10. 07. 10
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TH I ns i de: Buz k a s hi , S t ephenCol ber t , a ndT heS oc i al Ne t wor k . .
10.07.10 vol. xlii, no. 5 The Indy examines the plight of immigrants.
Co-Presidents Patricia Florescu ‘11 Susan Zhu ‘11
Cover art by PATRICIA FLORESCU
NEWS 3 Debating Immigration at Harvard FORUM 4 Minority Report 5 Rejecting Assimilation 6 Stephen Colbert on Immigration Reform The DREAM Act ARTS 7 Bollywood Meets Hollywood 8 Cultural Misrepresentation 9 The Social Network 10 Fashion Week SPORTS 11 Buzkashi
For exclusive online content, visit www.harvardindependent.com
Editor-in-Chief Faith Zhang ‘11 News and Forum Editor Arts Editor Sports Editor Graphics Editor
Riva Riley ‘12 Pelin Kivrak ‘11 Daniel Alfino ‘11 Sonia Coman ‘11
Associate News and Forum Editor Associate Sports Editor Associate Design Editor
Weike Wang ‘11 Brett Giblin '11 Miranda Shugars '14
Staff Writers Arhana Chattopadhyay '11 Peter Bacon ‘11 Arthur Bratolozzi '12 John Beatty '11 Ezgi Bereketli ‘12 Meghan Brooks '14 Colleen Berryessa '11 Andrew Coffman ‘12 Levi Dudte '11 Ray Duer ‘11 Sam Jack ‘11 Whitney Lee '14 Marion Liu ‘11 Hao Meng ‘11 Zena Mengesha '14 Alfredo Montelongo ‘11 Nick Nehamas ‘11 Steven Rizoli ‘11 Marc Shi '14 Jim Shirey ‘11 Diana Suen ‘11 Alex Thompson ‘11 Sanyee Yuan'12 Columnists Sam Barr ‘11 Luis Martinez '12 Graphics, Photography, and Design Staff Chaima Bouhlel ‘11 Eva Liou ‘11 Lidiya Petrova ‘11
As Harvard College's weekly undergraduate newsmagazine, the Harvard Independent provides in-depth, critical coverage of issues and events of interest to the Harvard College community. The Independent has no political affiliation, instead offering diverse commentary on news, arts, sports, and student life. For publication information and general inquiries, contact Presidents Patricia Florescu and Susan Zhu (email@example.com). Letters to the Editor and comments regarding the content of the publication should be addressed to Editor-in-Chief Faith Zhang (editor@harvardindependent. com). Yearly mail subscriptions are available for $30, and semester-long subscriptions are available for $15. To purchase a subscription, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Harvard Independent is published weekly during the academic year, except during vacations, by The Harvard Independent, Inc., P.O. Box 382204, Cambridge, MA 02238-2204. Copyright © 2010 by The Harvard Independent. All rights reserved. 10.07.10 • The Harvard Independent
The Elephant in the Room Immigrants debate the immigration debate.
By MEGHAN BROOKS hat makes an immigrant
legal?” “What should our immigration policies be, and how are we going to enforce them?” “What is an immigrant, anyway?” These were some of the questions asked and answered at the Harvard Political Union’s debate on immigration held last Tuesday in Adams House. The night began quietly, with representatives from the Harvard College Democrats, the Harvard Republican Club, The Harvard Salient, and Perspective Magazine giving forceful but measured and respectful arguments for their own views on immigration policy, but when the floor was opened for discussion, debate became heated. During the roughly hour-long session, the circle of chairs in which participants were seated was bursting with some of the same partisan tensions that currently divide Congress and the American people as a whole. Although Democrats seemed to outnumber Republicans, both sides made their voices clearly known, with the Republicans accusing the Democrats of being impractical and ignoring the negative impact some forms of immigration have on American society, and the Democrats accusing the Republicans of racism and of overlooking the obvious economic and social benefits of immigration. Business as usual. To put it simply, there were a lot of angry people in the Adams Common Room last Tuesday night. Rather than getting bogged down in the details of the night’s arguments, however, The Indy has decided to take the debate to the people, the people whose lives and families have been directly affected by immigration, that is. What follows are the opinions and ideas of the immigrants or children of immigrants living in the Harvardian microcosm of Entryway One, Weld Hall. The debate’s big topic, the one issue people kept coming back to, was not immigration itself but illegal immigration. Do you think that the recent furor surrounding illegal immigration has changed the way Americans perceive immigrants in general?
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I don’t think it’s really changed because if you look at the history of immigration, people have always been a little prejudiced against immigrants, especially against the Irish. I think that now a lot of the anger is due to the economy. People are saying things like, “Immigrants are taking our jobs”. Really though, I don’t think that’s any different from what was happening earlier, just now people are focusing on Mexican and other Latino immigrants rather than, say, Chinese immigrants or, again, Irish immigrants. As far as my personal experience goes, illegal immigration hasn’t changed people’s perceptions of my family, because, well, we’re Asian and most of the anger nowadays is directed against Latinos. Also, because I’m from Southern California where there are a lot of immigrants, being an immigrant isn’t really a big deal. Maybe if we lived in Nebraska or somewhere like that things would be different. - Cindy Hsu ‘14, parents from Taiwan What do you think should be done about the illegal immigrants already in this country? Do you advocate amnesty, as the Democrats do, or attrition and deportation, as the Republicans do? Illegal immigrants have built their lives here. If they were uprooted and deported their lives would be ruined. People ask if knowing that illegal immigrants are in this country without having gone through the arduous immigration process that my family went through upsets me. While it does upset me a little bit, I also understand their point of view. They, too, have to work very hard to make a living here, and because they are illegal it is actually probably much harder for them to get jobs and put food on the table. I really do understand where they are coming from. I don’t believe that deportation is the solution, but I don’t know if I can support total amnesty. - Sayantan Deb ‘14, immigrant from India In the course of the debate several Republicans claimed that immigrants
take more from the country than they give back to it. Any thoughts? My father, who was born in Iran, immigrated to the United States in the 1970s. He came to this country largely unable to speak English and with little money. Through sheer perseverance, he worked his way through college, became a citizen of this country, and settled into a comfortable life. For more than twenty years, he has served his community and country as a pharmacist. The notion that an individual could have nothing to give back to society is a notion that rings hollow; everyone has a contribution to make. Regardless of economic relevancy, however, a human being is a human being. We should take care not to reduce an individual into dollars and cents. Such logic can easily spiral out of control… - Sheyda Aboii ‘14, father from Iran At one point in the evening a few Democrats accused the Republican Party of forming their immigration platform around racist sentiments, especially racist sentiments directed at Mexican immigrants. Have you experienced or has your family experienced any racism or antiimmigrant feeling? Well, because California is a big melting pot of all sorts of immigrants, my family did not experience any direct racism. However, I have seen racism and anti-immigrant sentiment directed toward a lot of the Mexican immigrants. In some high schools in California that are Hispanic dominated, white students will say very racist or anti-immigrant things toward Mexican immigrant students. I have heard of other things happening as well, but like Cindy said, California tends to be pretty tolerant. - Christine Chen ‘14, immigrant from Taiwan I have not had many direct experiences with racism, but one time it did happen it was kind of shocking because it was in my school. A substitute teacher called me to the front of the classroom, confirmed that I was Indian, and then asked me
which convenience store my parents owned. I said none and then laughed it off, but it was a little scary to know that she was serious. - Medha Gargeya ‘14, parents from India Throughout Tuesday’s debate, speakers from both sides referred to two groups of people, immigrants and Americans. What, exactly, makes an American? I believe that the essence of being an American is the immigrant experience, the pursuit of the American dream. I think that those who forget that at least one generation of their family were immigrants are denying that essential part of what it is to be an American, they are denying that their family too was at one point newly arrived, and that they too had to assimilate and make their way in American society. I am an American because I believe that anyone can succeed in this country and because I love that, here, a person can live exactly as he wants and be exactly who he wants. - Sayantan Deb ‘14, immigrant from India Immigration is not a topic that will be put to rest quietly. In fact, it will not and cannot be put to rest until the United States is no longer an attractive destination for oppressed and disadvantaged peoples living in other parts of the world. Having a continuous, and even occasionally angry, debate on immigration, however, is not necessarily a bad thing. Shankar Ramaswamy ’11, chairman of the Harvard Political Union and the evening’s organizer said of Tuesday’s debate, “I think the discussion was a huge success. Our goal as an organization is to provide students with a proper setting to comfortably talk about controversial and sensitive issues […] an important part of that is bringing together students with many different perspectives.” As long as diversity of perspective exists in the United States, so will the opportunity and need to discuss such sensitive and controversial issues. Meghan Brooks ’14 (meghanbrooks@ college) is channeling Emma Lazarus. email@example.com
A conservative tidal wave of victory in 2010? Not quite.
Minority Report By LUIS MARTINEZ
he 2009 election victories of Bob
McDonnell in Virginia, Chris Christie in New Jersey, and Scott Brown in Massachusetts would have been considered impossibilities right after the election of Barack Obama along with a Democratic supermajority in the Senate and an even stronger majority in the House. A wave of change had hit America, and Republicans were swallowed up in the deep blue sea of a Democratic national tide. Some argue that the 2010 midterm elections will tell a different story — one of a true reversal and of a Republican tide, washing away the Democratic majorities in Congress and providing the momentum to unseat President Obama in 2012. However, one has to question the rationale behind this argument and wonder whether this is a likely scenario. While the 2009 victories at the state level should offer hope and insight into how Republicans can be successful in states that Obamamania prevailed in just two years earlier, they cannot be considered indicative of a national trend that will end Democrats’ rule. More than anything else, the races in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts have showcased the potential of a re-energized base as well as voter impatience with the pace economic recovery. Given the fact that the major issues are related to the economy, it is still difficult to determine with much certainty what will result after Election Day in November 2010. It is clear that if things don’t change for the better 4
soon, the Democrats are bound to lose some seats in the Senate and more in the House — but it’s unlikely that the Republicans will experience success similar to what the Democrats did in 2006 and 2008. In other words, while the Republicans are quickly gaining speed, the Democrats still have two more years to rectify the national mess before they are really knocked out of D.C. At this point it’s important to define what a “national tide” is. The simplest explanation would be that it is an overwhelming victory during an election year which changes the party in power in either the legislative or executive branches. It happens when the nation is convinced that the time for a change in course is necessary to ensure the future of this country. A tide can serve one of two purposes — it some cases it can serve to give one party control over both branches in order to fast-track certain initiatives or projects, but more often than not a national tide is against the party in power, in order to create meaningful checks and balances between the two parties. This was definitely true in 1994 (when the Republicans won control with Clinton as President) and 2006 (when the Democrats gained control of Congress with Bush in the White House). The important thing to note here is that it’s a national movement giving preference to one party and not a localized effort, which is why one can’t place too much emphasis on the small sample size of Republican victories.
In short, Republicans can realistically expect some major gains this coming election cycle; it has been recently become more and more apparent that Republicans are on track to win the House, but they will not make enough gains to win a majority in both chambers of Congress. To use the tide metaphor, 2010 will be less about the building red tide of conservatism and more about the receding blue tide of the 2008 elections. President Obama will have been in the White House for almost two years — enough time for some people to think they have an idea as to whether the Democrats’ plans for the economy are working or not. These people may begin to become disaffected and vote for the Republicans in order to introduce new ideas into the discussion. Others will want to give the Democrats more time. This combination will result in a net Republican win in November, but with Democrats retaining control in an expanded executive branch and in the Senate. A recent Rasmussen poll indicated that the Republicans will end up with 48 Senators to 52 Democratic counterparts. A much more likely scenario than a conservative takeover this year would be for one to occur in 2012, with a clear party leader for the nation to rally around. At this point, poll after poll has shown indecisiveness among Republicans as to who their leader is. Having a presidential candidate will do much to galvanize the party and convert energy into sweeping
victories across U.S. government. In considering this question, it is important to remember that what the Democrats enjoyed in 2006 and 2008 was a real national tide against Republicans, and that’s the sort of thing that is not easily forgotten or abated. For example, when Republicans won back Congress in 1994, they did not lose control of it until 2006, winning the Presidency in 2000. Despite current national troubles and attitudes, the resounding liberal victories of the past few years should not be downplayed or their longevity put to too much questioning. The Democrats will retain control in 2010. There will be no real significant national tide that will change the dynamics of Washington; at the end of the day, Barack Obama will still be President and the Democrats will still be in control of the Senate. That said, Republican victories in 2010 should be cause for liberal concern, for these wins will be indicative of increasing frustration towards the Democratic agenda and the inability of one party to get things done when it controls everything. If the economy is not looking better by 2012, the ripples of anger that emanated in 2010 will manifest themselves in a tidal wave, washing out the liberals and re-establishing Republicans at the helm of government. Luis Martinez ’12 lives in Leverett House. He is the Vice President for Speakers and Political Discourse for the Harvard Republican Club. 10.07.10 • The Harvard Independent
The Assimilation Myth Melting down the melting pot. By RIVA RILEY
— perhaps it never was really alive. People do not expect immigrants to arrive on US soil with plans to join American life and cede their home cultures into the abyss. Diversity is appreciated — considered necessary, even, for a healthy community. People are supposed to celebrate theirA differences and embrace other cultures, to try new food and fashions and watch different kinds of movies, and consider it a noble undertaking for an immigrant to keep their cultures alive in America or wherever they may have settled. After all, why should immigrants give up their cultural identity? Surely it is as ingrained a part of themselves as their pasts. I n f a c t , i t i s n o t . L i t e r a l l y, biologically — their pasts have been recorded in the synapses of their neurons, recorded in minute electrical patterns that cast images in their minds as they dream. Their culture, however, is a different matter entirely. People are social animals, and as a result of this social structure a myriad different cultures have arisen around the world, each having made unique contributions to human knowledge. These cultures seem to have distinguished related groups of people, and have inspired the wars and hatred that go along with the human biological impulse to cherish one’s kin above unrelated others. This, however, does not make the trappings of kin selection special, and in fact, there is no natural criteria that disposes an individual to the traditions of their own culture any he melting pot is dead
The Harvard Independent • 10.07.10
more than cultures practiced by other groups. A Polish woman is no more predisposed to the Polish language as she is to German, Hindi, or French; she only feels more comfortable with Polish because, as a tiny baby, a small child, and a young woman, she spoke and was spoken to in Polish. There is no denying the comfort in that. Familiar environments naturally beget comfort, and people often recognize their cultures as instances in which they felt safe, secure in their place in society. This is critical: as social animals, we need to be involved in society of some sort to feel happy. We need to interact with other humans and engage in the rituals of our kind, and the cultures we were born into provide us with a framework for the way “our” group of people, the people we are most related to and thus care about the most, live — how “our” people talk, what they eat, what they say and do when they are getting married or burying their loved ones. To associate our home culture with safety and the natural order of how things should be carried out is a universal truth of the human mentality. H o w e v e r, i n t h e e r a o f t h e j e t plane, typical human ambition and the unavoidable reality that some places are easier to survive in than others mean that many people have stopped living their entire lives in their home cultures. They leave their homelands to live permanently in places perhaps thousands of miles away, which leads to another typical human problem: a distrust of those who come from different groups, different “tribes” that consist of people less related. It is, actually, a reasonable biological
response to reject outsiders in favor of more related companions, and books upon books have been published recounting the discrimination against all kinds of immigrant groups in any country that receives an appreciable i n f l u x o f i m m i g r a n t s . ( I r o n i c a l l y, the citizens of the USA do not form a related group of kin, but we still behave that way. It’s in our nature). In reality, we are just people living in differently shaped huts and clinging to different gods in the hope that they will save us and keep us alive just a little bit longer. What really saves us, however, is the other people grasping the same random artifacts as us. They are what is ingrained in our natures, and an immigrant should not deprive themselves of that simply because they have come to a new land. For these reasons, I do not believe in the evils of assimilation, the great myth that claims that, in following different customs and traditions in a new place, an immigrant has lost their inalienable, uniquely authentic truth. Their home cultures will persist without them, and of course they can retain and treasure the artistic and experiential value their home cultures imparted on them, and which will remain theirs forever. I mean to say that exile, voluntary or otherwise, is not death, and an immigrant should adapt themselves in whatever extent will make them happiest in their new home. Cultural circumstances have been lost, but new ones can be gained, and perhaps in adapting to new cultural circumstances an immigrant can form more meaningful connections with the people around them. Nowadays, in our almost-enlightened age, people
usually do not reject others because of differing cultural backgrounds. But nobody feels completely like they can relate to someone who follows utterly different traditions and customs than themselves. This is not always necessary for a meaningful connection between people, but in reality, it can create a distance no amount of bonding can close. My last name is Riley. My paternal line has been called Riley for at least three generations, since my greatgrandfather left Ireland. People are comfortable with Riley — it is a nice Irish surname that has existed easily since people stopped hating the Irish immigrants who entered the United States in a wave a hundred years ago. What they don’t call me, however, is my mother’s name, which I also bear as my middle name and which sticks out incongruously from the relaxed, well-worn Riley. This name could be anything, Indonesian, Italian, Israeli, but you could not tell by looking at me (that is why they call me Riley). As Riley, I have watched my mother, who is an immigrant. She bears the Riley name but not its cultural legacy, and endures a struggle, always at the periphery of her thoughts, to fit herself into an American context in which she does not feel she belongs. Her home culture remains to her as a beacon, as a lost salvation that she long ago abandoned and may never reclaim again. I wish I could tell her, could really show her, that maybe, if she only looked away, she wouldn’t miss it quite so much. Riva Riley ’12 (rjriley@fas) will not assimilate without a fight. firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Colbert on immigration. Cause for Celebration By YUYING LUO
C olbert , host of the popular The Colbert Report, is perhaps more famous for his television persona as a right-wing political pundit than his expertise on the plight of migrant farm workers. But Colbert was invited by chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law to share his wisdom on just that last month. If you have not already seen his testimony, you should — it is as worthy of your time as any six-minute YouTube video can be. Stephen Colbert is no stranger to controversy and political gimmicks (remember his run for the Democratic nomination in South Carolina?), and this latest campaign has earned him both praise and criticism. Colbert took part in the United Farm Worker’s “Take Our Jobs” program, which invites ordinary U.S. citizens and legal residents to replace tens of thousands of immigrant field tephen
laborers. The campaign aims to address growing and palpable anti-immigrant sentiment and mobilize support for much-needed immigration reform. Colbert summed up his one-day stint as a farm laborer as “really, really hard.” His testimony, delivered in his trademark deadpan manner, involved golden lines such as suggesting the elimination of fruits and vegetables from our diets to wean America off its dependence on migrant labor and the invention of fruits and vegetables that pick themselves. As usual, Colbert’s brand of humor is not one that is universally appreciated. He has come under fire for making a mockery of the political process and stepping over the line. But let’s face it: no one, not even Representative Zoe Lofgren (who invited him in the first place), expected Stephen Colbert’s testimony to be the deciding factor in Congress’ decision on how to proceed with immigration reform. The reason he was at Capitol Hill is the same as why Nick Jonas was invited to testify on the
Living the DREAM
did a lot of things for the first
time when I was five. I went to the American embassy for the first time. I got my first passport. I went on my first flight. I moved out of my home, and said goodbye to my grandparents. I cried in an airport. The flight took me from Beijing, my birthplace, to Anchorage, Alaska, where my mother and I went through customs — a nice man asked my mom some questions, and I remember trying to give him my best I-didn’t-do-anything-pleaselet-me-go face. In the lane next to ours, an “English only” lane, the customs official was berating another Chinese woman for not knowing about the word “OK.” He was yelling the two letters in her face. Then we were off to New York City. I’ll spare you the details of my first few years in America, but suffice it to say that I remember bringing boxes of toys home from walks down our street the night before trash day, though I never thought that we were poor. I learned to play knock-out and basketball, did well in school, and made swinging from one end of the monkey bars to the other my goal. Twelve years later, I was naturalized in Philadelphia. I took an oath, received a flag, and voted in the elections that November via an absentee ballot from my room Canaday. I’m proud of my Chinese heritage, and I always will be, but I’m now American, in more than just my passport cover. When I go back to China now, the sales girls in flea markets demand to know 6
need for federal funding for diabetes research: both are celebrities who can bring attention to worthy causes, and in Colbert’s case, it is the exploitation of immigrant workers. I am not usually taken with celebrity causes, but Colbert managed to put the spotlight on an issue that was losing its traction in media coverage. The issue at stake is one that is no laughing matter — there are about 2 million farm workers nationwide, the vast majority of whom are undocumented migrant workers. These workers are not granted legal rights and are routinely exploited. It is also abundantly clear that immigrant laborers are the backbone of the America’s agricultural economy. Even in a recession as serious as the one we are currently in, a steady supply of labor cannot be taken for granted. Without serious reform, the domestic agricultural industry faces a real danger of collapsing, with a shift of laborintensive agriculture production to sites offshore.
Stephen Colbert may be prone to histrionics, but if it made a few people — especially members of Congress — uncomfortable about the current state of affairs, then I would say that they were warranted. And among his barbed quips and thinly veiled jabs, some of his words were more profound and valuable than any to have come out of Congress on this issue: “But maybe we could offer more visas to the immigrants who, let’s face it, will probably be doing these jobs anyway. And this improved legal status might allow immigrants recourse if they are abused. And it just stands to reason, to me, that if your coworker can’t be exploited, then you’re less likely to be exploited yourself. And that, itself, might improve pay and working conditions on these farms, and eventually, Americans may consider taking these jobs again.” Colbert makes a good point. Let us hope that Congress heard him. Yuying Luo ’12 (yluo@fas) can occasionally be found down on the farm.
It’s time to embrace the DREAM Act.
By SUSAN ZHU
where I’m from. If I tell them China, they say, “yes, but where are you from?” This is always funny to me, because when I told Parisians that I was American, they asked, “yes, but where are you from?” in a way that indicated they wanted me to name an Asian country. Despite that I remain fluent in Chinese, one of my Chinatown ESL students told me that I don’t sound like I’m from China. I’ve been Americanized — the way I dress, the way I act, the way I think. I can’t help it, and I don’t want to help it. In middle school and high school, when the issue of illegal immigration came up in the news, my reaction was simple and selfish. I came here legally. My parents had to apply, and, thankfully, that nice man in the American embassy let us through. Moving to a new country with a new language wasn’t easy, but my parents worked hard through graduate school, paying off the tuition by working jobs that were well below their intellectual level. The years were full of struggle and challenges, green card applications and naturalization requests, but we did it — the American dream. Why should anybody get a free pass if we had to go through all the bureaucracy? It was the same response as when younger kids asked me why they had to suffer through having a bad Algebra I teacher. “Because I had to, that’s why!” It was a stupid response. The difference between me and an undocumented college student is that I got off a plane in Anchorage and went
through customs. Many undocumented college students came to the United States as children. What did they understand at the age of five? Probably just that they were saying goodbye to their grandparents. Children don’t understand when they’re poor, and they don’t understand when they’re breaking a law. These students have grown up American. They dress American, act American, think American. Their parents have worked hard, and they’ve had to work just as hard as I have to get to where they are today. To deport them to a country that they don’t recognize and that doesn’t recognize them when they could be a making significant positive impact in our country is a cruel waste of talent. The same goes for the brave men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line to in service of this country — their country — the United States of America. Why are we so stubborn as to deny that there is a place in this country for them and for their honorable service? The Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act (DREAM) Act would allow certain undocumented students with good moral character and high school diplomas to go college or enlist in the military and work towards citizenship. They must have entered the United States before the age of 16 and have lived in the US for at least five consecutive years . It allows valuable, talented students, who, aside from their immigration status, have been
law-abiding residents, to stay on and become citizens. When politicians say that all undocumented people have to be deported, because, hey — it’s the law, it reminds me of a psychology study — the one that essentially asks whether it is ever okay for a man to break into a pharmacy to steal the drug that could save his wife. A lot of kids answer no, because that’s the rule, that’s the law. These kids have recently grasped the idea that a rule is meant to be followed at all times. There is no concept of “exception.” But the older we get, the more complicated the story becomes. Would we do it if it were our spouse? Are there exceptions? Could we change the rules so that the man could pay for the drug in increments, and all parties win? Maybe it’s time to change the laws, to make an exception, because America needs all the productive talent and heart it can find. America’s best import has always been people — their minds, their productivity, their innovation, their service, and their bravery. I’m fairly certain that, at one point, even Senator Jim DeMint’s ancestors came from another country. The DREAM Act would ensure that well-deserving youths, instead of getting punished for what they could not help, instead get their chance at fulfilling the American dream. Susan Zhu ’11 (szhu@fas) was wearing red, white, and blue when writing this article. Just so you know. 10.07.10 • The Harvard Independent
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
B(H)ollywood Recalling a golden past. By SAYANTAN DEB
grew up with Bollywood. If you are
already lost, you are not alone — Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize the word either. Bollywood is the Hindi film industry. It makes the highest number of movies annually in the world. Bollywood is named after the city of Bombay (now Mumbai), which is where the industry is located. I learned Hindi watching the colorful musical extravaganzas of Bollywood on the silver screen. I loved the spirit, the songs, the hundreds of extras dancing in perfect unison in the background and the stories that transported me to a world where anything was possible. Like millions of other people, I adored the matinee idols — stars in the true sense of the word. In short, I was just like every other kid of my generation growing up in India. It wasn’t until I moved to the US when I was nine that I started to appreciate Hollywood. It wasn’t that I didn’t have access to Hollywood. There were plenty of theaters in India where Hollywood movies were shown regularly. I just thought the movies were boring. Most movies didn’t have any songs. Also, I was used to movies that had a little bit of everything — comedy, romance, drama, action. Hollywood movies seemed too myopic. Only later did I realize that there were some basic differences in the two types of movie. Bollywood movies — thanks to an intermission — are essentially two-act stories. Hollywood movies usually follow the more ubiquitous three-act structure. The length of Bollywood movies also The Harvard Independent • 10.07.10
require that the stories have a lot more asides, which justifies the presence of comedy, action, romance all in one movie. An interesting aside: when Hollywood movies were longer, they too followed a similar structure (i.e. Gone with the Wind). All of these differences, however, have become increasingly irrelevant. Especially in the past decade, Bollywood has gone through a huge paradigm shift. The mainstream movies have started modeling themselves after their western counterparts. Gone are the days when a fun song and dance sequence would give some relief as the story got intense. There are no more comic characters thrown into the plot for no apparent reason except to make the goings-on funny. The color palette has become subdued (or as I like to put it, boring.) The infamous length of the movies has also been slashed. Most movies now are only two hours long. The storylines have become much more realistic. Melodrama is almost nonexistent, and to my dismay, the stars of my childhood have been relegated to portraying characters, that do not do justice to their largerthan-life personae. On the other hand, the past decade has seen Hollywood become more open to new perspectives. Musicals, which had become essentially nonexistent, suddenly reemerged with successes like Moulin Rouge, Chicago, and more recently, Mamma Mia. The influence of Bollywood has also become more noticeable. Monsoon Wedding, directed by Harvard-educated Mira Nair ’79,
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
was the first Hollywood production to have a Bollywood star cast — the movie featured a song-and-dance number. It might have started out as a small arthouse project, but Monsoon Wedding soon became an international phenomenon. Moulin Rouge, too, featured songs from Bollywood movies in its soundtrack. In 2008, Slumdog Millionaire, another small arthouse movie, struck box office and Oscar gold. The movie had an Indian star cast, many of whom were established Bollywood stars. The movie also featured a soundtrack complete with a song-and-dance number. While the past decade has shown so much integration, reflective of the global culture that we live in, I feel that Bollywood, the object of so much of my nostalgia, is losing its essence. In recent years, I have come to miss the movies that were an escape from reality for me. I miss the movies that gave me hours of entertainment. The largerthan-life characters were the reason that I idolized those stars — their personalities seem too big for their onscreen characters. I miss the music, the energy, and the flamboyance. By being so different from Hollywood, Bollywood created its own niche. I am certain that millions of other fans who grew up with the Bollywood of my childhood are missing it just as badly as I am. Part of the reason for such a change
might be that filmmakers were not given due credit for the movies they made because they weren’t deemed proper “cinema.” They were termed “candy-floss” movies. Even the people of India ridiculed Bollywood because of its over-the-top nature; little did they realize that it was this particular trait that gave Bollywood its own unique voice. It was a statement of style. I hope that the disappearance of those movies will lead people to realize what Bollywood has been missing for the past ten years. I can’t wait for the day when those hundreds of extras don their matching outfits and start dancing in lush green valleys again. I can’t wait for the romantic songs filmed in the scenic locales of Switzerland, and my favorite stars becoming stronger than Superman. Until then, I find hope in the most unexpected of places. Recent trends give me hope that very soon I will find some of my nostalgia realized in movies from this side of the globe. While I would love for Shahrukh Khan (the Bollywood star) to start lip-syncing and dancing around the trees again, I think that it is just as possible that Brad Pitt might just don his Bollywood avatar (not the blue ones) and give us fans exactly what we have been missing — a heart. Sayantan Deb ’14 (sayantandeb@ college) wouldn’t mind doing some singing and dancing himself. email@example.com
Get Outsourced Outta Here TV fails once again at portraying cultural diversity.
By MARC SHI
elevision executives often make
bad choices. Cancelling muchbeloved series, letting shows run far past their prime and very often simply inserting their opinions where they are not needed. Still, it is hard to believe that any rational executive would let something like Outsourced go to air. The new sitcom on NBC follows Todd, a call-center manager, who is relocated by his office to India. In doing so, it makes almost every possible stereotypical, generalizing and demeaning comment about South Asian culture while avoiding being funny or enjoyable in any way. It single-handedly seems to make a giant leap back for diversity in popular media, but at the same time, its (hopefully short-lived) existence casts some light on an ugly little facet of its medium. By looking at various racial representations in television, it becomes clear that, far from being an entirely abnormal show of ignorance, Outsourced is in fact the most egregious example of a general inability of American television to properly represent other cultures. It would be unfair to say that there hasn’t been a real attempt by many creators in television to add people of color to their casts. High profile shows like Glee, Lost and House all have or have had ethnic minorities represented among their leading or major secondary characters; some have even gone the route of Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, and used “color-blind casting”, casting actors regardless of ethnicity. In fact, even those that haven`t necessarily used the tactic generally create characters where race is of no consequence: these 8
characters could be played by actors of any other ethnicity and it simply would not make a difference. And, counter-intuitive as it may be, that is an inherent issue in television’s approach to other cultures. Almost every major ethnic minority character on American television, from Grey’s Anatomy’s Cristina Yang to House’s Lawrence Kutner, seems to come almost wiped clean of any other culture that is not decidedly American. We almost never see characters with anything other than an American accent, and foreign languages, traditions or customs are rarely if ever portrayed in more than passing mention. The vast majority of ethnic characters seem to be written as American-born or otherwise entirely integrated into American (or at least Western) society — Kutner’s case is particularly notable, as, though of Indian descent, he is written as having been adopted by a Jewish family at the age of six, thus eliminating any need to delve into Indian culture (nor is there any further development of his adopted Jewish background after that first mention). The only exception to this lack of cultural representation is in the form of comic relief, where traditions, accents or other indications of ethnic otherness can be used for humour: Gloria’s mentions of her Colombian background in Modern Family and Apu’s accent in the Simpsons are both striking (and at times uncomfortable) examples of this. The fact remains that much as we might see increased diversity in terms of casting and races represented on screen, there is still a distinct lack of thoughtful portrayals of any culture other than Western.
There is a line of reasoning that would have no problem with this, and this seems to be the reasoning that guides portrayals of ethnicity on television. And, in fact, it is a fairly attractive point of view to take. Shouldn’t all people of all races be treated equally anyway? Shouldn’t we be entirely color-blind, look beyond any racial and cultural differences and see each other as simply human? So, shouldn’t a character’s ethnicity not matter? Unfortunately, while fundamentally admirable, the idea of color-blindness does not work to promote acceptance or diversity in the way that it hopes to. Because while sweeping aside racial and cultural differences is tempting, the truth is that ethnicity — whether we embrace it or reject it — plays some part in each of our identities. Who a person — or a character — is, then, does in fact involve their cultural background and how that informs their experiences. Color blindness does not prevent those differences from existing; it only prevents them from being noticed and ultimately confuses that lack of acknowledgement with true acceptance. Unfortunately, as television shows so aptly, disregarding those differences, working under that pretence of acceptance contributes to an overall lack of understanding of other cultures, making underrepresentation and misrepresentation that much more common. Which brings us back to Outsourced. Throughout the thirty minute pilot, viewers are subjected to ‘jokes’ concerning the wearing of hijabs and turbans (grouped together in one quick statement), the idea of cows
being sacred, the effects of Indian food — essentially every tired cliché that exists about Indian and South Asian culture. The show also sees fit to show an Indian character in awe of American romantic conventions, dating being, of course, an entirely novel concept to young Indians. While it must be said that the writers make some attempt to also comment on the ridiculousness of American customs, the general sense — largely created by the Indian characters’ fascination with American culture — is of a clear and disturbing dichotomy: American is what you want to be, and everything else is just a little bit weird. In all its offensive glory, Outsourced serves as an example of how popular media develops its depictions of other cultures and how that it needs to change. It simply is not good enough to push aside all differences in the hope of giving a sense of acceptance or tolerance. It is not difficult to accept something that you’ve made to be just like you. Nor is it in any way acceptable to play up cultural differences as a way of generating humor. Poking fun at the unfamiliar is not funny. The real work comes in acknowledging the existence and complexity of those differences, and portraying them thoughtfully and respectfully. It is only in this way that we’ll see characters on television that are neither entirely defined by their ethnicity nor isolated from it. We’ll see characters that deal with issues that arise from their cultural differences as one inescapable facet of their lives. In short, we’ll see people. Marc Shi ’14 (mshi14@college) is trying to spread multiculturalism. 10.07.10 • The Harvard Independent
Facebook’s dramatic history...
It's Complicated ...unraveling on the big screen. By WHITNEY LEE
tanding in a line stretched
down Church Street, I waited expectantly in a crowd of latenight moviegoers clamoring to have the unique experience of watching the much-anticipated blockbuster film, The Social Network, at the place where it all began… Harvard University. Facing three separate sold-out screenings, I and the other movie patrons stood outside on one of the first nights in October attempting to gain entrance. Watching people spill into the narrow street made me even more determined to get in and to find out what could possibly draw people, conceivably busy undergrads and Cambridge residents, out of their dorms and houses in the middle of the night. I needed to know. As an interpretation of the rise of Mark Zuckerberg ’04 as the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, The Social Network gives a mostly dramatized account of Zuckerberg’s creation of Facebook, a website familiar to practically all college students, especially to Harvard students. The film, adapted from Ben Mezrich’s novel The Accidental Billionaires and directed by David Fincher, takes viewers from Facebook’s humble beginnings in Zuckerberg’s Kirkland House dorm room to all of the legal issues that resulted from Facebook’s creation. The two parties shown in direct opposition of Zuckerberg’s creation of Facebook are the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler ’04, along with their partner Divya Narendra ’04, who claimed ownership of the idea of Facebook, and Zuckerberg’s partner (and best friend) Eduardo Saverin ‘06, who was a Harvard junior at the time of the site’s creation. Laden with Harvard references, the film makes Harvard students feel perfectly at home. These references include, but are not limited to, the naming and discussion the final clubs, the naming of the The Harvard Independent • 10.07.10
upperclassmen houses and the mention of several student groups including the Association of Black Harvard Women (ABHW), Fuerza Latina and the Harvard Investment Association. Harvard students get the unique opportunity of watching an interpretation of how others, namely the writer, the director and the production company perceive us… though the interpretation is ultimately very unflattering. Fincher shows Harvard students as bored, hormone-ravaged young adults lacking in forethought. His
students, the viewer is bombarded with a series stereotypes of final clubs, which only serve to further the anti-final clubs sentiment that was recently enflamed by an op-ed written last year in The Harvard Crimson. Though it is sad to see yet another pot-shot taken at final clubs, Fincher and Mezrich can be excused for this considering\ Zuckerberg’s widely-
"Harvard women are shown as opportunistic and men as glad-handing sycophants bowing to the social supremacy of Zuckerberg, looking to capitalize on his overnight success." film asserts that the lives of Harvard students revolve around senseless debauchery and that academics take a back seat to our overtly sexual, wildly exaggerated social lives. Things become even worse after Zuckerberg’s initial success with Facebook (at that time still called “The Facebook”), at which point Harvard women are shown as opportunistic and men as glad-handing sycophants bowing to the social supremacy of Zuckerberg, looking to capitalize on his overnight success. Following the demeaning shots of Alpha Epsilon Pi and the unflattering portrayal of Asian female
known negative opinion of final clubs that provided the initial drive for Zuckerberg to create the website. Almost everyone receives a raw deal in terms of on-screen representation, but the bulk of the negativity is directed towards the Winklevoss twins, Divya Narendra and the final clubs that have become an integral part of the Harvard experience. This anti-final clubs sentiment extends into the blatant criticism of the Winklevoss Twins (alternately ref erred t o a s t he Wink le v oss brothers), who are both members of The Porcellian Club. The brothers,
both top rowers on the Harvard varsity crew team and eventual Olympians, are shown as the intellectual architects of Facebook. The film shows the Winklevoss brothers as the victims in the situation while Zuckerberg strings them along on empty promises for the better part of two months, using that time to set up Facebook. The two are shown as being the victims of circumstance and of the administration that did little to settle their dispute with Zuckerberg. As for Zuckerberg himself, Fincher shows him as a selfish, manipulative young man doggedly chasing the idea of social betterment. Though Fincher does celebrate his genius in demonstrating the flaws of Harvard’s online security and his brilliance in writing the code for Facebook in such a short amount of time, it also shows Zuckerberg as duplicitous, lacking interpersonal skills and recklessly irreverent towards the idea of intellectual property. For those who know nothing of Zuckerberg, the film gives an overtly negative picture of the man. Though the film was mostly a dramatization, full of factual inaccuracies and affected dialogue, it was definitely worthwhile as the first film of the fall season to draw crowds out en masse. The Social Network is the end result of Fincher’s creative license in taking the story of Zuckerberg and Saverin’s creation of Facebook – the actual facts of which will probably remain unknown – and making it into a wholly entertaining film. Whitney Lee ’14 (whitneylee@college) may or may not be hatching out the next great idea in social networking from her dorm room… firstname.lastname@example.org
Dressing the World
A month of beauty.
By ZENA MENGESHA and SCHUYLER POLK
world, as it brings together the most creative minds from all points of the globe for one sole purpose — to define what everyone will wear the following spring. During the month of September, Fashion Week kicks off in New York City, crosses the pond to London, veers south to Milan, and closes in Paris, allowing designers from all points of the globe to put their best stiletto-clad foot forward. During MercedesBenz Fashion Week in New York City, Diane von Furstenburg’s “Goddess” 2011 readyto-wear collection was punchy, bright, and had fantastic energy. Long-limbed models walked with a gorgeous magenta painted lip and sophisticated blouse, skirt, and short combinations. Both draping and tailoring were drawn together by DVF’s saturated jewel Yannis Vlamos/GORUNWAY.COM tones and intricate prints, inspired by Greek mythology. New to the design team, Frechman Yvan Mispelaere brought a “noticeable new polish” to the line, according to Style.com correspondent Nicole Phelps. Hailing from Katmandu, Prabal Gurung has made his American influence quite clear in his Spring 2011 ready-to-wear collection. Celebrating the “heritage of American fashion,” Gurung was extremely conscious of the use of shape and color, and manipulated both in his collection to create a modern and sleek aesthetic. Beginning with a series of color-blocked turquoise, tangerine, and golden yellow sheaths, the collection got the audience energized for spring. As it advanced, the focus became an accentuated waistline combined with muted whites, creams, and beiges. Upon close observation, Gurung’s perfectionism is obvious — each layer of fabric is merged through “handdone fusing” instead of pressing. Another noticeable detail: each of his pieces are mid-calf length, showing off shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood’s latex and leather platform stilettos, inspired by African tribal necklaces. 10
Donna Karan hopes to “allow a woman to come out as a woman,” in her Spring 2011 show titled “Raw Romance.” Her palette of beige, cream, gold and sand, Monica Feudi/GORUNWAY.COM fused with the use of organic linen, came together beautifully on the runway. Against a backdrop of delicate yet imperfect crumpled paper, the Donna Karan woman walked with elegance, poise, and grace that could only derive from the ethereal draping techniques utilized by Karan. Drawing influence from photographs of Nineties icons Kate Moss and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, Narciso Rodriguez’s Spring 2011 collection found the perfect midpoint between nostalgia and modernity. An element of sensuality was created by the simplicity of his designs and his focus on the colors cream, black, red, and white. Models were sent down the runway swathed in bias-cut silk, a wisp of fabric trailing behind each of them, accentuating Narciso’s fascination with feminine ease and grace. The plunging neckline were made elegant Monica Feudi/GORUNWAY.COM by a thin fleshtoned panel that leaves the feminine form mysterious. Leaf prints on the fabrics were “decolorized” to leave a “memory” of the print, just as Narciso’s 2011 collection left an imprint on the audience’s mind.
way that was, as designer Ghesquière said, “…a reaction to a certain kind of sexiness."
Balenciaga …put a new spin on punky menswear-inspired pieces. We were intrigued by the dark faux leather that was almost plastic. Dresses were black, red, and dark blue, very graphic and geometric in a
As fashion lovers from all over the world wrap up another fantastic season, we leave never satiated, but inspired and hungry for more. Perhaps the most fantastic aspect of Fashion Week around the world is its power to unite us, not just in our appreciation for the beauty that we have seen, but also the creativity from which it stems. September may be over, but all that means is that a whirlwind of new ideas is waiting to take shape.
Dolce and Gabbana Who knew lace doilies could look this good? D&G put on a show that was sweet without being sugary. Following what seemed to be a “whiteout” theme for New York Fashion Week in general, they stuck to a simple whiteheavy color palette that showcased the intricate designs and fantastic craftsmanship. Unlike some of the more bizarre ideas that spiral out of fashion week, these pieces were pretty, restrained and definitely ready-to-wear. Band of Outsiders …a vaguely preppy brand with which we were unfamiliar that has totally charmed us from here on out. The biggest draw is the youthfulness inherent in the brand (see: pajamas under suit coats.) Other themes include rolled trousers, bleached plaids, and the general pretentiousness of pretending to be unassuming amidst maroon, blue and faded canaryyellow.It’seasytoimagine these looks on bored prepsters three days into a boat trip.
Courtesy of Lyn Devon
eptember is a fantastic month for the fashion
Courtesy of Band of Outsiders
Lyn Devon The first thing that came to mind when we looked at this collection was “business casual is actually interesting.” The collections included a lot of blacks and creams, small polka dots, and clean-cut shapes, all with cute and playful undertones in the structures. Much of it was menswearinspired and dreamy yet polished. The Lyn Devon woman is a classy throwback with a youthful touch.
Zena Mengesha ’14 (mengesha@college) and Schuyler Polk ’14 (schuylerpolk@college) will keep a few lasting impressions themselves. 10.07.10 • The Harvard Independent
Not Suitable for Children The controversy over buzkashi. By CHRISTINE WOLFE
United States went to war with Afghanistan, and as a child, I imagined the country as one pervaded with violence and oppression, a vast and unforgiving desert surrounding tiny hamlets. This image was created primarily by the horror of the September 11th attacks and the media’s portrayals of life in Afghanistan. Of course, Afghanistan is not the country rife with bloodshed and sexism that we picture in the first world. Or is it? It’s not only foreign governments who raise the aforementioned question in regards to the polity of Afghanistan — international observers of the sport buzkashi debate the subject as well. Buzkashi — the national sport of Afghanistan — has returned to its former popularity in the years after the fall of the Taliban (it was banned during the extremist government’s reign). Buzkashi has received attention from both critics and supporters of the Afghan way of life; its potential for causing controversy cannot be denied, as the game is less than appetizing. Buzkashi is a game popular in many parts of Central Asia, including Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan. There are two forms of the game, but both involve a similar setup: the athletes — called chapandaz — ride on horseback around a field towards a goal. The setup is similar to polo, but instead of using a ball, the players’ object of interest is a decapitated goat carcass. Ideally, the players use the disemboweled body of a calf, which tends to disintegrate less easily than that of a goat, but goats are more easily acquired. The players’ object is to grab the goat, ride around a pole at one end of the field, and bring the carcass back to a chalk circle in the middle of the field. As simple as this may sound, the harsh whipping of the other players complicates the potential for victory. The rules of buzkashi was eight years old when the
The Harvard Independent •10.07.10
state that chapandaz may only whip the other players’ horses but must avoid injuring the actual players, though whether or not this rule is actually followed is probably not strictly regulated. It is common for horses — and their riders — to tumble outside the bounds of the field amidst the chaos of the game, sending the (all-male) audience running to avoid the careening equines. Buzkashi, as all Afghans know, is not for the faint of heart. For the dedicated followers of the sport, buzkashi represents the bravery and the strength of the Afghan man. The win is likened to a victory in battle in which the chapandaz are fierce warriors, and the victors are highly respected. It has been said that it would be better to shoot a chief in the face than to tell him that his horse was weak. In addition, buzkashi is often a battleground for enemies to compete and show their dominance. The sport has a fervent following of men of all ages, likely due to the fact that buzkashi reflects the values that the men of Afghanistan have long revered in their culture: the man who is victorious is analogous to the strongest man, the fiercest warrior, and the bravest leader. Outside of Central Asia, however, the fan base of buzkashi is not quite as strong. Besides the fact that cultures not familiar with the sport are — to say the least — uncomfortable with using a decapitated goat carcass for sport as well as flagellation of the players’ horses, buzkashi, for some, is a microcosm of what is wrong with Middle Eastern culture. Critics of the sport agree with supporters that buzkashi is a representation of Afghan values, but to the critics, the values that buzkashi highlights are those of brutality, chauvinism, and extremism. One could only imagine the response from the American public if a sport similar to buzkashi were to be played in the United States — PETA would not be the only group in strident opposition.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
This idealistic barrier is what the Afghan buzkashi committees are trying to overcome in the process of vying for buzkashi’s recognition as an Olympic sport. Some outsiders may view this goal as completely ludicrous, as not only would the international community not support the violence inherent to the sport, but also, as a sport that precludes women from even being spectators, it would be impossible to place on the world stage. The committees fighting to bring buzkashi to the international level have made some concessions, including agreeing to use a dummy carcass instead of a “live” goat if it would pacify the international spectrum. However, many sports officials do not see buzkashi joining the ranks of gymnastics and beach volleyball in the next Olympic season — it is simply too controversial in its nature as well as in its country of origin. In the current state of xenophobia and raging anti-Islamic sentiment, buzkashi does not stand a chance of becoming a more widely distributed sport. Additionally, one must ask how much a culture with such a strong and long-lasting identity would concede simply to please the delicate sensibilities of the First World. Christine Wolfe ’14 (crwolfe@college) thinks that there should be a difference between “goading” an opponent and “goating” an opponent. email@example.com
captured & shot
By PATRICIA FLORESCU
Published on Oct 7, 2010