My TV taught me about the simple truths in life. For example, I learned that liberal hippie parents can actually produce Republican offspring, that alien life forms actually had normal human names and that a rich white guy adopting two orphaned kids from Harlem is just really, really funny because it would probably never happen.
But, you know, while TV and movies taught me a lot about other people, they didn't always teach me about myself.
At least, not the part of myself that had parents that believed that children who didn't agree with them were inherently evil and had no respect for "their elders" because said children were too "Americanized." Or that being a doctor, lawyer or engineer was not part of a cultural identity, it was the only cultural identity you had.
What I mean to say is that Asian Americans, particularly those from the subcontinent, were few and far between in movies and TV.
So, when I did see that occasional brown face on the tube or silver screen, my immature little mind clawed at a deeper truth. Surely, these characters could teach me about myself, the way Alex P. Keaton taught me that Republicans, too, can be kind of hot in a money grubbing, if not completely self absorbed, way.
Here's some of the stuff I learned:
If you walk around India in a white sheet and get a lot accomplished, maybe you will be lucky enough to have a very talented white actor play your role in fifty years.
Religious tolerance is critically important in America. Do not offer people's gods peanuts.
If someone says you have an "exotic" look, retain your humility and think about how they mean it.
Fake Indian accents are about as funny as Steve Guttenberg. Which is to say that they are not. At all.
On a side note, all of these characters were Indian in their origin. Even on that level, I had to compromise because I'm actually Pakistani-American. I would've posted a few people hijacking airplanes, but it would have been too depressing.
Be assured, I have a very good sense of humor about these things (or is it that I have simply given up?), so this wasn't some subtle diatribe about how racist American TV was when I was growing up.
I get that I wasn't a big priority in terms of advertising revenue in the 80s. I also appreciate the evolution represented in my own daughter's favorite TV shows which are about a little Chinese-American girl and a little Hispanic boy. (Where, exactly, does Diego come from?)
So, tell me how did television or movies affect your perception of cultures, whether that of your own or others?