Reader opinion: Debating NBC's polarizing program 'Outsourced'
Geetika Tandon Lizardi's Op-Ed about NBC's "Outsourced," for which she is a writer, has remained one of the most viewed items on the Opinion pages since it published March 21. In the piece, Lizardi defended the television program, urging viewers not to be ashamed for liking the program. It's not racist, she argued. It's satire. She explains:
Last pilot season NBC made a crazy move. It green-lighted an unlikely new sitcom set in a Mumbai call center. "Outsourced" was the hippest thing to happen to South Asians in the United States since Madonna discovered henna. As a writer, I was thrilled to hear about the show, not only because I'm an American of Indian descent but because I recently lived in Mumbai, helping my husband run a call center. […]
In my time on the writing staff, I've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for the show, especially from members of the South Asian community. Positive comments on Twitter after the show airs heavily outnumber critical ones, and according to the New York Times, even an audience of call center workers in India loved the show.
What's odd, then, is the level of vitriol directed at us by some reviewers. They've called it "insulting and condescending," filled with "offensive stereotypes" and based on "obvious cultural ignorance" on the part of the writers. New fans of the show seem to feel the need to post and tweet apologies for liking it: "I'm sorry but I really love 'Outsourced' " or "I think 'Outsourced' is hilarious. Don't hate me."
Just as Lizardi said in her Op-Ed, the subject of "Outsourced" has been ripe for debate. Here's what a few of our readers had to say in our discussion board.
The audience isn’t smart enough to understand the joke
Outsourced and the Metro PCS commercials both use the Indian culture as the butt of their jokes. It is a mentality that we can laugh at them because they're different.
While I believe the writers and actors are talented and intelligent I doubt the viewing audience is. I question weather it is understood that the comedy feeds to create a negative stereotype of the Indian cultrue because we assume the audience IS intelligent when in fact they're not. […]
"Outsourced" isn't really about being able to laugh at ourselves
That's exactly the problem: this show isn't about being able to "laugh at ourselves", it's all about laughing at and propagating entrenched misconceptions about other races. Not content with race and sex jokes, the writers pull of a hat trick by trotting out, of all vile things, caste jokes. Stop, please, my sides hurt from all the laughter.
It's great to see America as viewed through another culture's eyes
I love 'Outsourced'. It's great to have a sitcom that's not based on the same tired formulas we see repeated over and over. And as a person who lived in a foreign country for a few years myself, I think culture shock / culture clash is an untapped goldmine for stories of both comedy and drama. America needs to realize that yes, there are different ways of living, and no it isn't racist to talk about them. […]
I love learning about bits of India through 'Outsourced'. And I love seeing America viewed through another culture's eyes. I really hope this show gets a second season.
"Outsourced" does for Indians what "The Cosby Show" did for African Americans
"Outsourced" is very funny. I think it does for Indians what "The Cosby Show" did for African-Americans and what "George Lopez" did for hispanics. As for whether it helps or hurts the outsourced cause, I think it's a wash. On one hand it reminds us of American jobs being lost to outsourcing, but on the other hand it puts a face to the outsourced employees. I personally am against outsourcing because I feel the money should stay here in the U.S. ("Outsourced" has not changed my view on this issue.) I still think the show is very funny. My whole family watches it every week.
It’s an offensive show full of stereotypes
As an American of Indian descent, I and my wife were horrified at the insult- and stereotype-laden couple of episodes we saw, never to tune in again. At a subsequent party of Indians Americans, both those born here in America and in India, the topic of your TV show came up and the verdict was unanimous: this was an incredibly offensive show, contemptuous of Indians. […]
Shame on you, as a self-proclaimed American of Indian origin, for writing such despicable stories. You do not speak for us Indians. If the producers think that this is a good excuse for producing such a racist show, they should think again. […]
Let's admit that there are things about Indian culture that are funny
I'm of Indian descent and I find the show very funny. My wife and I look forward to it every week. I think the Indians upset about this show need to get a grip. They probably are the same ones complaining about Slumdog Millionaire. I enjoyed that as well. Let's be honest and admit that there are things about Indian culture that are funny! And really this show is about the cultural differences and how there are clashes sometimes. Again, it can be funny!
Hey, John D. Perkins! Are you telling me you haven't come across any white Americans who couldn't handle Indian food? I find them all the time and I live in the big city. This character was from Kansas City. It's quite possible he wasn't familiar with Indian food. And, yes, there are still some people concerned about castes and there are arranged marriages over there.
Hey, Ranibee! Cows do walk around large Indian cities. I've seen them myself. I have a photo of a cow in the median of a busy road. And the whoopie cushion, fake vomit stuff is because the company in the show is a NOVELTY company. And there are definitely cultural differences between western humor and Indian humor which is ripe for exploration.
--Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: Sacha Dhawan as Manmeet on "Outsourced." Credit: Chris Haston / NBC