I feel really strongly about the types of cultural narratives that you mentioned, films that involve that sense of separateness as part of a whole, or rather, as the next step in the development of a cultural narrative. What happens, say, when the ABCD (American-born confused desi) is no longer confused? I think that is what you so eloquently pointed out as “the combustion of experience.” I trust our audience enough to understand Farah’s cultural circumstance without our being beholden to explain it to them, and that certainly is a type of progress that owes a great debt to a film culture that has totally focused on ethnic experience. You and I have also discussed how problematic it is to characterize films as “white” or “ethnic” both in terms of those characterizations themselves and in terms of the insufficiency of words like “ethnic.”
I also didn’t grow up with someone like Mindy Kaling on the best sitcom on television. I grew up in a completely white suburban neighborhood, and media (television, movies) was really the only place I could turn to try and see something that related to who I was. Twenty-something angst was emblematized by six white characters on Friends, or four white characters in Reality Bites.
Very few films and TV shows I saw represented otherwise, so I turned to shows like A Different World or The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. I think both of those shows made incredibly necessary steps that led us to where we are now, which is why I also don’t necessarily hate on 90s constructions of diversity. My sense of self would have been very different if the landscape that exists now existed then and, in that way, I think our film is a natural product of a change that has been ongoing for the past ten years. Fresh Prince is a great example, actually. Race was dealt with very nominally on that show—and when it was, it was poignant - but shows like Fresh Prince were doing something perhaps even more challenging: integrating the black experience into a total American experience , with all of the pratfalls and heartache of the highly developed upper-middle-class narrative of the 90s (a decade that started, mind you, with Rodney King).
So for every reason that is obvious and I could go on about, the narratives I seek are making up for something my brown face crowded in a sea of white needed to see—that being Indian was not going to be the definitive and controlling point of difference in my life, but rather, would turn out to be a deep and rich part of a total experience that engaged with all facets of an American life. And that the world was already in the process of changing to accommodate that.