Why aren’t South Asians offended by black or brown face?

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Pradip Rodrigues

When playwright William Shakespeare coined the phrase “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players,” he may have been inspired by a character juggling many roles like Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. The meaning of this phrase is that this world is like a stage show, and all human beings are merely actors.  For those uninitiated, Shakespeare, unwittingly or wittingly reduced the life of human beings to a performance, or an acting role, which might look ridiculous.

The blackface and brown face controversy surrounding PM Trudeau convulsed the country and reverberated around the world recently, far from being outraged, like millions of others, my reaction was more of amusement. Whether he wore a blackface mask or colored his skin tone was not the scandal that bothered me, it simply pointed to Trudeau’s lack of judgement, immaturity and general immaturity. He painted his face in 2001 when he was 29 and not 19. He is like those millennials on college campuses who are going vegan to save the planet and reduce their carbon footprint but want to travel the world…on a carbon-fuel burning airplane. PM Justin Trudeau has been the consummate actor wearing different hats and playing a variety of roles. All of us are constantly playing roles no different like our PM Trudeau.

Perhaps PM Trudeau had found his calling as a drama teacher given his predisposition to getting completely into the role he is playing on state. But here is someone who has kept up this charade so long it is hard to know when he is acting or for real anymore. He needs to dress up as the character he is playing in order to feel and create an affinity with his audience. So that explains the range of Indian costumes he and his family wore to India. He was genuinely trying to be like an Indian but ended up getting under their skin.

You can quite imagine what he’d wear or not wear if he was visiting a tribal region on the African continent!

Brown people are by and large quite indifferent when it comes to black or brown face and rightly so. I strongly believe that context matters, so if Trudeau while in office went to a Halloween Party dressed like that, I would be not angry but worried about the weak leader we have in office who makes poor decisions.

I think Canadians should be outraged for that reason alone. This blackface episode doesn’t really damage his reputation on his being Canada’s #1 non-racist human being, it does however cast a long dark shadow on his leadership skills and his poor judgements. Something a good leader should have regardless of party affiliations.

 Why critics are writing off Lilly Singh

The much hyped A Little Late with Lilly Singh on NBC may just turn out to be a case of being too little too late.

Few brown people I know would care to stay up to watch Lilly Singh’s show just because she’s brown. Most brown people who watched her first show as well as parts of her other shows last week were underwhelmed or bored.

Critics point out that her humour is flat and tends to be geared toward the teenagers who made her the internet star. She seems a little too raw and has yet to iron out those rough edges for an audience accustomed to slick and more sophisticated humour and treatment of subjects. Standards on YouTube are quite different and so is the audience.

I found her several references to her being brown and bi-sexual to be a little too much. Lilly Singh kicked off her show criticizing late-night TV’s whiteness. Her opening sketch showed her in a room of all-male, all-white TV executives suggesting she wear dull-coloured suits during her first episode.

She opens with jokes about the “fear of white America,” when they realize they hadn’t tuned into “Slumdog Millionaire”.

While I am sure most rational people are happy for people of colour rising and becoming successful in the entertainment world, but when Lily Singh kind of sticks it to white America about taking her place in a mostly white entertainment line-up she is doing herself no favours.

I do agree that the entertainment industry by and large is dominated by whites, just as IT departments in many companies are dominated by South Asians, or the trucking industry dominated by Sikhs. Does it mean Sikhs or South Asians pursue discriminatory strategies to exclude other races? I am convinced that if the entertainment industry finds out that they need to have more Chinese and Indian actors playing lead roles, they will do it if it means millions of dollars at the box office. But evidence shows that people of color are more interested in great entertainment from great actors, the color of their skin isn’t an issue.

The North American entertainment industry is ruthless when it comes to doing everything it can to maintain standards and profits. No star however white is given a second change based on the color of his or her skin.  They bomb and they are sent into the wilderness, so when Lilly Singh loses her show it will not be because she is brown or bi-sexual but because her ratings were poor.  Unless of course, she ups her game in the next few months, her has a small window. However, if millions of brown people across North America were to tune into her show every weekday night, her show would be very popular. But even brown people have some standards and are more likely to watch Hassan Minhaj or Joe Rogan or Trevor Noah for their great entertainment rather than for the color of their skin. More whites tune in to watch Hassan Minhaj rather than so many other white entertainers. I think identity politics has not place in entertainment. -CINEWS


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