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Chuck Lorre’s The United States of Al series is slammed for being offensive

Backlash against Big Bang Theory producer Chuck Lorre’s ‘offensive’ new CBS comedy after casting non-Afghan actor to play Afghan military interpreter

  • The backlash against The United States of Al centers on the casting of a non-Afghan actor Adhir Kalyan in the lead role of the military interpreter
  • Kalyan was born in South Africa and is of Indian heritage 
  • Others have also slammed the general portrayal of the main character, claiming his friendship with a white Marine combat veteran is ‘ridiculous’ and ‘offensive’
  • A heated argument has since erupted on Twitter with critics slamming the show and one of several executive producers, Reza Aslan, fired back in defense 
  • Aslan claims four of the five characters in the series are played by Afghans 
  • He also urged people not to judge the series, which is due to air on April 1, by its 30 second trailer 

Big Bang Theory producer Chuck Lorre’s new CBS comedy about an Afghan military interpreter’s new life in the United States has come under fire before it has even premiered and prompted a staunch defense from one of the show’s executive producers.

The backlash against the show, titled The United States of Al, mostly centers on the casting of a non-Afghan actor Adhir Kalyan, who was born in South Africa and is of Indian heritage, in the lead role of the military interpreter.

Others have also slammed the general portrayal of the main character, claiming his friendship with a white Marine combat veteran is ‘ridiculous’ and ‘offensive’.  

The uproar, which appears to be based off the trailer for the series, prompted one of the show’s executive producers, Reza Aslan, to hit back in a series of tweets as he urged critics to see the show before slamming it. 

Based on the trailer, the show centers on Afghan military interpreter Awalmir (played by Kalyan) coming to the US to live with his Marine combat veteran friend Riley (Parker Young) as they both adjust to life in Ohio. 

Big Bang Theory producer Chuck Lorre’s new CBS comedy about an Afghan military interpreter’s new life in the United States has come under fire. The show centers on Afghan military interpreter Awalmir (played by Adhir Kalyan) coming to the US to live with his Marine combat veteran friend Riley (Parker Young)

A heated argument has since erupted on Twitter with critics slamming the show and Aslan, one of several executive producers, firing back in defense. 

‘You can’t judge a show by a 30 sec trailer. Well, you shouldn’t, at least,’ Aslan said. 

‘There are five Afghan characters in the show and four of them are played by Afghans. We saw 100 Afghan leads but sitcom is a specialized genre and it’s very tough to play. But we also have four Afghan writers/producers on the show who’ve done a great job helping Adhir.’

In another tweet, said: ‘Maybe learn a little about the show, its creators, its producers, its four Afghan writers, its plot, and pretty much everything else before you announce your opinion of it.’

He also said: ‘Because it’s my show, I can make sure that it is written and produced by Afghans and Muslims. That it uses the format to reframe the perception that people have of both. That it portrays a Muslim Afghan protagonist in a true and honest light.

‘My whole life I’ve been misrepresented on TV. That’s why I came to Hollywood to change that. You don’t have to support the effort. But maybe watch it then s**t on it not other way round.’ 

Creator Chuck Lorre

Executive producer Reza Aslan

The new CBD comedy was created by Big Bang Theory producer Chuck Lorre (left). One of the show’s executive producers, Reza Aslan, (right) has hit back at critics in recent days as he launched a staunch defense of the show

Critics mostly slammed the show’s creators for not casting an Afghan actor in the lead role. 

General Hospital actress Maysoon Zayid hit out at Aslan in particular, tweeting: ‘Why not authentically cast? The white savior stuff might be palatable if you hadn’t all brownies are the samed it. You had the power to say no and didn’t. I crave Muslim content but this is offensive.’

Broadway performer Pia Glenn said: ‘Please don’t fall for this utter bulls**t. We’re supposed to believe that ‘after a sweeping global search’ they not only could NOT find an Afghan actor, but somehow magically landed on a series regular from a previous Chuck Lorre sitcom on CBS?’

Others were critical of the portrayal of the main character, arguing it was ‘shockingly racist and/or otherwise offensive’. 

Writer Rekha Shankar tweeted: ‘Can someone tell Chuck Lorre that ‘what if a white person liked a brown person’ is not a tv show concept.’

Qasim Rashid, a human rights lawyer and author, tweeted: ‘This is so ridiculous and offensive I don’t have the words to express just how terribly bad this is on every conceivable level.’

Palestinian documentary filmmaker Saeed Taji Farouky said: ‘This is a real TV show. Actually made by human people. On Planet Earth. In 2021.’ 

CBS hasn’t commented on the uproar.  

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