Rants, Feelings & Opinions

“I’m SO Into Brown Boys. I Know… Weird!”

June 13, 2016
Aziz-Ansari

In films and on TV, it’s extremely rare to see a brown guy portrayed as sexy, or playing the love interest. Instead, he’s usually nerdy AF or blowing something up. Myisha Soraya discusses why this is fucking annoying.

“Ever noticed that George Clooney is like, the optimum reddition of a Pakistani uncle? He’s sexy. He’s got that cool sexy look thing that older guys have. Silver fox. I’d fuck him. Literally! He seriously looks too brown, it’s insane. Just examine him, closely.” I’ve heard this before. It’s kind of a running half-joke in select Pakistani Twitter circles, and habitually breaches cyberspace to nudge scoffs into casual conversation. As in, this conversation.

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We know. Clooney does, in certain contexts or color contrasts, resemble a Pakistani uncle. It’s unsettling, because allure and uncles *audible shudder* aren’t complementary subjects. Uncle Clooney raises eyebrows, and gives real Pakistani uncles a sudden, mysteriously sourced (read: Hollywood aesthetics, money, prestige, hairstyle) sexy edge to them. Which is cool, but foreign, when you consider that the media almost never portrays Middle Eastern and South Asian men as being sexy. Though they are a strong population in the places where many films and TV shows are set, their characters are often written as stiflingly unoriginal “brown man” tropes. They are undesirable, unrelatable, or just invisible. Though brown women also assume token roles, “progressive” shows like New Girl and Quantico include Indian (America’s Favorite Brown Identity) women who do not have brown guys’ exaggerated uneasiness towards sex and sexuality.

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Films and TV communicate, generally, a guy many contemporary Middle Eastern/South Asian guys don’t get. This guy is predictable. An Indian/half-Maori actor plays him, or a tanned YT, and he’s unhygienic looking (!!!), or aggressively stringent, and socially devoid AF. The same on-screen fate is real tru for other South Asian/Middle Eastern guys – entertainment just doesn’t paint them the way it may paint other races. There is no Pakistani equivalent to the Australian outdoorsman “hunk!” or “hunky!” African American cop.

Obviously: dated news. Seriously – whatever. Few Netflix n Chillers expect brown men to actually show up in their favorite TV shows, and fewer would dream of them as love interests—!problematic!—eye candy, or sexy uncles. The brown guys we’re used to seeing are oversimplified nerds, laughable tokens, or Homelandesque terrorists. In my experience, many Pakistani guys literally expect to see themselves “blowing shit up” – in the worst way. This trope, the sinister brown terrorist guy, is now just as recognizable as the weirdo brown nerdy guy. Remember The Madarin (why is he named that…) in Iron Man 3? He is, no surprise, ethnically ambiguous. But many people just assumed that he was Middle Eastern, because the word “terrorist” was used, and because he was Ben Kingsley.

Ben-Kingsley-as-the-Mandarin-in-Iron-Man-3Dangerously “exotic” !!!

In media, minorities are stereotyped, tokenized. It is vvv known. Still, it’s a fucked scene. Brown guys are never sexy villains or attractive store clerks or dishy doctors or fuckable accountants (?!). Recalling a successful love interest played by a brown guy is hard, because they are extremely rare.

So, on another day, I’m sitting with another friend. We just met, and I’m just showing her all the pictures in my phone because that’s… a bonding thing. Between gallery slides, she zooms into a picture of my Pakistani friend. My friend squeals and says, “Yes! I love him. I’m so into Middle Eastern boys. I know… weird. Can you please introduce! us?”

Cool. Weird? I didn’t really know.

Middle Eastern/South Asian women occasionally encounter, in North America, the ancient YT call of “exotic, exotic” – it’s a problematic tradition. It happens tho, and its crusty aura fades… eventually. For men, it can veer towards the opposite. Women who want to be perceived sexually may melt into the mould of Cece from New Girl, while men become… Silicon Valley’s Dinesh – an engaging take on a familiar character. Although he possesses a sexuality, he has yet to successfully be sexual, or flirt with someone IRL.

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He fucked here, though. But this was not a real-life fuck… Promise.

My high school friend, a Pakistani guy, understands this unfamiliar double-standard. When I low-key quipped about being “exotic” in North America, he laughed, “I wish people thought I was ‘exotic’ man… Like obviously people think I’m cool when they talk to me. But some people are so emo. They’re influenced by Homeland or something. It’s weird. I’m from Pakistan… apparently that makes you interesting. It makes me scary or like a… fuck, lol, multi-wife-beater, to v ignorant people.”

What makes South Asian/Middle Eastern men unable to have sexualities onscreen? The rare sexually appealing (read: as framed by the showrunners) men are often rooted deep in a cultural community (as in, further unable to breach white oriented A.K.A. peak culture/hipness/success) or involved in marriage antics. Think the recent The Mindy Project episode, where Mindy goes on a date with another Indian guy – only to find out that she’s “not Indian enough” to date him. When she attempts to kiss him, he doesn’t reciprocate. His role changes from Possible Lover to Helpful Friend, as he spends the rest of the episode showing Mindy what “being Indian means” to him.

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Recently, American TV and film has adopted a sassy, sexuality-infused, and successful expression of brown women (Quantico). Alex Parrish, a promising FBI recruit, is framed as an attractive person with assured sexual agency. However, brown men who have childlike/suppressed sexual desires prevail. Raj from The Big Bang Theory, an offensively underdeveloped character, can’t talk to women without drinking. Danny Desai was hot, but psychotic on Twisted. In Master of None, Aziz Ansari’s character Dev portrayed a cool, NYC-culture aware brown guy with a pretty normal/relatable sexuality. Aziz Ansari also produced the show. Also, Danny and Dev are both Indian. The elusive Pakistani, Irani, or Afghani (etc.) man with a 2016 take on sexuality is impossibly invisible.

Pakistani soaps, where sexuality is more of an undertone, is populated with attractively framed men. Hot local celebrities influence pop culture. Sexy men are in Pakistan, and all over South Asian and the Middle East. They exist because sexy men exist everywhere in the world.

Humsafar-Ashar

Yoooo ;)

Still, internationally popular media (usually English-speaking) is massively influential. When Zayn Malik became a sensation, I was caught in conversations which began with, “Zayn Malik convinced me that Pakistani guys could actually be hot.”

zmEthnic Edgy Non-Terrorist babe…!!

Worldwide, Malik’s 1D coated fame gave young Pakistani men an arguable extra layer. Is it a coincidence that most Pakistani guys I know literally hate being associated with him?

People are into South Asian/Middle Eastern men, but the media people consume isn’t. Forces of entertainment propel ideas into existence, and I more-than-existentially dread a future where the sexuality of an entire race’s gender is either dysfunctional or invisible. I dream of a Brighter Tomorrow, where the Middle Eastern/South Asian fuccboi is a celebrated stereotype, and Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t play the Prince of Persia.

Myisha Soraya is a freelance writer, photographer, and Film and Media student based in Ontario, Canada. 

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