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Why We Need To Stop Praising Regressive Shows Like Indian Matchmaking

Posted: July 24, 2020

Arranged marriages don’t have to mean that women resign themselves be treated like nobodies, and that is what this backward going show tells them to.

A few years ago, Star Plus had this show called ‘Perfect Bride’ which my mother and I followed religiously.

I had a huge issue with the name of the show and would have preferred it to be ‘Perfect Match’ instead. I also had an issue with certain things about the show – like how the boy’s mother was an important part of the journey of selecting the bride (The girl and the boy’s mother were accommodated in the same ‘house’ while the boy was in a different ‘side’ of the house – the two houses being adjacent and connected through a common door and a common terrace), but the girl’s family was nowhere in the picture.

Marrying into the “family”

For me, except for the whole angle of searching for a ‘perfect bride’ and the part where too much weightage given to the boy’s mother’s opinions, the show showed the possibility of finding romance in unlikely situations. In fact, one couple did fall in love with one another, and things were rosy because the boy’s mother too liked the girl. And it had seemed as if this particular couple would eventually get their happily ever after.

But soon, enough, the boy’s father played spoilsport. He wasn’t happy with the match; no reasons being put forth on national TV. All he diplomatically said was on camera and to the boy was that the girl wasn’t a right match for their family.

That was my first introduction to how a girl doesn’t just marry a boy, but marries into a family.

That was my first rude awakening of love and compatibility, not being enough for a couple to get married. That caste, status, family dynamics are more important when looking for a life partner.

Peddling dehumanisation

I grew up wanting to marry for love, but reconciled myself to an arranged marriage soon enough.

Thankfully, for us, my parents and I, factors like caste, number of immovable properties owned by the boy, or which country he is based in have no significance whatsoever.

I knew that an ‘arranged marriages’ was not the way people like me went about choosing a life partner. The matrimonial columns were evidence enough of how (fair, slim, homely,…) most grooms and their families go shopping for dolls and not human beings.

So I knew what a show like Indian Matchmaking would peddle in the name of entertainment. While this was 2020 and the streaming channel being Netflix, and I am sure many would have expected it to be something different, the reviews soon proved that this was just a repackaged ‘Perfect Bride’.

Unfortunately, I just read a post in another group praising the show and explaining in great detail of how wonderfully entertaining it is. The post, not the show, left my blood boiling.

The post is a classic example of what is wrong with society and with people who think everything about our ‘Indian culture’ is glorious.

In all honesty, I was surprised until now by how everyone was trashing the show, because I knew sooner or later, someone would come praising the show. Looks I was waiting for something like this only.

I’m not going to share the link of the post. I’m sure you’ll come across it sooner or later.

‘Chill, guys. It’s just a show.’

Never mind how the entire post skilfully glosses over how regressive the show is. That one line about everyone needing to take a chill pill told me all that I needed to know about why the review itself is so cringe-worthy.

The problem is we don’t realize how impactful TV shows and films really are. I’m sure all of us at point of time or the other have been asked to write essays on the social impact of popular media. Have we forgotten how we used to write long arguments explaining the reach and influence of such shows?

Sure, we know it’s just a show. Sure, we know it’s light-hearted entertainment. Sure, we also know how this is the reality. Never mind that it reduces women to nothing but insignificant objects that should have no say in the choice of their life partner. Let us not bother about how it is reinforcing patriarchy or sexist stereotypes.

Arranged marriages are Ok, but not this…!

I’m not against arranged marriages. I’d have myself happily gone down that route. Almost did.

But arranged marriages don’t have to mean that women resign themselves be treated like nobodies.

They don’t have to mean that the woman reduce herself to being treated like an unpaid slave.

It doesn’t mean that the woman alone should be expected to do all the cooking or else the rest of the family members would die of starvation.

(Yes, someone actually asked me that if I didn’t know cooking how were they expected to survive? Told him, ‘they’d survive the same way they’re surviving right now’.)

Stop telling women to ‘adjust’ or ‘be flexible’

Maybe this is why I’m not yet married.

Because I refuse to consider arranged marriages as something that would take my dignity away. I expect arranged marriage to be nothing more than what the words literally mean – an arranged alliance, and nothing less than what it would be had the boy and girl met each other without help from elders.

In my opinion, the only difference between an arrange marriage and a love marriage is probably the time the couple actually spends with each other.

In the case of  a relationship culminating in a marriage, it could be years before the couple decide to take the plunge. In an arranged marriage, the couple meets with the purpose of marriage already on their minds.

(This is why when a potential groom told me to move bag and baggage to Dubai and then see how it goes, I told him to get lost because I’m not uprooting my life for nothing.)

So yes, there are differences between arranged marriages and love marriages but in today’s time and age, it shouldn’t involve asking a woman to give up her own existence.

And if something or someone does do that – reduce the women to nothing, that is – it’s upon to call out on that immediately.

Match-making isn’t about telling a woman to adjust or be more flexible. It’s simply about getting two people to meet each other.

It’s ‘reality’, yes. But it needs a ‘reality check’

Which brings me to the show and the high praise being heaped on it.

The whole argument of what such praise hinges on is the point that the show is reality and a reflection of our social fabric. But what such reviews and those praising the show miss is that it is not a reality check – one which we anyway need more than a reminder of what reality is.

It was sad to read how the review glosses over all the huge issues that the show reinforces.

It (the review) throws around words like ‘casteism’ like they don’t really mean much. That they’re minor issues and one should learn to look past them.

The sentiment that ‘it’s just a TV show, you guys’ and let’s just enjoy because it is so much fun and entertaining, is evident in the review.

I’m glad in real life none of the couples actually worked out. Because it showed the ‘reality’ of reality TV. And how empowered girls are that they didn’t feel pressured to make it work even for a TV show. They probably got paid shitloads of money and walked away with it.

The ‘log kya kahenge’ didn’t bother them at all.

For me, that is the only benefit I see coming out of this. But how many of us would really take that as a value take-away is anyone’s guess.

Such stories only take back by centuries. And us watching and praising such shows only proves one thing – that we enjoy others’ discomfort, we enjoy others being ridiculed and ill-treated, and that we derive our entertainment from seeing other people put each other down.

One would have thought the response to Big Boss had already proved that.

But this particular post to Indian Matchmaking drove the point home even more.

Author’s note: I haven’t watched the show, only the promos. Don’t intend to. I experience this in real life, and that is more than enough for me. I don’t need the show to tell me I don’t matter. I wish others would stop watching it even as a joke!

Image source: pixabay

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Piyusha is a sometime sane reader, part-time crazy writer and full-time wacky alien.

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