Some background is probably necessary here. When I was about eight or nine I somehow stumbled on the movie Short Circuit 2 on basic cable. The movie revolves around the Indian American scientist Ben Javhri (Stevens), and his robot Johnny 5, two lost innocents trying to make their way in the big city.
As the Washington Post said in its review of the film:
[Johnny 5] and Ben, a cross between Gandhi and Gracie Allen, both feel isolated in a modern humanoid city, given their scrappy individualism. Ben, who is studying to become an American, is clearly an outsider from the minute he speaks such bent homilies as “You’re hitting the nail right between the eyes.” Meanwhile, Johnny Five is mistaken for bad modern sculpture, betrayed by a new friend and bamboozled by stereotypical movie Latino hoodlums.
Interestingly, though the Post critic calls the movie out for negatively portraying Latinos, it makes no mention of the fact that the entire film is based on Indian stereotypes.
My elementary school-aged self knew better. “This is so racist,” I remember thinking.
Somewhat notably, Stevens’ portrayal of Ben Javhri marked first time I had ever seen an Indian-American represented on film. I think that part of the reason I write about up-and-coming South Asian American actors so often is because for the longest time the only time I had seen ‘Indians’ on film were 1) while watching Gandhi with my parents and 2) on that day I saw Short Circuit 2 on cable.
For those who were lucky enough to miss the Short Circuit films the first time around, watching a few seconds of the video below will probably show you all that you need to know. There’s also the remake of the original film to look forward to in 2011. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear that the Ben Javhri character will be revived in the new film.