Welcoming Our New King: Review of Hasan Minhaj: “Homecoming King”

I will be honest, I wish I could have dived more into this review but I didn’t, at the risk of giving out spoilers.

When we think of the kings of comedy, we think of George Carlin, Jerry Seinfeld, or Bill Hicks however, Comedy has no racial boundaries. Arguably, it was Russell Peters, who broke the barrier for Brown comedians everywhere and showed that Indians could be funny. Subsequently, Aziz Ansari will do the same as not only a young, talented, house-hold name, and now anyone who doesn’t know him is considered living under a rock.

And now, we welcome a new Indian Comedian that is taking the world by storm. Though he is perhaps well known for his contributions to the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, he most recently, was the speaker for the White House Correspondent’s Dinner and did an impeccable job by speaking his mind. For those that enjoyed his 25-27 minute speech, I would encourage them to check out his hour long, Netflix special: “Homecoming King”. In this special, it’s a bit unorthodox in that it’s not like traditional stand up shows. For one, the show is more about his life and a specific story as opposed to observational humor and abstract thoughts.

Nevertheless, Minhaj dives deep into his memories and does his best to recreate those moments for the audience so they may empathize with his experiences as a descendent of Indian immigrants and struggling to maintain the culture he has been reared with and simultaneously try to fit in with others who don’t share the same culture and/or beliefs. It is evident early on in the special, how much he cares about his family, despite their disagreements. Moreover, he demonstrates that his family is almost no different than any other traditional family. Specifically, there is a generational gap of understanding between parents and their children in that they can’t seem to agree on how to handle discrimination.

For Minhaj, as a born citizen, he believes that Islamophobia should not have to apply to him because he has done nothing wrong. This is a fair and understandable perspective. On the other hand, his father (like most immigrants) believes they should take discrimination with a grain of salt; as this is something uncontrollable and inevitable when arriving to a new country. This is hard to grasp because, while we can acknowledge that there are terrorists that claim to commit horrific acts in the name of their religion, we do a disservice by associating other Muslims with them, especially since Islam has nothing to do with terrorism in the first place. Furthermore, that ordinary Muslim citizens should have to answer for their actions is ludicrous There’s an article where Aziz Ansari tackled this issue with Rupert Murdoch, perfectly, saying how unreasonable it is for Muslims to have to give press releases or publicly denounce terroristic acts when they clearly had nothing to do with it. In addition to that, Christians are never asked to publicly denounce horrendous acts that have been committed in the name of Christ.

Moving on though, Minhaj also goes on to talk about racism in two different forms: the first is when you’re put in a state of “fear for your own life” kind of racism and the racism “with a smile”. I’d like to tell the story here, but at the risk of it being a spoiler for the show, I’d rather not. Instead, go watch it for yourself to see the example he used. I would be remiss however, if I did not elaborate on what those two types of racism signify though. The former is self-explanatory: being constantly harassed due to your color, creed, or sexual orientation to the point where you are never sure if even the menial errands you need to take care of will be accomplished because your safety is at risk. For Arabs or South Asians, who are descendants from countries with a majority Muslim population,, often they will resort to changing their names in an effort to hide their identity and not cause conflict, so Mohammad will go by Moe, or Abdullah will go as Andy in order to not draw attention to themselves. I am guilty of this as well, personally, but this will be for another blog.

The latter type of racism, is a bit more complex, but when I say “with a smile”, of course I’m not talking about someone who will use a racial slur and grin. I’m referring to the type of people who will sit and laugh with someone “different” but will not announce it publicly or allow their children to associate with them out in the open because they are afraid of people judging THEM. This sort of thing happens when someone “acts” differently. For example, I would always get judged for my love for Bollywood movies and the music, speaking Urdu with my mother, or even eating indo-paki food. Therefore, people would laugh at me and think I was this foreign weirdo, despite the fact that I was born and raised in the U.S. and English was my first language. Thus, I became so ashamed of who I was, that I wouldn’t embrace it out in the open. Even being friends with other “brown” kids in school (where we were perhaps the only ones there) made me hesitant because I was afraid of people judging us or saying SOMETHING. And being Muslim, just added more things for people to judge me by. The thing is, I was not even a practicing Muslim either nor did I choose to be because I just didn’t want to give people a reason to say anything, pretty much.  So like Hasan Minhaj, I just kept it cool, tried to steer clear from danger. And just dealt with it because I figured that’s just the kind of things that happened and as a descendent of an immigrant, I had to deal with it.

However, there is a happy little epilogue to Hasan Minhaj’s story where he ends up pursuing a dream and the dream comes true. He is a successful comedian, married the love of his life, works a great job, and is becoming a house-hold name, all the while he is a Muslim. He tells these stories and is unashamed of who he is. We can all take a lesson from his story, that life is like Biryani (Chicken and Rice but with indo-paki spices. Look it up. It’s fantastic!) where you move the bad stuff out of the way and bring the good parts closer to you.

In “Homecoming King”, all the scenes (i.e., jokes) are hard to distinguish what is bad because all the parts, in my opinion, are good. As a comic, Minhaj takes a kind of Christopher Titus approach in delving deep into his memories and connecting with the audience  with his experiences. Simultaneously, Minhaj does this with a giant, contagious smile and tells the stories as vividly as one can desire. Who can ask for anything more? Now go watch it!

-Mr. Writer

Written on the 27th of May, 2017

 

 

 

Having What It Takes: A Critique On The Aesthetics of Sexy Bodies

A few years ago I attempted to give a response on the concept of Sexism in Art. I was 20 years old, had never read a book on Feminism or Aesthetics so in retrospect, I probably should not have written what I wrote. Nevertheless, I write this essay as a revision because with the knowledge I have now, I most definitely have grown as a writer and thinker. Therefore, as much as I abhor the language I utilized in my previous essay, I will keep it there because it will show how I am no different from other individuals who speak ignorantly of a subject and once we gain insight of said subject, we would like to take back what we said previously. It’s a natural phenomenon that a lot of people judge others for (including myself) and I think we should stop doing that. My views that I have on world issues or history, or things in general, I do not seek to condemn others if they don’t share my views, nor should I expect others to know what I know because if we didn’t get criticism for what we think we know, it will never inspire creativity; we will just be monotone zombies, blindly regurgitating the information we received from our peers. That being said, I hope my views in the previous essay do not offend anyone. And as of this day, this is my view. Thank you for reading. 

A dollar bill, whether it is torn or wrinkled, never loses its value. On the other hand, a crisp, clean looking dollar bill (even if it’s value is $1) is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Similarly, a perfect looking man or woman is more valuable to others than one that is not well put-together. As harsh as that sounds, it is incontestable that determining one’s attractiveness, or in this case, sexiness, has become the norm. People are constantly fed images of “perfect” bodies in popular culture and lauded for their appearances. Simultaneously, we can take the view that cringes at the thought of someone judging us and/or finding a flaw in our bodies. Nonetheless, there are constantly individuals who attempt to or search for ways, to alter the appearance of their bodies at the risk of us being perceived as un-sexy to someone and therefore, invisible. Furthermore, this issue seems to remain trivial for those who remain ignorant to the pressures of what it means to be “sexy”.  However, by citing inspiration from the following aestheticians: Sheila Lintott, Sherri Irvin, and C. Winter Han, I will examine that change is necessary (and hopefully probable in the distant future) for the concept of “sexiness” to no longer be a form of aesthetics, because in spite of the constant reminders of the lesson taught to us as children, we remain judging books by their cover.

Beginning with C. Winter Han’s essay entitled: From “Little Brown Brothers” to “Queer Asian Wives”: Constructing the Asian Male Body, the author touches on a number of excellent points. Specifically, Han points out the ongoing, albeit unchanged, racism towards Asian men. This discrimination extends towards the gay community, where the issue of femininity as a stereotype for Asian Men particularly slurred among Homosexual White Males. Although I do not identify within the LGBTQA Community, this was something I personally felt was surprising. Simply because I was unable to picture a group of oppressed individuals discriminating against another group of people. Somehow, I felt that the silenced gay community could empathize with the voiceless Asian community, yet the evidence Han provides, clearly state otherwise. Unsurprisingly to a number of friends I have in the gay community, shallowness in general, is normative. More specifically, shallowness based on appearance i.e., obesity or lack of muscles. As explained by Han, “unlike media outlets aimed at heterosexual male audiences, gay media plays a dual role in that male bodies on display promote an image not only of what one should be but also of what one should desire. Male bodies in gay media outlets are meant to be not only emulated but consumed.” (Han, 64) And in the case of Asian bodies, they are often portrayed as lanky, infantilized or comically unappealing. Thereby, “depicting [Asian bodies] as androgynous or exotifying them with feminized features, dress, or manners.” (Han, 65)

 

As bad as shallowness is, I would have to argue that discrimination based on racial inferiority is much worse; in other words, it is adding insult to injury to maintain that White bodies are more aesthetically superior to “Colored” bodies. To reiterate, the irony is uncanny to say the least, that a group of men who were teased for their femininity (even to this day) are capable of such grotesque behavior is almost hard to wrap one’s head around.  Han utilizes the example of an “Us Weekly article titled ‘Sexy shirtless [Hollywood] stars!’…When readers click…the article, they are treated to a photo gallery of sixty-three shirtless male starts, sixty of whom are white. Predictably, none of the sexy, shirtless hunks are Asian.” (Han, 70) To say that White Males are perceived as more aesthetic is, in other words, to pretty much state that White Males are ethnically superior. And for it to be nonchalantly portrayed in the media makes it the norm.

 

I would be remiss however, were I not to voice a criticism for this piece, and that is, I felt Han should have specified more on South Asians as opposed to just a bit, as if their struggle is minimal compared to the East Asians. Perhaps I’m being biased in my judgment, as a South Asian male, however there’s actually a short film that touches on this issue called “Yellow Fever” about a young Asian man who is baffled when he sees more and more Asian girls ending up with “White Guys” and not the other way around. He then receives advice from his Indian friend who essentially mocks him and says, “how often do you see an Indian guy with a white girl? It’s like one in a million. Literally.” I will give the author credit for mentioning the examples in TV shows like The Big Bang Theory and Rules of Engagement (Han, 71 & 74) where although, South Asians are portrayed despite being are less popularized in Hollywood in comparison to East Asians. And when South Asians (Indians, mainly) are portrayed, it’s often perceived as a simple-minded person, with a very thick accent (that is often feigned or exaggerated). Moreover, the actor portraying them is usually not even South Asian (e.g., Apu from The Simpsons and Fisher Stevens in Short Circuit 2) an issue pointed out by Indian-American comedian Aziz Ansari in a New York Times article.

 

This essay could not be complete without mentioning two specific philosophers who do a wonderful job in illuminating the struggles women have in attaining a specific body type that  is both “sexy” and gives them reason to be relevant. Their relevancy however, is limited to them only being regarded as objects despite overcoming numerous efforts in the workplace as well as educational gain to be able to “sit at the grown up table”. These philosophers, Sheila Lintott and Sherri Irvin, in their essay, Sex Objects and Sexy Subjects: A Feminist Reclamation of Sexiness, of do a wonderful job by shining a light an issue that perhaps some people notice, but no one sidea of women having to be “sexy” to be relevant. But their relevance is limited to them being regarded only as objects; and this simply won’t do.

 

Primarily, the authors attempt to break down the idea of the word “sexy” and relate it to how women were seen as objects of reproduction. In subsequent years, feminists will rise up and reject this notion of sexiness as “women are more than reproductive machines, even when considered as sexual beings.” (Lintott & Irvin, 303) The latter definition of sexiness “has to do with sexual pleasure and satisfaction” (Lintott & Irvin, 304) To clarify, the authors contend that “the prurient conception of sexiness classifies pregnant, disabled, and elderly women as asexual, as unable or unfit to engage in sexual intercourse and give or receive sexual satisfaction.”

Another point the authors touch on is how we can challenge these notions of sexiness with ethics: “to find someone sexy, in the respectful sense, is to recognize the sexualized subject animated in a body and to respect the subject in part for how they choose or choose not to infuse their own version of sexuality into their own body.” (Lintott & Irvin, 306) In other words, we mustn’t place our own interpretations of sexiness as universal terms but rather, look for the particular characteristics of the individual that makes them sexy; i.e., in their own way.

With that said, Lintott and Irvin seek to determine whether or not notions of sexiness can be considered aesthetic. According to them, it is possible, however “attributions of sexiness…should be responsive to the person as they actually are, not merely as they seem to us.” (Lintott & Irvin, 315) It seems like because individuals are unable to make fair judgements on what is sexy and what is not, make the idea of sexiness as aesthetic very problematic. Particularly, because for Lintott and Irvin, we cannot simply “say ‘He is sexy, and by that I mean I would experience sexual desire for him if I were attracted to fat men’; ‘She is sexy, and by that i mean that a person who finds it possible to experience desire for elderly women would desire her.’” (Lintott & Irvin, 310)

Though Lintott and Irvin’s empirical vigor through their examination of Feminism cannot be overstated,  I do begrudge that heavy emphasis on sexual objectification on women (which is understandable, considering this is supposed to be a feminist piece). Though not often as women,  it should be noted that men are capable of sexual harassment. Furthermore, being a feminist is seen as a “man-hating”, radical movement.  Historically, this may have been the case in the 1960’s but that is besides the point. Also, this article of course, is an obvious exception; plus, usually the ones making that critique are men. But it does not change the fact that some men are objectified and deemed unsexy if they do not have certain appeals (i.e., the six pack, “tall, dark and handsome”). I say this, not to drive attention away from the overall message in the essay, because it is an issue that needs to be resolved but for some reason, has not; my intention is only to bring up something which the author(s) may have missed.

These two articles share in common the desire to challenge the status quo of discriminatory views and stereotypes. And in this essay, I have attempted to demonstrate that judgments of bodies considered “sexy” should not be considered aesthetic due to the nature of constant pressure with societal norms plaguing individuals in attaining a particular appearance, at the risk of not being accepted. Moreover, further examination of the works by Aestheticians: Lintott and Irvin, Han attest the arguments I have made here. The concept of “sexiness” and “masculinity” is irrefutably perplexing and incontestably, subjective. Therefore, members of society must grasp that we do not all have what it takes to be the epitome of either characteristics in this world.

Furthermore, it is incomprehensible as to why individuals should particularly care or judge anyone based on their appearance.  According to both articles, perceptions of “beautiful” and “sexy” are ingrained in our minds and what we define as a “sexy person” is this artificially shaped subject of a specific race or color; and perhaps our reason behind why we do this, is because we are continuously exposed to images or advertisements in the media that is, especially in today’s popular culture, the standard. And simultaneously, albeit unfortunately, we ignore the fact that people are not meant to be categorized as objects of our appraisal.

-Ahmed H. Sharma (Mr. Writer)

Originally Written on the 10th of May, 2017

Works Cited 

Han, C. Winter. “From “Little Brown Brothers” to “Queer Asian Wives”: Constructing the Asian Male Body.” Body Aesthetics. Ed. Sherri Irvin. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. 60-78. Print.

Irvin, Sherri, and Sheila Lintott. “Sex Objects and Sexy Subjects: A Feminist Reclamation of Sexiness.” Body Aesthetics. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. 299-317. Print.

 

 

“Three Parts to a Hug” (Short-Film Review)

The following review may contain spoilers. Regardless, I encourage my readers to watch the film and hug their loved ones. 😉 

Who knew there were different meanings to hugs? Writer/Director, Alvaro D. Ruiz sure did. In his short film released in 2012 entitled, La Trilogia del Abrazo (Three Parts to a Hug), Ruiz demonstrates through vivid emotion, levels of adoration that can only be summed up by an embrace.

The three parts to a hug, which I will further explain in detail shortly, are as follows:

1.”Un abrazo no un beso.” (A Hug, Not a Kiss) 2. Un abrazo casi un beso.” (A Hug, almost a Kiss)  3. Un abrazo como un beso.(A Hug, as a Kiss)

The first hug shows a man knocking on the door that opens up to a young lady who is nothing short of bemused and agitated to see him as she makes it clear in her first words to him that she has repeatedly told the gentleman to leave her alone. When the camera pans to the gentleman waiting by the door, no words are able to be uttered and the ones that are spoken are stammered. A closer look upon the man shows the affliction in his eyes that can only be understood by men who have been in his shoes once or twice before; heartbroken individuals that have knocked on the doors of their former lovers that attempt to spill their heart out, only to realize that doing so would be effortless and find themselves standing dumbfounded in front of someone who just wants you to leave.

Finally before the gentleman leaves, the woman opens the door one last time to offer a sympathetic hug before she closes the door again, for good. She holds him tightly, wrapping both arms around him, while he stands there, visibly still in shock; perhaps at the thought that as soon as she lets go, it will be the last hug he will ever receive from her ever again. One can make the assumption that to make the moment last, the man would try to go for a kiss, but because this was a break up that was in dire need of ending, such an attempt would be fruitless. When the two former lovers finally go their separate ways, the woman is viewed wiping her face, leaving a streak of blood across her cheek while the man is staring at the steering wheel of his car with blood all over his shirt. Here, the imagery captured by Ruiz is just exquisite; the relationship finally being over, takes a toll on one another in different ways for the man, his heart has been ripped out (in this case, physically and emotionally) and the woman, although glad the message has finally reached the man, she can’t help but live with the possible guilt of hurting him (and thus, has blood on her hands).

The second part of the film, “A Hug, almost a Kiss) is a definite palate cleanser i.e., a much happier tone to put the audience in a good mood after the tears they’ve shed for the first one. Like the first part, a door is knocked but a man is the one opening the door to a woman holding what subsequently turns out to be his dog. This dog had gone missing for quite some time and finally was returned to his owner and much to the owner’s surprise, he found a potential new romance. The dialogue exchange between the two characters in this scene is extremely well performed because the chemistry demonstrated by both actors give off these pheromones that would make the viewers think the actors were an item in real life. The embrace between these two only attest such assumptions; the eyes closed, both arms nestled tightly against one another as though they didn’t even know they were meant for each other and now that they did, what would be the purpose in letting go? Such a beautiful hug would deserved of a kiss but because that would be awkward, they are forced to let go and leave one another. Not before the woman calls the owner to let the man know, she’ll “see [him] around.” So all is not lost in the end and there will definitely be another chance for that hug to potentially turn into a kiss.

The third and final part of the film has a mixed tone; melancholy but alleviating. A man is seen staring at himself in the mirror of a dressing room and like the first two parts, a door is knocked. He opens it to find a woman who is dressed in a short, but tight dress. The conversation between the two is a bit hard to follow because it seems as though the man has done something to betray her although it is not specified. The man seems to display emotions of remorse for whatever it was that he has done to her and the woman, although still perhaps feeling a hint of anger towards him, manages to find it in her heart to forgive him and request a hug. This hug is almost identical to the second hug in that strong feelings are being displayed in the hug but like the first hug, this is going to be the final hug between the two and because both parties are participating in the embrace, it’s as though they are feeling reluctant in their relationship ending, even though they both know it’s the right thing to do. As it soon turns out, the man is in his car and is on the phone with another woman (unseen audience but believed to be his wife) moreover, is not the woman he embraced in the scene and tells her he is coming home.

This film although only 10 minutes long, tells a lot about the importance of an embrace. Most people would not consider a hug to be that important as they are deemed with the same commodity as a handshake. Ruiz tackles this successfully by showing that emotions, raw emotions, expressed by a hug, say the words we’d like to say to one another. And by being able to utilize emotions so well, to the point where the viewer forgets they are watching a film, is what makes his work so artistic. Words such as, “Please don’t go”, “Please don’t let go”, and “Let me go” are only as good as they can be, but the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. And in this case, the hug is most deafening.

-Mr. Writer

Written at 7:56 P.M. on March 17, 2017 

 

“Go %&*@ Yourself”

Dedicated to my nephew, Gabriel. Thank you for your patience. 

In the short years that I have been an adult in this life, I have noticed that it is not uncommon to see people you utterly dislike so much that you just wish that they would stop breathing. This is hyperbolic speaking of course, but it is still true, for all intents and purposes. There are just certain people (WE feel) that just don’t need to be alive or be around us because having them around would endanger our surroundings.

That is why there are certain phrases one would proclaim at, and let’s be civil here, an untouchable.I saw Louis C.K. in July of this year and one of the things he said was Suicide is an excellent way to get rid of all your problems. I mean, really think about it.

“How do I get out of paying my taxes?”

“Kill yourself.”

He even went on to say that’s why he hates Vampires cause all they do is complain because of how long they lived, it’s like “you know what? Go out in the sun then if your life is so shitty”. Even Bill Burr jokingly stated how when he thinks about suicide it’s mostly for outrageous things like when he promised his girlfriend he’d make a pie for Thanksgiving but was just saying it so he could finish watching his game or whatever. And when Thanksgiving finally came around the corner he was like, “OH SHIT, Now what do I do? I guess I could jump really high and hope my head hits the ceiling fan”.

Even saying the phrase, “Kill Yourself”, to someone presents the same kind of laughter and joy one gets by saying, “Go Fuck Yourself”.

“Hey, can I have a bite of your sandwich?”

“Umm, no. Kill yourself?”

I would be remiss however, if I were to not include the gravity of the nature that is Suicide. Of course, Suicide, is a big deal and not something to be toyed about. It is terrible for someone to take their own life without realizing that there is so much out there to live for and would be selfish if they didn’t consider the feelings of their loved ones.

My point is just the way we insult each other is fascinating. And by saying to someone, “Kill yourself” is indescribable. Just like whenever we shout at cars while we’re in traffic; we’re aware the other person cannot hear us, if they did we’d be frightened to death, but it still feels good to let it out.

Then there’s the counter-argument of how we shouldn’t say mean things to people because “if we don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all”, by that logic then we’d all hold in our anger and slowly contemplate actually murdering people that upset us and anyone whose ever worked in customer service will attest to that.

Image result for meme okay, i'll just go fuck myself

Reverting back to my earlier statement of the phrase, “Kill Yourself”, I discovered this gem of a phrase from my 14 year old nephew and where he heard it from, I have no clue. Regardless, the phrase is hilarious because one expresses that you are an inconvenience in their life and it would be a lot better if you just went away. Permanently. Of course, they don’t mean that, just like when someone says, “Burn in Hell”, what we mean is that they hope that when you die, and go to hell you’ll suffer. It’s how we express ourselves. And that by itself, is fascinating. I wonder how these insults are coined. Certain words or phrases originate from places that we don’t truly understand and when we learn it, our outlook on the word may differ.

Perfect example: the word “Faggot.” It’s actual definition is a bundle of sticks (originated in Britain, with the spelling, “Fagot”) but is also a very derogatory word to describe a Homosexual individual. Another way to describe the flamboyancy of a Homosexual, is to call them “flaming” or “flamer”, so if one wanted to really insult someone that is gay/queer/transgender, they’d call them a “Flaming Faggot”; again, very offensive and should not be said. Going back to the definition, this bundle of sticks, from a very low grade wood, that would be tied up in old times (I’m not exactly sure of the year) and used to make a fire, where they’d burn homosexuals in the fire. Thus the term, “Flaming Faggot”, is born. Now that you know the story, and you hear someone say it, you can be extra angry and tell them to go kill themselves.

I tell this story not because it is interesting and depressing, but because we often say things we have scarce if any knowledge of what we say. It’s not until we actually open our minds and listen, that we actually learn things. And it’s the same thing with insults, we have to really be careful how we say certain things. My nephew can tell me to kill myself but I know he’s just teasing cause he’s a good kid. Just like how Frank Sinatra was able to get away with saying racial slurs to Sammy Davis Jr. cause they were excellent friends and if anyone else treated Sammy differently because of his race, he wouldn’t stand for it. And if I’m not mistaken, certain people in Boston or New England will say “Go Fuck Yourself’ and it’s the equivalent to “Yeah, whatever”.

It’s slang that really just interests me. We have come so far in the world with technology and everything, but no one has stopped to really appreciate how we have grown with the phrases we use to say something is cool, dope, fly, or fire. Nor has anyone pondered at how we’ve gone from, “Be quiet” to “Shut the fuck up”. Or most importantly from, “Drop dead!” to “Kill yourself!”

-Mr. Writer

Written on the 5th of November, 2016 at 4:15 P.M.