‘Basmati Blues’ And The Other Problematic Films We Can’t Look At The Same Way

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'Basmati Blues' And The Other Problematic Films We Can't Look At The Same Way

by Jazmin Kopotsha |
Published on

People are pretty pissed at Brie Larson. ICYMI, she stars in a new film that’s legitimacy been titled ‘Basmati Blues’ (facepalm number one) in which she plays what many are calling the clichéd role of the ‘white saviour’ (facepalm number two), in a story that seems to casually diminish the Indian culture with a series of uncomfortable stereotypes and misplaced ‘humour’ (yes, another facepalm).

No, we haven’t gone back in time. While the trailer only dropped a few days ago and the full film is due to open in cinemas in India later this month, it was actually shot back in 2013. Yes, this side of cultural ignorance and low-key racism not being okay anymore. People have lots of feelings about it and its trailer of course. Namely that it doesn’t really have a place in what we’d like to assume is a forward-thinking society anymore and is wildly misguided.

‘It’s 2017 and we are still not past the genre of ‘mystical Indian savages get saved by a white person’ films’, one person tweeted, while another described it as ‘typical to portray India as about rice, spicy food, poverty, poor English and cringey music’.

In the trailer for Basmati Blues, we’re introduced to Brie’s character Linda, a scientist who’s been sent over to India to sell genetically modified rice, only to later discover that the product is actually really harmful to the land and the community she’s staying with. So, she decides to turn against her GM rice company and try to save the day. ‘Any questions about rice you just let me know’, Linda tells the local farmers. Sigh.

It’s somewhat understandable that, as the face of the film, Brie Larson has come under fire by fans and film critics alike, but we can’t afford not to recognise that while the take away from the film’s trailer is both depressing and questionable (to say the least) the film will have gone through and been signed off by a number of people high up in the film world who you’d hope would know better than to play on the racial stereotypes and cultural typecasts that are widely acknowledged as inappropriate and deeply offensive. There isn’t any room for that sort of ignorance anymore.

According to Hollywood Reporter, since the outpouring of anger and disappointment of the trailer, Shout! Factory have said it will be premiering a new trailer ahead of the film’s release in the States and have also made a statement expressive regret for any offence caused by the initial trailer.

‘We deeply regret any offense caused by the Basmati Blues trailer,’ producers Monique Caulfield and Danny Baron said in the statement. ‘We have heard a number of voices that have understandably reacted to a trailer that is not representative of the film as a whole. Unfortunately, the international trailer has given the wrong impression of the film’s message and heart. This movie is not about an American going abroad to solve India’s problems. At its heart, this film is about two people who reach across cultures, fight against corporate greed, and find love.’

Sadly, this probably won’t be the last time a film misses the cultural mark and causes widespread offence, and it certainly isn’t the first time it’s happened either. While it’s testament to the fact that the world has dramatically changed (for the better) in the last ten, twenty years, there are many movies that hit the big screen in our lifetime that got it very wrong. Sorry to burst the cinematic bubbles of our childhoods, but let’s take a quick look at some of the films that were once okay to think nothing of…

1. Ace Ventura


That scene where Jim Carrey throws up, burns his clothes and cries in the shower after kissing the female police detective who he had just discovered is also the male athlete Ray Finkle? Not okay. In 1994, this was a jibe at the LGBTQ community and an easy gag in line with the popular ‘joke’ associated with being gay. In 2017, it’s little more than a widely offensive and puzzling dehumanisation of transgender people.

2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

A beloved classic, maybe. But remember Mr Yunioshi? He’s pretty much the embodiment of casual ethnic stereotyping. The only non-white character in the movie is played by a white man wearing giant white teeth pretending to be Japanese. You know, for comic relief and shit.

3. PAN

Because it was totally necessary for Rooney Mara to play Tiger-Lily. The conversation and protest around whitewashing that erupted after the films release a couple of years ago wasn’t without reason. In an interview with the Telegraph Rooney did say:‘Do I think all of the four main people in the film should have been white with blond hair and blue eyes? No, I think there should have been some diversity somewhere’.

4. The Love Guru

Mike Myer’s legacy is firmly held in the institution that was Austin Powers. But then The Love Guru came along and fucked it for everyone. Over the top mockery of eastern spirituality and religion with an awkward side of Justin Timberlake and Jessica Alba.

5. White Chicks

This is a tricky one. It tried to do that reverse racism thing and for a time, it worked. It was popular, people laughed and sales of Vanessa Carlton’s 'A Thousand Miles' probably skyrocketed. But retrospectively, no, white face isn’t okay either and the film wouldn’t fly if it was re-released now.

6. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls

Another shout out for Jim Carry and his reprise of the Pet Detective. Don’t remember this one? Ace goes to Africa to find a bat and save two tribes from themselves, of course.

Like this? You might also be interested in…

A Few Films That Are Bechdel-Test Safe

Why ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Is Just As Important Now As It Was In The 1980s

Welcome To The Awokening: Why ‘Dear White People’ Is The Most Important Thing I’ve Seen On Netflix

Follow Jazmin on Instagram @JazKopotsha

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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