No Love for the 'Guru' : The Visible Man If everybody loves a lover, how come there's so much hate floating around for Mike Myers' new film The Love Guru? It needs to be insightfully funny in order to overcome controversy over its Hindu stereotypes.
NPR logo No Love for the 'Guru'

No Love for the '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.