Friday, September 17, 2010

Outsourced

I watched movie Outsourced on Netflix Instant Play.  It tells of a novelty products salesman sent to India to start up a call center after his entire department has been outsourced to that country.

The movie came out in 2006, i.e. at the peak of the housing bubble and well before the present recession.  It’s hard to imagine our bien pensants green-lighting the film today; the subject matter would be considered too incendiary, and its light-hearted treatment of it too inauthentic.  The movie does, I think, fairly show the tradeoffs involved with outsourcing.  Near the end of the movie, a salesgirl takes a call from an irate customer:  he had ordered a ceramic American eagle that turned out to be made in China.  The salesgirl says she understands his disappointment and offers to refer him to a competitor that offers a similar product “one hundred percent American made.”

“Is it about the same price?” the customer asks.

“Nosir, it is $212 more,” the salesgirl replies.

“Um, okay, I guess I’ll keep my order with you then.”

I’m not enough of an expert on India to know how accurate the movie’s portrayal of India is.  The movie makes a show of presenting negative aspects, like crime, beggary, and the vast gulf between rich and poor, but these are depicted sentimentally.  But one plot line struck me as frankly unbelievable.  The American has a sexual affair with one of his employees, a girl scheduled for an arranged marriage two months hence.  Now, cheating fiancés are no surprise at this point, but what strikes me as incredible is that an Indian girl, apparently capable of earning her own way and yet traditional enough to submit to an arranged marriage with a man she has never met, would also cheat on him without the slightest scruple, and that this practice would be common enough in India as to have its own name:  “Holiday in Goa.”

10 comments:

trumwill said...

It’s hard to imagine our bien pensants green-lighting the film today; the subject matter would be considered too incendiary, and its light-hearted treatment of it too inauthentic.

Six days from now, NBC will be airing the first episode of a TV series based on this movie.

trumwill said...

I hope my comment didn't come across as snide. I am actually... stunned. I just happened to see an ad for a new show called Outsourced that I took note of because I like office comedies*. Till I read this, I didn't know what it was about. Looking it over... boy, sounds risky. I haven't seen the movie so I don't know how they went about it, but either you poke fun at the Indians and risk being politically incorrect or you sympathize with competitors for American jobs at a time of significant economic insecurity.

* - You ever see Better Off Ted? There's only about 20 episodes or so, but I absolutely loved it. It's a bit off-the-wall, though, so I'm not sure what you would think of it.

Professor Hale said...

The military base I used to live at in Panama is now a call center for Dell. Asian call centers are trending to now move back to the USA.

Professor Hale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cephalicfurrow said...

It's amusing how people who gush about diversity often closedmindedly assume that all cultures must share liberal Western values, deep down. It's not just about people with different skin colors and local cuisine, folks.

Justin said...

Phi, according the numbers, Indian women are remarkably chaste. Your instinct is probably correct about this one. Arranged marriages aren't really "stranger" marriages, either. Arranged just means put together by the parents, it usually involves a courtship and engagement.

Professor Hale said...

Arranged marriage: Probably a superior method to knocking up a cocktail waitress and getting married before she no onger fits into her dress.

Φ said...

Trumwill: You'd've thought I would've learned not to make predictions given how often they turn out incorrect. Yeah, it's going to be interesting to see how they frame this. I predict (!!!) that the cruelty of the caste system and Hindu fatalism will be carefully airbrushed away. But as far as the outsourcing goes, I can't imagine that a positive portrayal will be well-received by the viewing public.

Default User said...

I heard a discussion on NPR about this. I think they were talking about the TV series and not the movie (I was only aware of the TV series).

What struck me was they thought it might be insensitive to Indians, but never even mentioned the Americans who have lost their jobs to just such outsourcing. The attitude just seemed so perfectly NPR that it made me smile.

trumwill said...

I predict (!!!) that the cruelty of the caste system and Hindu fatalism will be carefully airbrushed away.

Here's the worst-case scenario: they use the Caste System as a heavy-handed metaphor for racism (or classism) in the United States.