I usually look forward to movie trailers, and a new flick from Mike Myers’ would generally spark my curiosity. Wayne’s World will always be a childhood favorite, and I was greatly entertained and impressed with Myers’ versatility in all the Austin Powers’ movies, despite having some trouble with his degree of grossout humor. As a fan of non-PC humor, I have to give the man props for his extraordinary capacity for offensive silliness.
This time however, the look on my face as the trailer for The Love Guru came on was obvious enough for my friend Jon to lean over and whisper, "I’m sorry, we Americans are crude and ignorant." I’m not sure whether my South Asian ethnicity lies at the root of my disgust. I love Brown-bashing stand-up ala Russel Peters, and am a huge (though guilty) fan of Apu Nahasaplemapetilon Jr., the owner of the Kwik-e-Mart on The Simpsons with the accurately horrific accent. I can take a little South Asian bashing. This, however, stepped over some invisible line that I didn’t even know existed.
Mike Myers plays Guru Pitka, an American boy abandoned by missionaries in a rural town in India and raised by a guru. Myers is dressed in a bright orange Hare Krishna-esque robe and
sports long hippie-hair, a Jesus beard and a wreath of marigolds as he travels to America to be the next big thing. He begins by distributing nuggets of sexual genius that make an Italian-American Justin Timberlake gyrate luridly in boxer-briefs and a mullet. Pitka gives an emptily gazing Jessica Alba (isn’t she always?) nuggets of philosophy from the wall of a truck stop bathroom (because there are lots of gas station delis off the highways of rural India carrying coffee and Pop ‘Ems) to the sounds of a classical sitar riff. Oh, and he makes his way around the U.S on a flamboyantly decorated elephant. ‘Cause you know, that’s how Indians roll.
I know better than to expect accuracy and cultural sensitivity from a Mike Myers movie, but I expected a little more courage. Not only is the film essentially a repeat of Daisy von Scherler’s 2002 romantic comedy The Guru, in which Jimmy Mistry plays an Indian dance instructor who comes to the U.S. and manipulates New Age fads and the marketability of cultural exoticism to become a famous phony sex guru, but it falls short of it. Not that Scherler did a magnificent job, but the film had the decency to be reflexive enough to expose the U.S.-centric view of exoticism in which it participated. I never thought I’d say this, but it seems to me that Myers is simply pussy-footing around.
From what I gather from the trailer, which features little to no plot but lots of quirky shots of Guru Pitka/Meyers, the film doesn’t have the balls to come right out and be insulting (like Borat). Instead it uses gibberish names for towns and people, while continuing to utilize all the tropes of multicultural kitsch to squeeze them for their box office fat. The Western world’s recent interest in the Indian subcontinent served, badly and carelessly, as a prop to Myers’ brand new character; Guru Pitka is either too blatant or not blatant enough to be responsibly self aware of his exploitative nature.
Perhaps I am less un-PC-friendly than I thought, or have questioned my standards after the appearance and controversy over Hindu gods on toilet seats and the symbol for Allah on the back of a Nike shoe, but as it stands, I think I may have to sit this Myers flick out and save myself some eye-rolling.