"Outsourced" and the Significance of Baptism

[Reel Insights – A Continuing Series on Movies and Television Programs that Convey Unexpectedly Profound Spiritual Ideas.]

"Outsourced" and Baptism

"Outsourced" (ShadowCatcher Entertainment, 2006) is a cross-cultural comedy starring Josh Hamilton as Todd Anderson, a Seattle call center manager who is relocated to India to train his own replacement. Who would expect this easy-going film to depict a kind of religious "conversion" experience, culminating in a scene of symbolic baptism?

Culture Shock strikes Todd (whom the locals can't help calling "Toad") from the moment he arrives. The food plays havoc with his stomach, he clearly doesn't understand local customs, and - as an example of Todd's "dis-ease" with his environment - an apparently homeless child steals his cell phone. But the confused American's experiences are also opening him up to a larger world than the one he knew in Seattle, as he witnesses extreme poverty, compassion, and acceptance.

Encountering an expat who has survived India for many years, he is advised to "Give in to India," and Todd eventually learns to let India reveal whatever it has to reveal to him. Todd's "conversion" takes place on the day of Holi, a celebration of spring. Ignorant of the customs surrounding this holiday, Todd takes to the streets and is finally overwhelmed by a world he has struggled to come to terms with. Though Todd's initial reaction is to run from the Holi celebrants, this scene depicts the moment he finally is able to "give in" to India.

By the end of the scene, Todd - for the first time completely open to the new world around him - wanders into the bathing pool near his guesthouse, to wash off the Holi colored powder. The screenwriter and director clearly present this action as a kind of baptism, which in its most literal sense is a symbolic re-creation of the death and resurrection of Christ. It is a "dying" of the smaller self that was ignorant of truth, and the "birth" of a new self that encompasses and embraces a greater awareness. Signaling Todd's atonement (read it: "at-one-ment") with the universe, the child returns his stolen cell phone.

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