Richard Gere Kisses Indian Actress On Stage, Causes National Uproar

Richard Gere, who at one time was voted the “Sexiest Man Alive” by People Magazine, has landed himself in a bit of a predicament this week for using his irresistible manly charm at an AIDS awareness event in India. Gere appeared at a press conference with Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty yesterday, and in front of a cheering crowd proceeded to kiss Shetty on the hand and on both cheeks, before embracing and dipping her down to give her another peck on the cheek. Little did he know, such public displays of affection are largely taboo in India, and in bold violation of their view of propriety. The incident has (apparently) ignited a massive uproar across India, with angry crowds (consisting mainly of right-wing Hindu groups) taking to the streets in several cities to burn pictures of Gere and Shetty. Some are even demanding his arrest.

Shetty recently spoke to the press, trying to downplay the situation: “I understand this is his culture, not ours. But this was not such a big thing or so obscene for people to overreact in such manner… I understand people’s sentiments, but I don’t want a foreigner to take bad memories from here.” Wow. Is it any wonder that the world hates America? Sometimes we forget that there are vast cultural differences out there. Although, at the same time, it does seem crazy how such a minor thing could cause this kind of outrage. I wonder if it’s the actual act that pissed them off, or more the blatant disregard for their customs. In Richard Gere’s defense, however, he is Richard Gere. He really can’t help it. I am just wondering how far this incident will go. Will President Bush issue an apology on behalf of womanizing Americans everywhere? One can only hope.

  • The man

    There’s like what 1 billion indian people? Yeah I’m sure they know how babies are made. Now what would have really been fucked up is if he’d had taken that gerbil out of his ass and made out with it.

  • JC

    I was inspired by the last podcast to post a comment. I would chalk this up to ignorance on Gere’s part, but isn’t it funny how something that seems commonplace in the states causes riots elsewhere. I don’t know what that says about us, but it probably isn’t good.

  • I dunno, I think it says something good about us myself. While I think it is our responsibility to be mindful of the culture in other parts of the world — especially when traveling there — it’s nice to live in a place that doesn’t abide by those kinds of extreme conservative constraints. Not that there aren’t harmful conservative traditions in the U.S. (in my opinion), but certainly not on THAT level. :-)

  • Thanks for the first time post JC.

    I agree that it seems like a pretty backward thing, but even in North America people have varying comfort levels with public displays of affection. Granted, two movie stars kissing on stage just to get a rise out of a crowd would hardly be seen as offensive here, not least because they are just acting.

  • JC?!?!? John?? CARPENTER?!?!?

  • Jay

    Hi — I am Indian, and the ‘national uproar’ was a bunch of the Indian equivalents of unemployed rednecks, probably about ten in number, trying to make a hue and cry with local elections around the corner under the aegis of nationalist politicians, I would say, no more then ten or fifteen men out of a population of one billion. Nobody gives a shit in India about this really.

  • JC

    Maybe it is Jay. I guess you’ll never know.

  • EG

    India has bigger problems than Gere kissing some attention-seeking Bollywood chick. The real crime is Gere’s flannel plaid shirt at such a high profile event.

  • Scott

    For a society that has been deeply damaged by colonialism can one think of a more offensive image of a white guy grabbing a daughter of India and forcing himself upon her? It is so symbolic. It is right in line with the image of the white colonist forcing himself upon a country and just taking whatever he wants.

    Richard Gere should pay the ultimate price for this.

    What bothers me however is those who would blame Shilpa Shetty for this.

    Too often women victims of rape in India are blamed for what happened like they wanted the rape to happen or it was their fault the rape happened even when the truth might be that the rapists brutalized them and they couldn’t stop the rape from happening.

    While of course Richard Gere didn’t actually rape Shilpa Shetty, I still see this whole “Blame the Woman Victim” dynamic in place. From what I saw from the video Shilpa Shetty did nothing to cause Richard Gere to act the way he did, and was in fact as shocked as everyone else was that he would act in such a disgraceful manner.

    We need to defend this daughter of India, not blame her for this white man’s assault upon her.

  • People in India do not give a shit about this, only politicians do…. so don’t be a fool and lose your time with this… ‘national uproar’ not to say bullshit!