. And hence, for a show to get representation absolutely right, is not easy. But, it shouldn't also cross the line to becoming offensive.
And, these are some shows that were flawed in their representation:
1. The Big Bang Theory
We all love the quirks of Sheldon and everything else that goes on in the show. But, when it comes to representing Indian characters, there are some flaws that almost make it look like a parody. Living here, we all know how the society is, but even then, the portrayal of Rajesh's parents seems a bit harsh at times.
2. Modern Family
I'd be lying if I said that I'm not obsessed with the characters and the storyline of the show. But, when it came to Sanjay (an Indian character on the show), they ended up showing a stereotypical family, where the parents are obsessed with marks and competition. It just shows us characteristics of people in general, which they associated with the culture as a whole.
3. Never Have I Ever
There's no denying that the show was a start of something, with characters who are relatable. But, there were times when it was a hit-and-miss. Nalini's family or their peers are an example - where they seem to generalize materialism as something rooted in our culture. The show made it look like all Indians care about is money, and well, gold, for some reason. Again, it did seem over-the-top, even for exaggeration.
Idk who needs to hear this but:— Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (@ramakrishnannn) April 28, 2020
Devi does not represent the ENTIRETY of the south Asian community. She is merely one story influenced by real life experience. There are still many stories waiting to be told. This is one of many steps forward in a much longer race.
FRIENDS is usually the first sitcom that we watch, before we enter the binge culture. And, while there was a lot in the show that seemed relatable, the representation of Indians wasn't one of them. For instance, in an episode where Ross fakes a British accent, Rachel picks up an Indian one. We get that the point of the show is to be funny, but her idea of the culture or the accent didn't land well.
We all did enjoy the second season and the small references - from the Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham background score to Kate changing her English tea into a version of chai. However, there were some flaws that make it difficult for anyone to follow. For instance, the show mixed up a lot of dialects and vocabulary, which can get confusing for even us, desis. It does give us an idea of the culture, but doesn't wholly fall under representation.
As far as I know there is no language 'Hindustani' or an instrument 'maruli'. There is Hindi & murali (flute) of course. I wonder if creators of @bridgerton shouldn't have at least done some research & checked the correct terms before introducing brown characters in #Bridgerton pic.twitter.com/XOBLD467lY— Prof Pragya Agarwal (@DrPragyaAgarwal) March 25, 2022
6. Two And A Half Men
We all enjoy sitcoms, but it's not always fun when they resort to stereotypes for laughter. For instance, this scene from Two And A Half Men is one example, this is not the first time where a sitcom casted a desi to act as a cabbie. Of course, I enjoyed the bit where he leaves, while commenting in Hindi. But, showing a similar character, all the time, and even giving them the same look, now feels stale.
7. New Girl
The show gave us an Indian-American, Cece, and a lot of people seemed to relate with her, which was refreshing. However, it was problematic in some ways, how they represented the character. Cece was mostly treated as an 'exotic beauty', which was considered as a central characteristic. Then there were the constant mispronunciations of Indian names, which were used as punchlines.
8. Family Guy
While the show is enjoyed by a large audience, it has also ended up offending a lot of groups and people. Understandably, art and cinema are subjective, but it can get tricky when it ends up crossing the line. Family Guy has shown a lot of stereotypical Indian characters and even jokes that seemed disrespectful to a set of people. Hence, it wouldn't exactly be representation done right.
We do hope to come across more representation, that is both honest and real.