Indian characters have been seen on TV for a while, but their appearance is more like set decor. They fill the gap left by the lack of racial diversity by playing the stereotypical sidekick, such as a super-nerd, a cab driver, or a store owner who speaks remarkably fluent English. Underrepresentation and lazy writing have had a negative impact on American opinion. Indians and other minorities are typically portrayed in the media and popular culture as unimportant outsiders.
How often have you seen something or someone depicted as being Indian and internally cringed at the obvious inaccuracy? No, we don’t stuff our faces with curry every time we eat, we don’t start every statement with “O Ganesha,” and we don’t bobble our heads when we have to respond to questions.
Numerous western television programs continue to present a limited and stereotypical perspective of Indians. They don’t realize that their depiction portrays India as a nation with nothing more developed than free labor, call centers, or cows. India’s exotic appeal is typically exploited for spiritual awakenings or as a location where you may hire workers for a low cost.
Why does popular media continue to perpetuate its stereotypical picture of Indians despite all the years and incredible technological advancements? Whether it’s Baljeet from Phineas and Ferb, Raj from The Big Bang Theory, Ravi from Jessie, or Apu from The Simpsons, the media perpetuates exaggerated Indian stereotypes. Additionally, there aren’t many Indian women in shows, and when there are, their fates are generally worse than those of their male counterparts. The Office’s Mindy Kaling, Game of Thrones’ Indira Varma, and Quantico’s Priyanka Chopra have all achieved greater success than their female peers, but these are just a few examples of Indian women that have succeeded in the film industry. The truth remains that people will always talk about what they see on their screens. Media representation has a stronger impact on perception than anyone is aware of. Shows that feature diversity need to be entertaining, hilarious, and dramatic, but they also need to give the characters, actors, and their community the credit that they deserve. With a few series and films like Never Have I Ever attempting to correct the clichéd portrayals, we can see that a change is on the horizon. However, there is still much that has to be done in terms of influencing the viewer’s perception and psychology through the portrayal of these characters in the media.