The short version: The emergence of Indian-Americans in Hollywood probably has more to do with the fact that, with Indian immigration not really beginning until the late 1960s, there is now a critical mass of American-born Indians to begin making inroads into Hollywood. She writes that there may be a little Bollywood envy as well. Kal Penn, of Harold and Kumar fame, is probably one of the better known, but the trend also includes Ansari of NBC’s Parks and Recreation and Mindy Kaling of The Office, among many others. Later this fall, NBC is set to debut Outsourced, the first show with a largely Indian cast to appear on American television.
Of course, the Canadians beat us there a few years ago. One of the chief perks of living in Seattle is that we receive the Vancouver CBC station on limited cable. In 2007, the CBC debuted Little Mosque on the Prairie, which follows the Muslim community in a small Saskatchewan town.
Based on my limited experience of watching it once or twice, the show doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its title, though it’s still a great concept that shows how comfortable Canada often is with its multiculturalism.
On a similar note, the CBC also simulcasts Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi, the country’s fourth most spoken language after English, French and Chinese, and characters of Indian descent regularly figure in Canadian television commercials. Canada has often been described as a “salad bowl” compared to the “melting pot” of the United States, allowing people to maintain their heritage while simultaneously embracing a Canadian identity.
I’m not certain if we’re there yet here in the States, or if that’s even an endpoint we want to reach. Either way, it’s refreshing to see the mainstream media bring an increasingly diverse picture of America into the American living room, and it’s instructive to see how our neighbors to the North are already beginning to achieve it.