Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom’s Criticized Banquet Scene Was Supposed To Be A Joke – /Film

The scene, for 2023 audiences, may be difficult to sit through. Those who aren’t put off by gross foods will likely be made uncomfortable with the caricatures. A character credited only as Merchant #1 (Ahmed El-Shenawi) looks eagerly at the Snake Surprise, while Merchant #2 (Zalim Singh) slurps down the actaeon beetles with savor, belching in comfort. The scene plays into a “foreigners eat weird things” trope that is all too persistent in modern entertainment. Rather than look up the cuisine of India, the filmmakers decided to “other” the Indian people by forcing them to eat live snakes and eyeballs. The misrepresentation of the Indian people caused “Temple of Doom” to be temporarily banned in the country

Seth recalls the controversy and went on record defending the scene as a gag about racism, rather than being outright racist. He does note, however, that the gag wasn’t presented very well and, as such, wasn’t understood by anyone. The actor said: 

“The banquet scene was a joke that went wrong. I got a great deal of flak for it because people kept saying, ‘How does an intelligent man like you agree to be in a film which shows Indians dining on beetles and eels?’ Steven intended it as a joke, the joke being that Indians were so f***ing smart that they knew all Westerners think that Indians eat cockroaches, so they served them what they expected. The joke was too subtle for that film.” 

Perhaps if Chattar Lal had a brief scene where he whispered to the other Indian characters that they were going to play a prank on the visiting Ugly Americans by serving them bugs and eyeballs — and if the Indian characters didn’t eat those foods with enthusiasm — the joke would have worked. 

It didn’t.

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