Why We Have High Hopes for I Feel Bad


The Asian summer – or the summer of 2018 as it was formerly known – might be over, but Asian representation on screen is far from showing any signs of slowing down. After the mega success of Crazy Rich Asians – now the highest grossing romantic comedy of the last decade – and the ever-growing appeal of Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before among teens and non-teens alike, looks like it’s time for Asian fall. As Crazy Rich Asians star and New York’s homegrown comic and DJ, Awkafina, becomes only the second Asian woman ever to host SNL (the first in 20 years), NBC is set to premiere Amy Poehler-backed I Feel Bad that revolves around the lives of a multi-generational Asian Indian family. Sarayu Blue, the Indian-origin actress you might have seen on The Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy and Veep, stars in the show as a second-generation Indian video game head designer trying not to “feel bad” as she manages her parents, husband, and three children.

Carrying forward the genre of family sitcoms, which in recent years has finally become more inclusive with Blackish (featuring an African-American family), One Day at a Time (Cuban-American) and our office fan-favorite Fresh Off The Boat (Chinese-American), I Feel Bad puts the inside jokes and family dynamics of an Asian Indian family on mainstream TV. While South Asian representation is at an all-time high with Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project and Champions, Priyanka Chopra’s Quantico and Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s Master of None, I Feel Bad showcases Desi families in the way that so far has only been seen in comedy sketches and online videos. Unlike Blackish or Fresh off the Boat, I Feel Bad’s family is not exclusively Asian Indian – Blue’s on-screen husband is played by Paul Adelstein, who is white. Yet, the show does an excellent job of portraying real life dynamics without straying into stereotypes and really hopes that you would notice how hard it’s worked to do that.

Sarayu Blue and Paul Adelstein star in I Feel Bad.

In a particularly telling scene with the grandparents, adorable cast members Madhur Jaffrey and Brian George spend a night with the kids and decide to dig into the sweet nostalgia of their youth. As George, the grandfather, starts his story with, “When I was in the village”, you think he is going to launch into a Master of None-style heartfelt story turned into a hardened lesson from his childhood, like so many characters of color on television in the recent past. But instead he and Madhur Jaffrey, as grandma, quickly assume a dance pose to reveal that the village in their story was in fact, Greenwich at the height of the disco era, much to their Gen-Z tween grandchildren’s disgust. What makes the show even more endearing is that the Asian Indian stories feel authentic and lived-in, seemingly written by Desi writers who have experienced them at some point in their own lives. The pilot, for example, revolves around Blue trying really hard to not turn into her mother, who would often reprimand her as a child by flinging a shoe in her direction — a hilarious but also somewhat disturbing reality for most people who have grown up in Desi households. In a later episode, one cabinet in their kitchen is dedicated to storing used plastic bags (often tucked away in another, much larger plastic bag in hopes of being recycled at some point) while other is just ‘spices’.

So far, the sitcom does a good job of showing that Emet and her family are like any other American household, just with their own set of quirks and mannerisms. But luckily for us, it does that without flattening the nuance of their Desi-ness or heritage. In fact, the show makes a concerted effort to not depict the characters as caricatures, especially from a mainstream point of view – we especially appreciate that despite being Indian, Emet is not some zen-Namaste brand of yogini. In fact, she has no interest in yoga at all. These subtleties in the writing, coming from comedic powerhouse Aseem Batra – best known for her work in Scrubs, give us hope for the rightful Desi representation on TV. We do have one question though. Where does one find Desi grandparents who kiss and slap each other’s butts when their children are in the house? Only on TV, of course!

Written by Yashica Dutt
Associate Creative Director

South Asian Influencers you should not be sleeping on

Up until a few years ago, all South Asians could claim for entertainment representation was The Simpsons’ Apu Nahasapeemapetilon – not a real last name, btw. While things are changing for the better, with more South Asian faces on film and screen, it’s online where the South Asian community, or Desi Twitter as we call it, can really find their voices. This is where South Asians get to bond over strict Desi parents, our collective love for biryani, and our collective rage over why everyone else can’t stop saying chai tea or naan bread when they essentially mean the same thing. We have our big beauty bloggers– Farah Dhukai and Nabela Noor, comedy YouTubers – Lilly Singh, Liza Koshy and JusReign, and insanely talented mash-up singers – VidyaVox. But the biggest influencers are the South Asians stars and actors that Desi twitter can’t seem to get enough of. Here’s a handy list of the biggest names who have us hanging on to their every word on social media.

Priyanka Chopra: Before she took over Hollywood, becoming the first South Asian actor to headline a major network drama with Quantico, Priyanka Chopra was (and still is) a Bollywood superstar. She worked in over 60 blockbuster movies, cut music albums, became the most followed Indian on Twitter and then moved to the US to produce a show casting herself as its lead. Since then, Chopra has been busy starring in the Baywatch reboot alongside Zac Effron and Dwayne ‘Rock’ Johnson and has major upcoming projects with two Chrises (Hemsworth and Pratt). Even before her stop-the-presses engagement with Nick Jonas, which caused a social media meltdown in both India and the US, PeeCee as her fans know her, caught constant media attention with her well-informed perspectives on being a brown woman in America.

IG: 27.8m Twitter: 23.2m

Mindy Kaling: There are a few reasons that a list filled with South Asian faces on American TV and film can now exist and one of them is Mindy Kaling. The OG South Asian woman on TV, Kaling wrote, starred in and later produced the beloved comedy, The Office. Her recurring role as the narcissistic Kelly Kapoor, a far cry from the muted wallpaper of South Asian women depicted on TV (if we saw them at all), remains a huge fan favorite even years after the show has ended. Soon after, she produced and starred in the groundbreaking The Mindy Project, playing a quirky rom-com loving, Ob-Gyn — another first for a South Asian woman on TV. She has since produced and starred in NBC’s Champions and has a major role in the upcoming Ocean’s 13 along with Rihanna and Anne Hathaway. We also love this new mom’s Instagram for her adorable baby food recipes, workout fails and red carpet fashion, where she regularly interacts with fans and supports up and coming South Asian talent.

IG: 3.4m Twitter: 11.9m

Kal Penn: There was a time in the late 90s and early 2000s when South Asian actors routinely played sidekicks or comic relief to the lead (mostly white) actor. And Kal Penn played almost all of them. It changed somewhat only in 2004 when he starred in Harold and Kumar, one of the biggest Asian comedy franchises, with Jon Cho. While Penn has since continued acting with popular roles in series like House and How I Met Your Mother, he was also the Associate Director for Public Engagement at the White House during the Obama administration. Even after moving on from that role, Penn has consistently used social media to speak for human rights and the unfair and racist typecasting of South Asians in Hollywood. In 2017, when a racist troll told him that he didn’t “belong in this country,” he used that comment to raise over $160K for refugees in Syria. He is soon coming out with his own book of essays.

Twitter: 599K IG: 137K

Jameela Jamil: This British-South Asian radio and television presenter was known for speaking her mind and standing up for women even before her stint as Tahani-Al-Jamil in the hit sitcom, The Good Place. Contrary to her role as the out-of –touch British heiress on TV, in real life Jamil has been dubbed as the social media vigilante women need. After struggling with anorexia as a teen, and recovering from a spine-crushing accident, Jamil is an outspoken advocate for body positivity. She has consistently called out the Kardashian sisters for promoting weight loss supplements and even started “I Weigh”, a user generated Instagram account where people describe how and why they ‘weigh’ more than their bodies or appearances.

IG: 365K Twitter: 325K

Tan France: Born to Pakistani parents in England, Tan France is one of the Fab Five from the breakout hit of the season, Queer Eye. As the stylist on the show, where five gay men help a participant make over different areas of their life, France is known for his empathetic and body positive makeovers. While relatively new in the American spotlight, France is already working with SNL’s Pete Davidson and writing a forthcoming memoir. On the show, he often talks about growing up gay in a Pakistani household in England and how that helped shape his identity. His Instagram is a refreshing mix of real life moments and style-inspo, which he also uses to engage with fans and the rest of the Queer Eye cast.

IG: 2m Twitter: 306K

When it comes to social media, it’s not always about the biggest numbers. While each of these celebrities has a huge following, what makes their social media shine is constant engagement. Apart from promoting their upcoming projects, they come across as real people who constantly speak to their followers. And that, in our opinion, is what turns a celebrity with a social media into a valuable influencer

Written by Yashica Dutt
Associate Creative Director

INDIA POST: State Farm spot shows why Indian parents know best

NEW YORK: State Farm has released a new spot targeted to the growing Asian Indian market in the US. The spot was inspired by the relationship between driven, career-minded 30-somethings and their visiting parents. Aptly titled ‘Intuition’, it tells the funny yet relatable story of an Asian Indian family, and of how ignoring parental advice isn’t always the best idea. The commercial also features Anu, a real State Farm agent who is so close to them that she’s almost a part of the family. In addition to broadcast, the creative is running across all digital platforms with the intent of generating positive associations among the community.

(Read More on India Post)

Do Desi Parents Really Have A Third Eye?

Desi culture is known for many things – Bollywood, deliciously spicy and fragrant food, festivals, and ‘loving your parents’. You might say that the last bit could be true for any culture (yes, we all love our parents) and you’d probably be right. But no one loves their parents in quite the same way as us Desis. And we have the movies to prove it – one of them literally had “it’s all about loving your parents” in its title. At least till a few decades ago, the Maa or Mom was a central figure in Indian movies, often rivaling the female lead in the order of importance. And almost every Maa in Indian cinema had the uncanny ability to predict exactly what was about to happen to their children before it happened. While lately, more diverse stories have taken precedence over the old-school-hero-with-a-perpetually-disappointed-mother plots; mothers in modern Indian cinema seem to have retained their extraordinary abilities of intuition.

TBD caption

Rakhee’s famous character in Karan Arjun was convinced her murdered sons would be reborn to avenge their deaths.

Although Indian movies, whether they are made in Bollywood or southern film industries, are notoriously prone to exaggeration, this remarkable trait of parental intuition is rooted in reality. At least somewhat. It’s no secret that Desi parents have deeply tight-knit relationships with their children that extend well into adulthood. Many pick their kids’ after-school activities, prescribe their career paths and more often than not, even choose their spouses through arranged marriages. A significant portion of adult children never move out of their parents’ homes, which are built to accommodate each sibling and their future partners. However, in a dynamic and globally connected South Asia and South Asian America, the parent-child relationship is fast evolving and not all parents micro-manage their children’s lives. In fact, more young parents are recognizing their children as individuals with unique interests and personalities. But regardless of the parenting style, the core of the Desi parent-child relationship remains incredibly snug and involved in each other’s lives. Even after moving few thousands miles to the US, adult children still rely on, or at least pay serious attention to, their parents’ advice.

But beyond the familial closeness, Desi parents’ presumed sense of intuition comes from the Hindu cultural context of ‘Third Eye’. A mythical ‘eye’ located between the two eyebrows, it is also understood as the center of a deeper consciousness in the Vedic practice. The cultural instinct for parents to monitor (and control) their children’s every move leads to slightly overstated warnings about having an actual ‘third eye’, and thus the ability to see the children even when they’re not around. While parental ‘third eye’ might be little more than an urban legend dressed as a cultural truth, its repeated sightings in Indian cinema have more or less cemented it into social realism. That, mixed with some scientific evidentiary maternal and paternal intuition often has Desis convinced that our parents just might have the ‘third eye’.

The Mom in State Farm’s Intuition commercial senses a tree might fall — and it does!

The Mom in State Farm’s Intuition commercial senses a tree might fall — and it does!

Above all, the ‘third eye’ is a cultural representation of the children’s acknowledgement and trust of their parents’ foresight. When we were looking for an idea that would resonate with Desis of all ages and generations, we realized that this would be the perfect way to deliver State Farm’s message of trust and being here to help life go right. A story about the ‘third eye’ where visiting parents call out a mishap before it happens but adult children ignore them anyway, came together in the latest commercial for State Farm we titled Intuition. Check it out below:

State Farm “Intuition”: Third-Eye Commercial

Written by Yashica Dutt
Associate Copy Director