This Old The Wiggles Video About Pappadums Is Going Viral Because It Has So Many Stereotypes. We Have Questions!
When the Harry Potter movies came out, it was very hard for me to be critical of them because I loved the books and the story so darn much. But there was one thing that I undisputedly hated—the way they dressed Parvati Patil and Padma Patil for the Yule Ball. Forget picking the most boring of Indian outfits, they couldn’t even get a colour combination right! This is just one of the many ways that the West shows how much it doesn’t care about other cultures. Representation is a whole another dragon they can’t slay. From casting Caucasian actors to play Asians to inputing every possible ethnic stereotype when they write characters of different cultures, we’ve seem enough. Or maybe not? Haaaaaaaave you seen this song about Pappadums by The Wiggles yet? It’s an old video, remerging on Twitter and getting trolled for appropriation.
So for those who’re staring at this clueless, some background info. The Wiggles are a music group on Australian television whose content caters to pre-schoolers. Their videos are bright and colour-popping with really addictive tunes that get the kids hooked. Good thing, since the show teaches them good manners, reading, different cultures, and is quite educational and pleasant. Sometimes, even adults can get entranced by them.
Recently, an old video of The Wiggles randomly went viral with desi Twitter. It featured a popular Indian food—Papadums. The video features The Wiggles plus one Indian girl, all dressed in Indian wear, holding papadums in their hands and singing the a song with just one word for lyrics. Yes, you get it right, it’s ‘Papadums’.
Indians on Twitter were shaking their fists and calling out the cultural appropriation and ethnic stereotyping as clear as day in the video.
to be clear, this was not the representation i wanted pic.twitter.com/vNswTi0E16
— Ashmi (@_ashmip) October 22, 2020
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But me, I had a few questions that I just need to get out on paper (metaphorically) to express my utter confusion at how and why such a video has been brought into existence.
1. Why a song about pappadums? I mean, I get they’re delicious (I’m a Gujju and meals are incomplete without papad for us) and I’ve see a lot of foreigners get super obsessed with it after they’ve tried Indian food. But really, THAT’s what you want to want to lead with when trying to teach toddlers about Indian culture and food?
they said pic.twitter.com/buKscS8yWi
— rhea (@hilarheas) October 22, 2020
2. Okay, so respect your decision to go with a side dish like pappadums. WHY ARE THERE NO OTHER WORDS IN THE SONG? What are the kids learning about papadums here? I mean, have you seen Chef Kobe on Instagram? The kid’s like one-year old and he could do a better video about papadums!
I pitch the Lijjat Papad ad for inspiration. They at least taught you that the sound a papad makes when you eat it is “Karram kurram, kurram karram!” And it was so addictive.
3. Okay, it sounds more like ‘Poppadum’, so maybe get the pronunciation right? You see how Indians have mastered English in a way that you would never know we’re non-native speakers? Why can’t our language get the same respect?
Let me understand…"Indian" representation = a trippy song about "Pappa-dum" (it's papadaam FYI) + white guys wearing silk kurtas + holding a plastic cricket bat + a mute and horrified Indian (?) woman with a forced smile through it all??
Who said yes to this? On what drugs?🤣
— Aarti Shyamsunder (@Aartideetoo) October 22, 2020
4. They got an Indian girl in the video about Indian food. Wise choice. Representation matters. BUT WHY IS HER SAREE DRAPED LIKE SHE GOT LATE FOR WORK? And seriously guys, what is that colour combination, FFS? This is the Patil twins from Goblet of Fire all over again. It’s literally the same outrageous colour combination!
Okay, costume designers have ONE job. All they had to do was a basic Google search and find the girl something half decent to wear. It’s Australia. Finding an Indian store that has a saree, or a YouTube video that can teach you how to wear it properly. I am not saying get her a Sabyasachi, but come on! Is it too much to ask? Am I reaching for the stars here?
5. Look at that girl, she looks genuinely mortified to be a part of this song! She wishes she could ‘wiggle’ out of this one (pun intended. Was she forced into doing this? Is this a hostage situation. Was she blinking in Morse Code and asking for rescue? Turns out…
She's the Manager of Live Events & Marketing for The Wiggles. She was 100% on board with this, but it always weirds me out that she doesn't sing… 😀
— Penny Walker (@PennyWalker_SSW) October 22, 2020
6. Why is the Indian girl the only one not singing? This is about HER CULTURE, is it not?
Like…she doesn't even sing at all.
I'm usually pretty lax with this kinda stuff, but deadset – who thought this was a good idea? pic.twitter.com/yIR5aCyCD8
— 𝕣𝕠𝕟𝕕𝕒𝕣𝕘𝕙 (@r_nd_rgh) October 22, 2020
7. Who approved this? No, really, who thought it was a good idea to show impressionable young minds this creepy-ass video?
8. More importantly, one of the tweets pointed out how this video was already flagged for appropriation way back in 2015 when it released. So why is it still being shown on a leading TV network and so easily available on YouTube?
Just so I have this straight @ABCTV… @monaeltahawy’s swears? Pulled straight off the network for being ‘offensive’. This video which ppl have been complaining about since 2015? Still available to stream on iview five years later?
That’s where we’re at? https://t.co/NwY7cvwBgR
— sandypineapple (@Foxsilie) October 22, 2020
9. I wonder where that Indian girl is now and how her life is after that video? Also, do the Aussie kids who saw this video hate Papadums now?
10. How do I unsee this?
— ms. boombastic (@thesunrisewave) October 22, 2020
Again, no explanation as to why this old video suddenly went viral. But somehow it managed to reach the creator of this song, Anthony Field. He apologised for the damage it had done. And turns out when you see the whole show and how the song fits in it, you might be a little forgiving.
It’s not insensitive. Seeing the full clip, where the lady (can’t remember her name) talking makes it easier to see that. My (Punjabi) wife and I think it’s a super song for our 20 month old to dance along to. You guys are great btw!
— Michael McCabe (@the_happycamper) October 22, 2020
There’ve been enough instances of outrage, from Apu in Simpsons to certain traits about Raj Koothrapalli in The Big Bang Theory, to casting of Indian actors in stereotypical roles or negative roles (this happened to African American actors too, BTW) for the West to realise that they cannot get away anymore with paying zero attention to the message they’re sending about other cultures. Just representation is nothing if it does not respect the culture and the people you are trying to represent. Get consultants on board who belong to the culture. Even a simple Internet search can be a pretty educating kickstart to learning more about a culture. Especially when the content you’re creating is going to shape the views of young and impressionable minds.
We can’t change much about the past. But what we can do is ensure we learn our lessons, like the creator of this song did, and do better in the future.