“Are you down with the brown?”*

Earlier this week, I was wasting my time on the internet. Y’all know how that is. Somehow, I found myself on the Wikipedia page of Zachary Levi, the star of one of my favorite shows Chuck. I looked over his filmography and noticed that in one movie, he played a character named “Ray Rehman”. Rehman? I thought to myself. That’s, like, a “Muslim” name. I looked up the movie, Shades of Ray, and read that he played a half-white, half-Pakistani guy. In-teresting…

So guess which movie I saw on Hulu?

Levi plays Ray, the son of a Pakistani guy and American woman, living with his best friend in LA while trying to break into acting. His dad has always tried to convince him to marry a Pakistani woman but Ray never seemed to be interested. He’s only ever dated white women and the movie starts off with him proposing to his girlfriend of two years. She hesitates and needs time to think and also to convince her parents to embrace the idea of their daughter with someone like Ray.

Ray grew up a bit confused about his identity, if he was meant to be brown or white. When he happens to meet Sana who is also half-white and half-Pakistani, he finds someone he can actually relate to and that changes things for him. So begs the question – how important is culture between two people? (Religion in this case is almost negligible since, as Ray’s friend pointed out, the only thing Muslim about him is that he doesn’t eat pork.)

I’ve wondered about this question. I was born and raised in the States so how different would I be from someone who grew up here as well, regardless of culture? I think of myself as American before Pakistani** but then again, I need my food to be spicy (and have therefore been learning how to make all of my mom’s dishes), I take my shoes off before going into someone’s house, I want to become fluent in Urdu (InshAllah), and I don’t think it’s weird that I’m 28 and still living at home.

On the other hand, I’m way into American movies more than I am into Pakistani/Indian flicks, I still watch cartoons animated series and read comic books, and I don’t really care for mehendi parties (I’ve gotten a lot of flak for that last part).

A lot of thinking later I realized two things: 1) I’m not sure where I stand culture-wise and 2) My friend actually told me about this movie ages ago but I totally forgot.

Shades of Ray folks. Decent movie.

*The title of this post comes from the question that Ray’s friend asks him when he realizes Ray may have feelings for Sana after a lifetime of avoiding Pakistani women.

**Just a note – I consider myself Muslim before American or Pakistani.

7 thoughts

  1. Sara Shahi on that short-lived show Life, right?

    Your answer to your question pretty much summarizes how/why I ended up meeting my fiancee and why things work well for us. There is a common thread of experiences that bridges a lot for us.

    Cool movie.

  2. I have a feeling your comment would’ve been much different if I didn’t realize this was the movie you were talking about.

  3. Dude. We could BE the same person. Seriously.

    As for me, I’ve always made it VERY clear to my parents that I will NEVER marry a Pakistani boy that was born and raised in Pakistan. If he was born there and moved here at a VERY young age that’s different, but born and raised there? HELL TO THE NAW. We’d be from two completely different cultures. And there’s no way that both of us would make it out of that marriage alive. :-P

    I identify as both American and Desi/Muslim, but I’m often accused of acting too American, from the way I talk to what I read to the fact that I won’t automatically agree with whatever my father says, and that I find it absurd that I am expected to warm up food for my 17 year old brother because ‘that’s just how it is.’ So frankly, I think I’d have a much easier time of it if I just married an American convert. :-P I’m only half-joking but it still terrifies my mother.

  4. Thanks for the comment, I totally feel you. Also, you should not be expected to warm up your brother’s food. My brother is well trained – he can make his own chai and can definitely take out his own food! It’s crazy, even though we all live here in the States, there’s so much cultural baggage that we have to contend with.

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