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Mr. Showbiz
March 16, 1999

Hindus Miffed by Xena, Austin

  What do an Amazonian princess and a freeze-dried special agent have in common? These days, bad karma — both Xena: Warrior Princess and Austin Powers star Mike Myers are under attack by members of the Hindu community. A Hindu delegation was rebuffed Monday in an attempt to meet with the producers and studio behind the television series, intent on expressing unhappiness with the depiction of their religion on Xena, the fantasy-action drama starring Lucy Lawless.

"They spit in the face of Hindus all over the world" by refusing to receive the delegation at Universal Studios, said Tusta Krishnadas, spokesman for one group, the World Vaishnava Association. Krishnadas also told the Associated Press that the show's production and distribution company, Pacific Renaissance, is based at Universal.

Krishnadas said Xena depicted Hindu deities in an offensive manner for "cheap entertainment." An apology from the producers and Universal and a promise to avoid such depictions in the future is the goal, he said.

A Universal spokeswoman said the group had been informed that a meeting with other Hindus was being held in New Zealand, where the syndicated series is filmed. Xena spokeswoman Sue May described the Auckland meeting as "courteous." She added, "The producers listened to the group's concerns and will forward their letters."

Fewer Hindus may be in line for Myers' new summer movie, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. A spread in the current issue of Vanity Fair led to accusations that Myers "mocks their beliefs and insults their faith," reports the New York Post.

The pictures, shot by David LaChapelle, show a partially shorn Myers in traditional Hindu garb, including robes, mehndi body paintings, and a jeweled bindi. Cheeky monkey Myers has "Call my agent" henna-painted onto his hand and holds a electronic personal organizer displaying "Om" in one picture, and sits in the lotus position with an elongated tongue like the Hindu goddess Kali, surrounded by naked, blue-skinned models and a monkey god in another.

The South Asian Journalists' Association, SAJA, posted the photos on their Web site ( "so that they can be commented upon and critiqued," according to the SAJA moderator. SAJA founder Sreenath Sreenivasan says today that the site was 10 times busier than usual. While there has been a negative response, the moderator also notes that some Hindu members of the organization have written in to say the photos are routine parody and should not be condemned.

"Not everyone who is upset is a Hindu, and not all Hindus are upset," Sreenivasan says.

Regardless of who he upset, LaChapelle unexpectedly called SAJA yesterday and issued an apology, which is now posted on the Web site. It is unique when an apology comes directly from a writer or artist and not an editor, Sreenivasan says. Also, the speed of LaChappelle's reaction attests to the pace at which the Internet distributes information.

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