So, potato chips were a cause of much anger among the Indian-American community following an advertisement featuring American sitcom star Ashton Kutcher.
One of the ads from a TV campaign featured him playing an Indian producer called Raj, with a heavy accent meant to be passed off as Indian. Naturally, the Indian-Americans were outraged. They initiated an online campaign, asked friends and neighbours to join it, and prompted the company to pull the ad. Other ads featuring Kutcher in other avatars were, presumably, allowed to stay.
One of the big problems, according to self-appointed spokespeople for the community, was how Kutcher stereotyped Indians by painting his face brown and then playing a producer. Stereotypes are not cool, they added, and should be discouraged at all costs.
Forgive us for being more tolerant than our brothers and sisters overseas, but we believe this non-issue — for that is what it is, of course — smacks of hypocrisy. To say we have problems with stereotypes is to negate a jaw-dropping number of characters in our own advertisements and movies who gain currency simply by playing stereotypes. Where there’s a community, there’s a made-for-television stereotype with all the attendant jokes and generalised statements. Don’t believe us? Take a look at some of your favourite Bollywood films for proof.
We have proved, time and again, that we can be more prejudiced about our own countrymen on a daily basis than outsiders can ever be. We create and update stereotypes about communities, then make sure our children reinforce them.
What we need to do in instances like these is take a look at ourselves in the mirror, instead of jumping the gun and raising a ruckus. Ashton Kutcher has nothing on us. We are perfectly capable of damaging our image in India and abroad on our own.