The New York Times reported yesterday of a new CBS Paramount Network Television and Warner-Bros Television joint sitcom to be aired in the USA from today that has a Pakistani character.
“Aliens in America” is a sitcom that stars Raja Musharraf as Adhir Kalyan, a foreign exchange Muslim-Pakistani that lives with an American family. According to the NYTimes article (which I recommend reading) the theme is similar to shows like “My Favorite Martian” or “Bewitched” or “Alf” in that the lead character (Dan Byrd) befriends a character which would be otherwise be an impossible character to befriend, and thereby carries on a constant struggle to defend such weird alien character from the harshness of the world around him who in the show would constantly NOT understand that weird alien creature. The difference is that this time around that weird alien creature that everyone fails to understand is a muslim-pakistani — they honestly couldn’t find a more extreme “alien”?
The trouble is that as I was reading the NYTimes article I went from being offended to being confused and curious — from what the article quotes, the show describes a family where the 16-yr old lead character has such a lack of a social life that the family decides to “take in” a foreign exchange student for an “instant, do-it-yourself social life” by studying “brochures with samples”. When the exchange student turns out to be a Pakistani, there is talks of “returning him” with dialog like “If I ordered a coffee maker and got a toaster, I’d return that”. Other people worry that the student might be a terrorist.
However, later in the show they depict the Pakistani character as a devout kind-hearted religious person with exceptional manners.
I’d give massive kudos to NYTimes for writing a very objective article and also criticizing the offensive parts of the theme.
But I also want to hear some direct feedback from some expat Pakistanis who’ve seen the show – what did you think of it? Does it portray a nice objective view or does it stereotype and offend?