Feature

Is 'Outsourced' racist?

NBC's new comedy, set in a Mumbai call center, is drawing charges that it's culturally insensitive

NBC is going where no American sitcom has gone before — to India. The network on Thursday unveiled a new show, "Outsourced," a comedy about an American salesman sent to India to run a Midwestern novelty company's call center, which has been relocated to Mumbai. Played by Ben Rappaport, Todd has the job of schooling his new Indian coworkers in the art of selling foam cheeseheads and fake vomit. Does "Outsourced" — the first network primetime comedy set in a foreign country — break down cultural barriers, or does it just rely on cheap racist humor?

"Outsourced" is an abomination: This show's "crass attempts at humor" tend to revolve around how Indian food makes you run to the bathroom and about how "misogynist Eastern cultures produce timid women," says Mikey O'Connell at Zap2It. It's nothing anyone with "senile, racist grandparents haven't already been rolling their eyes at for years." This show is not "worthy of NBC's storied Thursday lineup.""'Outsourced' review: NBC lowers the bar with ugly Americans"

Actually, this show could bridge racial divides: Relax, "Outsourced" isn't as offensive as its critics charge, says Prashant Agrawal in The Wall Street Journal. The characters have "stereotypical traits" — but they are work stereotypes, not racial ones. There's the Indian manager who is a "typical office climber," and the promising young worker who will "face hardship" but succeed. "The beauty of the [series], potentially, is to show that the Indian office is no different from the U.S. office.""'Outsourced': India's TV takeover accelerates"

"Outsourced" makes fun of the wrong people: On close inspection, "Outsourced" is "far more critical of America and Americans than it is of India and Indians," says Willa Paskin at New York magazine. But "every time it veers toward being an incisive commentary on American insularity and superficiality, it panics, jumping to jokes on the level of, 'What's with the dot on the head?'" If "Outsourced" is to succeed and avoid the "racist" label, it has to be more courageous about skewering "its real targets: The white guy and the country he comes from." "So, is 'Outsourced' racist?"

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