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“Barack OBollywood”: Afro-Asian Connections on the Viral Video Trail

by Ethan Tussey

by Shalini Shankar for IN MEDIA RES

In December 2007, 22 year old white American viral video maker “CamPain 2008” set his newest creation “Barack O’Bollywood” loose on the internet. The accompanying curatorial caption: “East meets West meets acid” set the tone but left much to the viewer’s imagination. What I find most compelling is that Obama is shown to perform this Bollywood tune, albeit inadvertently. As with any great Bollywood “hero,” he lip-syncs, dances, gyrates, and glides effortlessly across disconnected landscapes. “Come,” he beckons, through the repetition of “aaja aaja aaja,” and tells us about the attractive girl he plans to secretly woo. While this is all very “hero-esque,” what we miss here are the more masculine elements of male dialogue and action that act as a necessary counterpoint to the spastic emotiveness of Bollywood songs and create a balanced and suitably masculine screen presence. The 800+ YouTube comments both compliment and disparage. Some question Obama’s authenticity: “But he is not asian! he has no asian blood in him!” while others emphatically endorse the creation: “LOVE this video!! Jai Obama! Jai, Jai :) [victory to Obama].” Some Indian American media outfits have commented that the video could act as an appeal to South Asians in the US (who are largely presumed to be Clinton supporters)—a significant statement for an ethnic group that shies away from discussing race, let alone affiliating with Blacks. As other clips of Asian American media have illustrated, there are so few images of Asian masculinity that attempt to break from effeminate male stereotypes. The question I pose, then, is what does it mean to make Barack go Bollywood? What cultural sense can we make of a lip-synching, prancing, gyrating Obama? For those of us not presently on acid, is this emasculating or empowering?

“Barack OBollywood”: Afro-Asian Connections on the Viral Video Trail

by Ethan Tussey

by Shalini Shankar for IN MEDIA RES

In December 2007, 22 year old white American viral video maker “CamPain 2008” set his newest creation “Barack O’Bollywood” loose on the internet. The accompanying curatorial caption: “East meets West meets acid” set the tone but left much to the viewer’s imagination. What I find most compelling is that Obama is shown to perform this Bollywood tune, albeit inadvertently. As with any great Bollywood “hero,” he lip-syncs, dances, gyrates, and glides effortlessly across disconnected landscapes. “Come,” he beckons, through the repetition of “aaja aaja aaja,” and tells us about the attractive girl he plans to secretly woo. While this is all very “hero-esque,” what we miss here are the more masculine elements of male dialogue and action that act as a necessary counterpoint to the spastic emotiveness of Bollywood songs and create a balanced and suitably masculine screen presence. The 800+ YouTube comments both compliment and disparage. Some question Obama’s authenticity: “But he is not asian! he has no asian blood in him!” while others emphatically endorse the creation: “LOVE this video!! Jai Obama! Jai, Jai :) [victory to Obama].” Some Indian American media outfits have commented that the video could act as an appeal to South Asians in the US (who are largely presumed to be Clinton supporters)—a significant statement for an ethnic group that shies away from discussing race, let alone affiliating with Blacks. As other clips of Asian American media have illustrated, there are so few images of Asian masculinity that attempt to break from effeminate male stereotypes. The question I pose, then, is what does it mean to make Barack go Bollywood? What cultural sense can we make of a lip-synching, prancing, gyrating Obama? For those of us not presently on acid, is this emasculating or empowering?

Barack O'Bollywood

Barack O'Bollywood

from Barack O'Bollywood (2008)
Creator: CamPain 2008
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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