Deciphering India’s unique head movements (fun video)

A fun video to start the day, and one that’s already gone viral, with around a million and a half viewers.

It walks you through various Indian head movements and what they mean. From yes, no, to maybe.

This one, for example, means “maybe yes, maybe no.”

indian-head-movementsxThe BBC explains that the video is the work of Mumbai-based writer and director Paul Mathew.  Apparently, some people of Indian descent aren’t terribly happy with the video.  Most however, like it.

On the left we often get into a discussion about who is and isn’t permitted to judge whether something is offensive.  Some say only the person offended can truly judge, whereas others say that the person offended might simply be too overly sensitive, or have simply misinterpreted what was actually going on.

I’d read today, for example, that some people felt Ellen DeGeneres’ joke about Liza Minnelli, at the Academy Awards ceremony this past sunday, was transphobic.  DeGeneres’ kept referring to Liza as a man who was there impersonating the real Liza Minnelli.  I found the joke uncomfortable, if only because it seemed Liza was uncomfortable with it, and Ellen wouldn’t let it go.

Today I read that the joke was based on the fact that one of the top drag queen costumes at every gay event is to come as Liza Minnelli!  I actually hadn’t understood the joke at the time, and seeing that Liza appeared uncomfortable, the joke bothered me.  Now that I get the joke, it is kind of funny – but it still didn’t work at the time, at least not for me.

Humor is a difficult thing to pull off. In part, because you need to be very good, and the jokes need to be perfect, in order for it to be funny.  But it’s also difficult because not everyone gets a joke, even a good joke.  So you’re always going to have some people offended, or who simply don’t get it.

In the end, I found the Indian video below cute, fun and endearing.  You walk away thinking “I like that.”  And you could think worse things about a group of people.


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • 2karmanot

    Church ladies from the South also do that bobble head thing. So do snap divas.

  • 2karmanot

    It was.

  • 2karmanot

    It was cruel, tasteless, embarrassing. . Ellen should talk. She looked like a trans cupidoll.

  • 2karmanot

    People can be soooo stupid. Clearly that kiddah was paragliding.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Yeah, I think the BBC story noted that, that it’s more of a southern Indian thing.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Remember the time I was declared an animal-hater, who has always hated animals, because of that one rather funny video of the cat jumping off the balcony?

  • emjayay

    Well, I think most of the people there got it.

  • chris10858

    I didn’t find this video upsetting at all and can’t figure out how anyone would get upset by it.

    I think far too often now, some people feign outrage over everything. Sure, there are times when someone says something really offensive (e.g. most of the Republican party) but at the same time, one could post a video of a kitten playing with a ball of yarn and someone would post a complaint about it.

  • chris10858

    I’m sure Ellen never meant anything bad by it and probably meant it as a compliment since Liza is so often impersonated by drag queens. Still, how many people outside the LGBT community would know this? Wrong audience for this sort of joke.

  • dula

    The Liza joke would have worked better if she were in good physical shape. Liza has been battling health problems and looks a bit more mannish than usual (maybe bloated from steroids?). So when Ellen kept saying “Sir,” it seemed mean to some people.

  • keirmeister

    My co-workers say the head movements are only for Indians in the South, but they had a good laugh :)

  • olandp

    I liked the Liza jokes. It’s not like Ellen said it was the worst Liza impersonator she’d ever seen. I’ve always regretted that I didn’t go to The Night of One Thousand Lizas. She is one of our icons, how can that be offensive?

  • woodsidematt

    i’ll have to try some of these next time i go to the indian grocer.
    i cook inidan all the time. i’m hooked!

  • HeartlandLiberal

    OK, this is very interesting. Now if I can figure out how to ask a good friend who is Indian without offending him. Sometimes these things can be balancing acts of priority if you try to pursue them.

  • Indigo

    Very good and better yet, it resolved one of my puzzles about the side-wagging head gesture.

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