Title: Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King
Creator: Hasan Minhaj
Knowing absolutely nothing about Hasan Minhaj, I was so hesitant to watch this. A brown male comedian. I was either going to be bombarded with racist jokes or misogynist jokes or both terribly combined to ruin my day. But Hasan Minhaj’s Homecoming King was an experience. It was something written by someone like me for people like me. And it matters that he’s a second generation migrant living his dream in a career that no migrant parent would want us to have. It matters that Minhaj talks about his personal experiences with racism. It matters that this is shown on a platform like Netflix. And it matters that the woman that Minhaj calls the love of his life is a Hindu Indian-American.
I haven’t watched many comedy sets and the closest comparison I can find to Minhaj is a stage actor. He had a fantastic stage presence that held the audience captive for the entire set. He uses the entire stage to his advantage and the longer the set goes on the more it feels like a story unfolding in front of our eyes. One that is told by a very capable storyteller who knows exactly when to make us laugh and when to tug on our heartstrings. It is definitely a story with a message, but a message that doesn’t feel as though Minhaj is preaching to us, rather a message that we can definitely relate to as second generation migrants that have gone through similar experiences.
Minhaj tackles his experiences of racism growing up and the defining moment after 9/11 when many South Asian and Middle Eastern people were affected by racism. His story is painful and heartbreaking and a reminder of how little has changed in Western nations in the years that have followed. He also tackles the complexities of racism. It is not just overt racism that leaves scars, but the smaller words and actions that can have an impact that’s just as serious. It’s also very important that Minhaj acknowledges the much greater and systematic racism faced by black Americans. In the South Asian community where anti-blackness is rampant it is important to acknowledge that the racism we face is nowhere as globally prevalent or systematic as the racism experienced by black people the world over.
I loved that Hasan Minhaj mixed in parts that were in Hindi as he was telling his stories. It served to make the experience more authentic and made me feel like this was something that was made for me and people like me. Although, he did provide translations for most of the Hindi that he used, appealing to a wider audience. Providing translations of language in performances and in writing is a complex issue. Junot Diaz doesn’t provide translations in many of his works, forcing readers to work out for themselves the meaning of those words. However, Minhaj’s work made me think of my third generation cousins who can’t understand Hindi. In many ways this is something that relates to their experiences as well. Had Minhaj not translated how much of this experience would they be missing out on because they cannot understand the language of their ancestors? There are no simple answers to this question and of course as the migrant experience changes – becoming third or even fourth generation migrants – so will the media that is written by us and for us.
I came out of this feeling incredible and affirmed just knowing that the trials of growing up Indian-Australian were echoed halfway across the world. It also left me thinking if white people always experience this feeling when they watch media made for them (which really is almost all of it)? Anyway, I’m off to convince every second generation Indian migrant I know to watch this.