Hollywood and its culture misperceptions: why can’t they do it right?

It amazes me how Hollywood can make fantastic movies that usually pay tremendous attention to getting facts right, but when it comes to the representation of distinctly different cultures, they often get it wrong. Seriously wrong. And what’s sad is that it’s intentional, and for pure commercial gain.

The latest such case is soon to be released Hollywood movie starring Mike Myers — “Love Guru”. Its release has strongly been protested against by religious Hindus across the US for lampooning Hinduism, mocking Ashram life and Hindu philosophy, and laughing at religious Hindu practices.

This movie releases tomorrow, so such protests have been made purely basis news and trailers; having watched the trailer and seen the website, I was pretty embarrassed at what I was seeing. An Indian “guru” being ridiculous and ridiculing various aspects of Hinduism that millions of Hindus consider sacred. One of his “sutras” encourages you to go to a fake porn site, the yoga positions are stupid, you can even find him spreading his “knowledge” on Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.

The movie revolves around the “second best Indian love guru coming to the US” and then you see various snippets of him:1) in a bar (drinking is not accepted in Hinduism, 2) hitting on Jessica Alba and getting a kick out of knowing she had a lesbian experience in college (homosexuality is taboo), 3) Making fun of yoga positions, the list goes on.
By birth I’m Hindu, but I’m not religious at all. I often criticize Hindu customs as I fail to understand them. But, unless it’s got to do with a man marrying a dog (a true exception), I will never mock religious faiths. At the end of the day, these things are deep rooted in history and tradition, and if it works for you, no one has the right to ridicule it.

As Rajan Zed, a California based Hindu pandit, most correctly said in relation to this comedy: “Humor is a part and parcel of Hindu society and our folk festivals, plays, stories, etc., are full of parody, satire, mimicry, buffoonery, etc. We are strong enough to take a joke. But there are certain convictions in every tradition, which are venerable and not meant to be mocked.”

Hollywood movies have such a large viewership globally that doing a movie like this and then defending it, is just completely out of line.