Kal Penn might be well known for his long-running role in House and working alongside Obama in the Whitehouse, but his career has not always been so high flying. Like many minority actors, Penn has struggled through a barrage of racial stereotypes to get where he is today and a look at the scripts he was offered throughout his career show just how offensive these roles can be.
Presumably due to his Indian heritage, Penn was offered a diverse array of racial stereotypes to play, including Gandhi lookalikes, snake charmers, swamis and a foreign student who isn't even deemed important enough to be given a name.
One of the most repeated themes in the scripts was the request to use an "accent," which Penn says some casting directors described as "authentic," despite the fact that — as a second generation Indian-American — it was not Penn's "authentic" accent at all. If that weren't stereotypical enough, the "authentic" accent they were looking for was the full "Apu" according to Kal:
Like many minority actors, #KalPenn was reluctant to use the dreaded "accent" and help perpetuate racial stereotypes, but casting agents seemed unable to understand how an Indian character could be funny without an accent:
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Other tired racist stereotypes about Indian characters that were rolled out for the LOLs include jokes about wearing too much cologne and not knowing how to react to contemporary music:
Lines about Indian people reproducing like flies on shit:
And jokes about Indian people being forced to work in sweatshops:
Don't worry, though, it wasn't just Indian minority actors who were stereotyped, other ethnic groups were welcome to the sweeping generalization party too:
Penn named and shamed some companies for their insistence that Indian characters should speak with an accent, therefore basically removing second generation American-Indians from the narrative:
Penn chose to end his Twitter expose on a positive note by praising shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and pointing out that House creator David Shore was entirely “color and gender blind” in his casting:
While problems like this aren't a surprise, especially thanks to the illuminating "Indians on TV" episode in Master of None, it is still depressing to see the stark reality of the racial prejudice that minority actors face every day.
If you haven't seen Aziz Ansari's beautifully written episode about the trials of being brown in Hollywood, check out the clip below:
Although racial stereotypes are still a huge problem in Hollywood, it is refreshing to see companies like Disney trying to tackle issues such as white washing by posting casting calls for people who share a heritage with the characters they are seeking to portray:
Were you surprised to see how prevalent racial stereotypes were in Kal Penn's scripts?