Empowerment, not emasculation

If India could survive Alexander, it can survive Disney. The foreign adventures of "High School Musical," continued

Published August 20, 2008 5:26PM (EDT)

Sometimes a comment from a reader is better than the blog post that inspired it. Case in point, sundari's post in response to yesterday's "High School Bollywood Musical," titled "Indian does NOT equal "exotic."

If Disney is out to subjugate India, it's also subjugating all of us. It's what massive corporations do, isn't it?

Let's not confuse a Bollywood High School Musical adaptation with Said's "Orientalism." While Disney may be purely out to make a buck (or several billion, as the case may be), the central message of HSM is about empowerment and being yourself, not the common Orientalist themes of emasculation, domination and subservience. If anything, this project would help improve the perception of India by young people in the US. Not to mention that the storyline of HSM is practically lifted right out of a Bollywood script anyway, so it's a perfect match, only now it has much better music. Ha!

I'm also a little taken aback by the apparent labeling of all things Indian as "exotic." Indian music has been part of the musical landscape in the West for a long, long time, and bhangra has infused hip-hop with its complex rhythms for at least a couple of decades now. India has for millenia influenced cultures throughout the world, as well as incorporated and absorbed various modes of expression from the cultures it has come into contact with. Indian pop music now is such a hybrid of East and West, it's sometimes impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends. I'd say to anyone: if you can't get past the Hindi, that's your problem!

Let's face it -- India has become and is becoming part of the global conversation and cultural landscape on every level.

And if India could survive Alexander, the Romans, the Mughals, and the Brits, it'll certainly survive Disney.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Disney Globalization How The World Works India