Aliens in America

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

The CW's new sitcom Aliens in America takes a crack at the heightened cultural tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim communities in America post-9/11. It's Borat, light. I find myself naturally and unapologetically laughing at the parodied stereotypes. And then the guilt sets in: why is this funny and what purpose does it serve? That's when I came across Eboo Patel's blog post "'Aliens in America' About All of Us" on his Washington Post blog The Faith Divide. He presents a complicated view of the cultural politics involved in the show, and sheds light on the notion of what's really "alien" in America. And I finally realized that what I'm laughing at is the inherent ridiculousness — nay, the inanity — of mistreating others simply because they're different. This is a show that pushes us to places that are uncomfortable, and sometimes that's precisely what's necessary in order to gain a modicum of self-awareness. Do you feel like an "alien" in your own neighborhood? What are the cultural divides you face? And how do you try to bridge the disconnect? Tell us your thoughts. And you can continue the conversation with Eboo and others on the Interfaith Youth Core blog.

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I apprecieated the comment made by the guest who was speaking about personal relationships and perceptions of spirituality or anything else being different for everyone. I have a quote from Gandhi regarding that idea perfectly:
"There is one top of the mountain, but as many paths up the mountain as people traveling." So everyone travels differently - no two people can choose the same path (everyone has their own perception)

Sent by Tyler Suter | 2:56 PM | 10-15-2007

I deal regularly with the Pakistani community in the Philadelphia area and can definitely say that the majority who come from Pakistan do NOT experience such great culture shock as portrayed on the show Aliens. The majority come from middle or upper class and already have family members here (so wouldn't need to come through any type of sponsorship program). Also most come from the larger cities in Pakistan that have been greatly influenced by western culture, so are not shocked greatly by American lifestyle.

If the producers really wanted to show 'culture shock' between an 'ethnic muslim' and Americans they should have selected another country - such as one of the Former Soviet Republics like Kyrygstan, or maybe Brunei or Mauritania. Most Americans have probably never even heard of these countries, much less met someone from there.

And from my experience with several programs for international students I would say that very few students from those countries have ever come to the USA to study. While the Pakistani community is one of the largest muslim populations in the USA. So it is obvious the real reason for making the character Pakistani is to try to increase the viewing and rating #s by selecting a muslim group with a large population already here.

I would also say the show Aliens so far has totally presented the "average" Pakistani youth WRONG bigtime! I wonder if any Pakistani's or muslims were involved in the development or as writers for the show? In fact, the majority of Pakistani Muslims I know are not happy with the way Pakistan or Islam is presented on the show and find it offensive.

So I watched the few times so far to see if anything of quality with true cultural value can actually still be produced and get good ratings anymore. How naive of me to assume that is the purpose of tv anymore! To me the show proves no one in the tv industry wants either or thinks their audience is worth producing such a show for anymore. I'll stick to C-SPAN, NPR/WHYY or a good book before I ever watch the Alien fiasco again!

Sent by Nabeela | 5:11 PM | 10-16-2007

I was listening to the "Aliens in America" broadcast over the web on 10/21/2007 and I was struck by Eboo Patel's suggestion that we look for those elements that are common instead of those that are divisive. It caused me to remember that -- when I was an adolescent -- I identified myself as Welsh. Not violently so, but simply as a way to distinguish myself from everybody else -- to identify myself as at least somewhat special. That made me wonder how many other people -- young or old -- cling to a cultural or ethnic identity in order to identify themselves even if clinging to that identity is ultimately self-destructive?

Sent by Evan | 7:31 PM | 10-21-2007