“Ugh. That’s the word that best describes my view on Bravo’s show, “Start-Ups: Silicon Valley.” The preview video for the show features six attractive white people in the starring roles. Another TV show that ignores the hard work of minorities in the United States? I’m not surprised.
I had an instant flashback to a question that my friend (and fellow Indian American)Neal Justin asked then-NBC head Jeff Zucker: “Why aren’t there any South Asians on E.R.?” This was back when E.R. was at its peak. We were at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles, where network executives and stars pitch TV critics. Zucker responded that Ming Na was on E.R. Na was born in Macau. Justin pressed Zucker on the point and asked if he’d ever been inside a Chicago hospital, which are usually full of Indian American doctors. Zucker didn’t have a good response.
At least a decade later, it seems that Hollywood’s attitudes haven’t changed.
For the settings that the shows are in, Asian Americans tend to be underrepresented in television and movies. It’s understandable that a show set on a farm in North Dakota might not have South Asian people; it’s inexplicable when the show is set at startups in Silicon Valley or in a hospital. I meet founders all the time and the bulk of them tend to be Asian or Indian.
To the extent that Indians are represented, it tends to be in stereotypes: Indian women are represented as exotic sex goddesses and Indian men as dorks.
Two current Indian characters on TV exemplify this: Archie Panjabi’s Kalinda Sharma on CBS’ The Good Wife plays a tough legal investigator and seductress who often ends up in bed with random characters and guest stars.
Aziz Ansari plays Tom Haverford on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. He’s an aspiring politician, but largely an obnoxious loser. I was excited when we discovered that he was married to the attractive Wendy Haverford. Finally, an Indian male in a normal relationship!
“That turned out to be a gag; she only married him for a Green Card….”