why are there suddenly so many indians on tv?

My friend Nina Shen Rastogi has a piece in Slate examining the curious, sudden rise of Indians on television. Like many of us Asian-spotters, it began for her as a simple running tally, giving way to a full-on "trend" of South Asian faces on the tube: Beyond Apu.

So really, why are there suddenly so many Indians on television? There are various theories, and they're all pretty valid. Here's a good one I never considered before, but completely makes sense:
To float another, more radioactive theory: Are Indians getting a boost from America's interest in the Middle East? Do Indian characters - and it does seem to be mostly Indians, as opposed to Pakistanis, or Bangladeshis, or Nepalis - function as what film actor Satya Bhabha jokingly called "diet Muslims"?

Whether or not Indian characters are a way of safely avoiding the specter of other, more "dangerous" brown people, the fact that South Asian actors can easily pass for Middle Easterners may very well be contributing to their professional development. Performance historian Brian Herrera theorizes that South Asian actors may have gotten a boost from the flurry of terrorist-type roles that followed in the wake of Sept. 11. A one- or two-episode arc as a featured character on, say, 24 would represent a solid credit line for a young actor, potentially opening the door to more interesting opportunities down the line. It's a trend Herrera has noted with other minority groups, though in less-accelerated forms. "So many of the elder statesmen of Latino actors got their start doing gang stories in the '80s," he notes.
Ultimately, more Asians on TV is a good thing. Though, as the article points out, there still aren't any shows with true South Asian leads. But the diversity of roles and the de-emphasis of characters defined solely be ethnicity (okay, maybe not Outsourced), I'll take as a step in the right direction.

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