Did Outsourced ever stand a chance of being funny? Maybe. It could have defied expectations and depicted Indian culture as something beautiful and used it as a mirror to our own culture, demonstrating our own faults. Instead we see conversations like this:
Todd: See, in America you date someone for a while before you decided to get married.You date a woman. If it doesn’t work out, you date another woman, then another one, and so on… Hmm, okay. I realize that sounds kind of meaningless, but –
Manmeet: That sounds wonderful!
Rather than sharp, cutting comedy, we’re expected to enjoy the denigrating of cultures. Indians are portrayed as completely ignorant not only of American culture, but of how to be functioning adults. One character can hardly bring herself to utter a word out loud until Todd arrives. Another comes across as mentally off and doesn’t understand that doing a Britney Spears dance comes across as humiliating rather than impressive. Even the Indian assistant manager seems particularly dense. The only Indian worker with any sense happens to be the beautiful woman who also happens to look the least Indian of all of them. The comedy isn’t subtle, and neither is the racism.
The worst thing is that the show is carefully crafted in order to exploit our own economic fears and frustrations. From the beginning, when an entire company is laid off back in America, to the various points at which it is clearly demonstrated that their Indian counterparts are talentless and stupid, completely incapable of the jobs they are given. Those of us who are laid off get to feel superior, even in our jobless states, than those who now have our jobs.
The similar treatment of the Americans back home doesn’t make it any better. Instead, the show feels cynical, brutal, and calculated to get away with whatever it needs to in order to appeal to what these producers perceive to be “americans”. I hope they’re wrong.