No Love for the 'Guru'

Mike Myers stars in 'The Love Guru.'

Mike Myers stars in The Love Guru. Paramount Pictures hide caption

toggle caption Paramount Pictures

If everybody loves a lover, how come there's so much hate floating around for Mike Myers' not-even-opened-yet new film The Love Guru? The fear from some in the Hindu community is that the film is nothing but a collection of tired stereotypes about their faith.

If you've seen the trailer, you get the concern. Long hair? Check. Brightly colored clothes? Check. Hippie sensibility that makes the Grateful Dead look like Republican lobbyists? Check.

Despite all that, the film certainly isn't as offensive as it could be. Myers doesn't play a Near Easterner, but rather a white guy who was raised in the Near East. Naturally, he becomes an accent-laden dispenser of Hindu-like philosophy because that's all the Near East has to offer. This, in some ways, is progress from the character — or caricature — Hrundi V. Bakshi, played by Peter Sellers in the 1968 film The Party. But is that enough to keep The Love Guru from being offensive?

The answer to that depends on whether the film is funny. Insightful funny would be nice. Clever funny. But if we learned anything from Borat — or, more rightly, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan — there's nothing like a busted gut to make one kick their PC-ness to the curb.

But the bigger issue with The Love Guru isn't whether it mocks or traffics in stereotypes — most comedies do — but rather that there's nothing for it to stand in relief against. Other than Kumar escaping from Gitmo with Harold, The Love Guru is probably going to be the only "mainstream" Near Easterner Hollywood introduces us to this year. And it's when we get only one type of image that the image becomes a stereotype — not doctors or lawyers or folks just trying to find money enough in their household budget to pay for gas, but rather high-toned philosophers in Nehru jackets. If it's played smartly — which ultimately The Love Guru might be — I think we can take that. But while you're at it, Hollywood, give us some variations on the theme, as well.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

I enjoy reading your insights. Today I found myself thinking,"What's wrong with Sir Ben Kingsley's playing Ghandi?"
I feel like I must be missing something. Ghandi? The movie moved me. Is it that Sir Ben Kingsley is not an Indian that makes it offensive? I am willing to think about it, but the message I took from the movie is that non-violence is a hard path, but the right path to achieve true progress. Ghandi introduced me to new ways of looking at things. I often find myself thinking, "poverty is the worst form of violence." I may not have become enamored of Ghandi had it not been for the the popular, if imperfect movie. I think Sir Ben Kingsley is a fine actor.

Sent by Leanne Goldberry | 12:24 PM | 6-19-2008

My wife and I saw most of "Love Guru"
and were disgusted with the continual array of fecal matter,urine,
flatulating, and nose picking. The characters played games with this filth, all of which was touted as high humor. It is a sad day when respected TV
programs,e.g. Oprah, advertise and support Myers's selling this sorry,
trash, masquerading as humor. Also, how could Ben Kingsley take part in this?!

Sent by Clay Graves | 4:19 PM | 6-20-2008

The Near East is a term usually referring to Turkey, Georgia, Armenia -- and sometimes the more Western portions of the so-called Middle East (Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon).

The Near East never refers to India, as it is used in this editorial. Just say India, Indian, Hindu, the Subcontinent. It is in no way the Near East.

Sent by Devi Bhakta | 12:00 PM | 6-22-2008

Ben Kingsey's father was Indian.

Sent by MilesEllison | 8:49 PM | 6-22-2008

Ben Kingsley's name was Krishna Banji before he changed it.

Sent by Phillip Bruce | 5:55 PM | 7-25-2008

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from