Outsourced is a fairly new show with an interesting concept. Originally a quirky indie film, the Outsourced television series places an all-American guy from the Midwest in urban India as a call center manager. Todd works for a struggling company that shills novelties and gag gifts, and Outsourced documents his experiences living in a foreign country.
The premise and execution of this show is fairly simple, so it’s more interesting to think about the reasons for its recent debut on NBC. Americans are notoriously xenophobic, but we live in a world that’s increasingly dominated by globalization. All our stuff is made in China, and all our cries for tech help are heard in India. As a comedy that tends to follow standard conventions of the genre, Outsourced exhibits a certain degree of mass appeal while simultaneously exposing Americans to an unfamiliar culture.
We’re clearly meant to identify with Todd, the nice guy manager who doesn’t understand Indian culture, but who shows a great eagerness to learn about it. Charlie, another call center manager and a friend of Todd, is characterized as the typical brash American who has little respect for anything unrecognizable. Charlie’s dislikes include: Indian food, Indian holidays, Indian clothes, Indian employees, etc. Like any white male stranded in a foreign country for occupational purposes, Charlie’s likes include: Indian women.
Outsourced may not be groundbreaking television, but it’s doing something incredibly right. Throughout the history of literature, art, film, and television, American men in foreign countries have been Charlies: the colonialist bastards who steal land and women, but don’t give a damn about indigenous cultures. By portraying Todd as a reasonable, culturally-sensitive guy who still enjoys macho pastimes like football and eating ribs, Outsourced is contributing to a changing global perception of Americans, as well as new attitudes about ourselves and our behavior. Stay tuned!