Challenging stereotypes & racism – the Desi Vloggers

If you haven’t heard of the likes of Parle Patel, Lilly IISuperwomanII Singh or Humza ‘Badman’ Arshad, you’d be forgiven. They’re not quite household names – yet.

But these young Asian vloggers are taking You Tube by storm. With some of the most popular videos getting around 13million views, they are serious players.

More than a cheap laugh

I must admit that when I first started researching the ‘Desi Vloggers’ as they are becoming known I was slightly put off. Their YouTube parodies of the Asian culture at first, made me cringe. A lot of them use Eddie Murphy-style comedy with the star dressed up to play all the roles of the typical Indian parents and any other family members. It felt like they were rolling out the same tired old stereotypes of the Asian family for the sake of a cheap laugh. But if you keep watching you do see how these youngsters are exposing stereotypes and challenging the double standards that they face growing up- both within the Asian community and society at large.

So when we see Parle Patel parodying the Gujarati mum gossiping and bitching about the wedding they just went to, only to turn on the charm when the mother of the bride calls, viewers can instantly relate. When Lilly Singh laments over having to watch ‘another’ Bollywood movie with her parents, they can relate.

Similarly, any Asian can identify with Jus Reign’s “Shit White guys Say to Brown guys”:

“Teach me how to say ‘what’s up’ in your language”

“Yo Bollywood chicks yo, you gotta hook me up”

“There’s this one brown guy in my high school. Do you like, know him?”

 

Authentic 

YouTube vloggers are gaining success largely with the 15-24 demographic because they are so authentic. It’s one young person talking to another on issues that they recognise. These are not Hollywood stars with a slick post-production crew and an army of PR people; these are real people talking their language.

What’s also impressive to see is the increasing influence they’re having. Humza Arshad teamed up with the Met Police earlier this year to produce a short film aiming to tackle extremism amongst young British Muslims.

Lilly Singh- the only female and arguably the most successful of the pack, has had some notable cameo appearances in her videos. Bollywood legend Madhuri Dixit appears in one of her most popular videos; while Jay Sean, James Franco and The Rock have also starred with her.

I’ve heard some critics say that by parodying the Asian culture, the Desi Vloggers are actually doing more harm than good; that they’re tearing down what the generation before us fought for.

Personally I like the way they challenge the hypocrisy in the South Asian culture. In many of the videos they are holding their elders and others in their community to account. And you can’t help but nod and laugh at the Indian mum laying into her son calling him a bloody idiot every few sentences!

Plus we need to be a people that can laugh at ourselves! Every culture and race has its flaws, and humour is a great way to accept our weaknesses.

So here are some of my favourite Desi Vloggers:

Jus Reign

I love this guy. Canadian Jasmeet Singh started vlogging because he was “bored one summer at college,”  His “Hand Clap Dance” went viral and pretty soon he was being recognised in the streets. He currently has 530k subscribers. I love love love how his comedy exposes the stupidity of so many double standards, both within our culture and from Western society. Poonjabby!

 

Humza ‘Badman’ Arshad

Humza Arshad is from Streatham in London. In 2010 he started Diary of a Badman. By the following year, it was one of the most viewed videos on YouTube in the UK and currently gets around 4.7million views. Since then he has made numerous public appearances including his Badman Comedy Tour across the UK, and his work with the police and young people dealing with extremism.

 

Lilly IISuperwomanII Singh

Another Canadian and the only woman of the comedy genre (I could be wrong- if you know of any other female Desi comedy vloggers, drop me a comment below). Ironically she started vlogging to challenge the lack of desi female representation in the media. She is undoubtedly the most successful of all the vloggers, with her 5million subscribers. She has since branched into motivational speaking, rapping, acting and stand up. She also has a clothing line. (Go Lilly!)

 

Parle Patel

UK born Parle Patel started his YouTube channel Planet Parle just two years ago. In that time he has amassed a 30,000 strong following, thanks to his satirical take on Gujarati life (“I’m An Indian Gujarati, we like garba and eat dhokra”) In fact his niche, he claims, is being the only young Asian vlogging about Gujarati life. Parle appeared at Southbank’s Alchemy festival this year.

 

AK aka Amazing

Amandeep Kang’s “Life in a Brown Fam” gets around 1 million views per video. Another Canadian, AK parodies South Asian family life. In his videos, he plays The Kid, which he claims was himself growing up. And there are the recognisable Indian family members, in particular The Auntie That Everyone Knows.