Final Project – No Love for Hinduism

Posted on December 7, 2012 by

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The media is all around us. Unfortunately, so is stereotyping. While some groups of people either get a positive or negative stereotype, to me, Hinduism seems to get the stereotype that it isn’t a legitimate culture. For my final project, I will be exploring how the media has developed a condescending attitude toward Hindus. From pop culture to politics, Hinduism is made fun of and not respected, and I will be exploring why this is the case.

Stereotypes surround the average person every day. Whether we know it or not, we are constantly bombarded with biases either for or against certain types of people. To me one of the most common stereotypes is that Hindus are strange. It is ok to make fun of them because their religion isn’t legitimate, and their culture is weird. Western pop culture helps advance this stereotype, especially among young people. Daniel Tosh, a very popular comedian and the host of Tosh.0 a popular TV show, is notorious for bringing stereotypes to light in the name of comedy. Now whether they know it or not, viewers are becoming calloused to making fun of people different from themselves. In one episode there was a clip of a hit and run at a 7-11. The first thing Tosh says after seeing a hit and run is, “You don’t see that every day. I mean a non-Indian guy working at 7-11.” After he says this the live audience bursts into laughter affirming that they too are familiar with the stereotype. At the end of this segment Tosh says, “Thank you. Die again” which makes a reference to a character from the Simpsons who is a Hindu that works at a convenient store that always says, “Thank you. Come again.” The people in the audience, as I’m sure most people who watch the show, find these comments to be funny because it is a reaffirmation of a stereotype. This is mainstream television for people my age. As young adults, and unfortunately people even younger, we learn early on that it is acceptable to poke fun of stereotypes. The Hindu culture is one that should be respected, like all cultures, but here in America for some reason, it is being lampooned for no reason.

Where then does this attitude of condescension come from? Well, it starts with the schools. There have been reports that some textbooks have incorrect information about Hinduism. This is especially dangerous with young children because that is the time when they are the most easily influenced. One textbook called The Ancient South Asian World published by Oxford University Press has a description of Hindu gods that says, “Durga and Kali are terrible and extremely bloodthirsty forms of this goddess” and one book titled Glencoe-McGraw Hill’s Discovering our Past – Ancient Civilizations describes Mahabharata as like the “adventure movies of today [that tell] thrilling stories about great heroes.” The first textbook describes the deities of a religion as scary monsters from the movies, and the second textbook makes it seem like Hinduism is a myth based or pagan religion. None of these descriptions are fair to Hinduism, and they are coming from highly reputable sources. McGraw Hill and Oxford University Press are very common publications, and they have a big influence on young children. Mocking religion is never appropriate, but the author of the article believes that Christian’s don’t receive the same treatment. Christianity is seen as a legitimate religion whereas Hindu religion isn’t. Hindus are also openly parodied in movies. Two new movies that have recently come out: “Oh My God” and “Student of the Year” are seen by Hindus as attacking their culture. The main characters have highly revered Hindu names and are seen as inept at dancing. Sushma Swaraj, the leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, made the complaint that films only attack Hindu beliefs. Although these movies weren’t made in America, there is still a nationwide consensus that it is permissible to mock Hinduism.

Furthermore, Hindu culture is seen by some as Un-American. This is a strange statement because America is supposed to be the melting pot where all cultures are accepted, but in 2007 that was not the case. When a Hindu was asked to open Senate with prayer, the prayer was called “gross idolatry” by the American Family Association. This is an example that even in America’s highest office, Hinduism isn’t respected like it should be. I did believe that the media coverage of this event was fair. The article stated that the prayer caused a protest, but it seems to me that if any other religion’s prayer would have been interrupted by protesters, it would have been a bigger issue. The article seems to take more of a passive voice in telling the story. Most articles have a certain bias one way or another, but this one seems to simply be telling the story. Although it is good for the media to present unbiased reports on the day’s events, it seems to me that the media should have defended the Hindu man. Nonetheless, I am happy to see that this topic got attention.

There is hope for a better depiction of Hinduism. Hopefully with the election of Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to the House of Representatives, there will be a change of heart for the media. Tulsi Gabbard Bhagavad Gita She is set to be sworn in on the Bhagavad Gita which is sure to receive some attention. She will take her oath in January so we have yet to see how the media covers this event. I do have hope that the coverage will be positive. It will be the first time that a Representative has been sworn in on the Bhagavad Gita. Gabbard said that the Bhagavad Gita is her primary sacred text. She follows the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism and hopes that in Congress, she can help inform the people in Washington more about the religious beliefs and practices of the many different Hindus. This is progress that will hopefully introduce a more positive coverage of Hinduism from the media.

The Hindu culture should be one that is admired and respected. However, the media and everyday situations have given the culture a bad name. At a young age, children have learned to cast aside Hindu beliefs as myth, and as we grow older, Hindu culture is something to make fun of. This is clearly wrong, but as America breaks down barriers as it has in Hawaii with the election of a Hindu representative, I hope the media can take a more respectful tone when covering Hinduism.

Works Cited

Meacham, Jon, and Sally Quinn. “Senate Prayer Led by Hindu Elicits Protest.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 13 July 2007. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/12/AR2007071202007.html

Mehta, Foram. “Western Condescension of Hinduism” Hinduism Today Magazine. 1 Aug. 2011. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. http://www.hinduismtoday.com/blogs-news/hindu-press-international/-western-condescension-of-hinduism-/11393.html

Mosbergen, Dominique. “Tulsi Gabbard, First Hindu In Congress, To Take Oath Over The Bhagavad Gita: Report.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 12 Nov. 2012. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/12/tulsi-gabbard-hindu-congress-oath-bhagavad-gita_n_2117474.html

Sacirbey, Omar. “Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii Democrat, Poised To Be Elected First Hindu In Congress.” Huffington Post. N.p., 02 Nov. 2012. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/02/tulsi-gabbard-hawaii-democrat-hindu-in-congress_n_2062358.html

Tosh, Daniel, and Mike Gibbons, prods. “Philly Taze Fan.” Tosh.0. Comedy Central. 5 July 2011. Television. http://tosh.comedycentral.com/video-clips/video-breakdown—7-11-hit-and-run

http://vegtastic.net/2011/10/favorite-vegans-from-tv-and-movies/ (Picture of Apu)

http://www.saisathyasai.com/india_hinduism_gods_goddesses/kali.shtml (Picture of Kali)

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Posted in: Hinduism