November 19, 2009By Mala Bhattacharjee Posted: Nov 19, 2009
As much as I adore B&B with every fiber of my being, it annoyed me a little this week to see Ann (the fabulous Betty White) get dropped off at Paradise Cove by a South Asian cabbie.
I know what you're thinking: "Mala, shouldn't you be happy there was a brown person on the show? And one who had lines, at that?" Okay, yes. It's nice. But it's also really frustrating because B&B's idea of proper representation for a person of color is...as a cab driver? That's the natural assumption? Let me clarify: This is like when Marcus showed up at the Forrester mansion last year and Eric thought he was a waiter. It's relegating characters of color to a socioeconomic status "befitting" their race or ethnicity. Like, "of COURSE a Bangladeshi/Indian guy is going to be Ann's taxi driver."
Look, I live in New York. I will not deny that every other cab I get into is driven by someone from my parents' homeland, but there are also other jobs that South Asians fill. We're journalists, doctors, students, Dunkin Donuts' cashiers, shoe salesmen, etc. We're in every walk of life. When you have B&B's whitewashed Los Angeles, where up until Justin and Marcus joined the show every contract character was Caucasian, it's a different story. There is no other minority representation on the show. And the only South Asian character with actual lines being such a stereotype definitely tripped my perimeter alarms.
Here's the thing: Those of us in the viewing audience don't just notice people like ourselves onscreen, we long for it. If I can get this keyed up about a dayplayer cabbie, imagine how I might react to a Mumbai businessman jetting in and sweeping Steffy off her feet or Dr. Caspary consulting with an Indian physician about the fruit of Sandy and Bridget's wombs?