The Love Guru: Racism of Mike Myers' 2008 film is just one sparkling gem in its diadem of problematic-ness
We’ve covered some pretty God-awful films in this column and even otherwise, I have watched some really, really bad movies in my lifetime. The Love Guru managed to stand out among all of these as a truly horrific feat of cinematic putrescence. | Kuzhali Manickavel writes
'Allegedly Problematic' is a monthly column by Kuzhali Manickavel, which takes a cheeky look at literary/cultural offerings from the past that would now be considered, well, problematic — and asks, 'But are they really?'.
Read more from the series here.
Greetings fam! Here we are, still in lockdown, ready with the second starchy instalment of our column!
So I have just finished watching The Love Guru, which turned out to be one of the worst movies I have seen in a while. We’ve covered some pretty God-awful films in this column and even otherwise, I have watched some really, really bad movies in my lifetime. The Love Guru managed to stand out among all of these as a truly horrific feat of cinematic putrescence. When a movie is this bad, one wonders if it is worth looking at how problematic it is, especially since we are struggling with a pandemic and all. But I already wasted over an hour of my life watching it, so I thought I might as well share the various problematic thoughts that crossed my mind.
Some of the big comedic moments in this movie are when the Love Guru sings an English song with a nice, generous smear of an Indian accent. More than Verds. Isn’t that hilarious? It’s funny because that’s how Indians talk in real life. And just in case we didn’t get the message that this is funny, he does it when singing ‘Nine to Five’ and again when singing ‘The Joker’, this time with a female chorus joining in a very strange falsetto. Again, it’s funny because that’s how Indian music is in real life.
But you know what else is funny? Indian names and Indian words. They sound like all sorts of funny things! Like toilets and genitalia funny things (I told you so). In this movie, people in the ashram greet each other with ‘Mariska Hargitay’. Hindus greet each other with funny words like ‘Namaste’. ‘Mariska Harigitay’ is funny like that. Granted, the movie is offensive to a lot of different kinds of people. But it’s stupidly offensive, which makes it very exhausting to watch.
The movie is obviously poking fun at the business of being a guru. Which makes one wonder why Deepak Chopra makes an appearance, since the film does seem to mock him and what he does. Did you know Deepak Chopra has also been quoted as saying that Mike Myers “has the most profound understanding of Eastern wisdom, traditions and spirituality”. What is going on fam?? Is this real life? This can’t be real life. Myers must really be a doyen of the East though. How else can we explain the movie’s nuanced, respectful and realistic portrayal of India and Hinduism? Just kidding! It was super awful.
Ben Kingsley plays the Love Guru’s guru (why Ben why????) and he’s dressed like a Tibetan monk And he’s swinging nunchucks in front of a statue? Also there seems to be some kind of martial arts combat that happens in the ashram involving mops soaked in urine. It’s kind of like different kinds of Eastern exoticness got all mixed up together and then they added pee.
Anyway, at least there was no elephant, sitar-playing or the song ‘Brimful of Asha’ playing for no reason, right? Kidding again! It had all these things. As I said before, there’s a lot of stupidly offensive things happening in this movie. The racism is just one sparkling gem in that diadem of problematic-ness.
So! We have written about a problematic thing! We were flabbergasted at its problematicness! And now we can come to the end. But before I go, I think it’s worth noting that this movie came out in 2008, when there was internet and all, which makes you wonder why no one did any research. Is that terribly naive of me? Yes it is. Also Mike Myers has since apologised for his insensitivity and taken efforts to learn more about India and Hinduism. Fam I am so kidding again! Mike Myers was least bothered I think so. Wikipedia does tell me that he is a member of Artists Against Racism though! Wow! It’s a Canadian charity so maybe it’s only against Canadian racism? I don’t know too much about it.
Anyway, next month, we will investigate an interesting phenomenon called ‘India Syndrome’. Does that sound racist? Let’s find out!
By the by! Even though life is so hard right now, please, please, consider donating to those who need help. Contrary to what celebrities tell us, we are not all in the same boat. (Here, here and here.)
Kuzhali Manickavel is the author of the short story collections 'Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings' and 'Things We Found During the Autopsy', both available from Blaft Publications
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