Admittedly, I’m a few years late on this one: the independent film Outsourced came out in 2006, long before NBC turned it into a TV series in October of last year. Still, of all the films I watched on Netflix last week while drifting in and out of the flu and consciousness, this one is most worthy of note.
The day I watched Outsourced, I’d already had a bad experience with another West versus East movie. No offense to funny man Albert Brooks, but Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World was cheap, superficial, and without revelation or redemption in the sense that absolutely nothing of note happened. There were no lessons learned on behalf of the characters—which is fine, since this in itself can be a lesson for the audience—except there was no such lesson for the audience, either. I’d been hoping for a sort of mockumentary, but the film was a mere string of feeble attempts at intellectual stimulation, story, and embarrassed chuckles.
Since the TV show inspired by the movie had received lukewarm reviews to boot, I was not looking forward to Outsourced. Still, my live-in boyfriend misses India dearly—he spent a month there in 2006—and he insisted we at least give Outsourced a shot.
The Plunge into Outsourced
From the get-go, the characters of Outsourced are compelling. Todd Anderson is the only person on the floor of his building with a job after his boss outsources the department to India, where Todd must then go to train his affable and motivated (and absolutely adorable) replacement, Puro. Like Puro, the call center is confused and eager to get going but with no idea how. Todd looks down his nose at the workplace and his tongue-tied employees until lovely and outspoken Asha (played by Ayesha Dharker) suggests that before trying to make Americans out of Indians, Todd should learn about what makes India tick. A romance inevitably ensues, but not of the predictable, Sandra Bullock sort of vein.
Most Americans find it terribly easy to become offensive when frustrated to hear an Indian accent on the other end of their call to buy their made-in-China American bald eagle figurine. Where some films would be similarly underhanded and offensive, Outsourced is enchanting and good-natured. Director John Jeffcoat with fellow writer George Wing poke fun at the things that should be poked fun at as well as bring up very relevant issues amidst the clash of East and West.
Instead of adhering stubbornly to his western ways, Todd allows himself to wander aimlessly through the streets of India, not quite understanding what’s making the air smell that way, why the kids are throwing paint at him, how a cow managed to wander into his office. Most Westerners who smile at the thought of India allowed themselves that period of unknown as well—my boyfriend calls it The Plunge. Then, through little and everyday revelations, they learn what indeed makes India tick. The things Todd raised his brows at from across the ocean by the end of the film seem very ordinary, and the ways of Westerners in fact are called into question.
The Importance of Being a Cultural Mom
As an Easterner myself (I hail from Hiroshima, Japan) who’s had her own clash with Westerners, Outsourced is a joy and something I wish was less independent and more massively, unabashedly popular in America. Too many children grow up not knowing what lies on the other side of the fence, never mind the ocean. Although perhaps a bit mature for anything younger than teens, Outsourced is a nice reminder for moms everywhere, in the East and West, that boundaries are blending with globalization, and insisting on a singular outlook is a fast ticket to nowhere.
Consider Outsourced a nice film to watch with your older teen kids or with other moms and dads, perhaps with a nice cup of chai spiced tea.
If you enjoy the TV series, give the film a shot. If you’ve never heard of either, start right here.
Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, where she’s been performing gender wage gap research as related to the highest paying bachelor degrees. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.