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Indian Matchmaking gained massive popularity after its release in July. But apart from its entertainment value, why are we attracted to shows like these?
From Houston to Delhi, ‘Sima Taparia from Mumbai’ took us through house visits, awkward dates, marriage proposals and even sessions with astrologers. Somehow, we simply can’t get enough of what one would only deem ‘cringeworthy’ dialogues, declarations of finding a match who is ‘slim, trim and fair.’
And this comes at a time when the confinement period has made us feel relationship blues and long for those summer-night dates.
There were some of us who took to Twitter and social media to express our outrage on the show, and some who even signed petitions to take it down. However, was there an inherent value or latent message from this binge? Is there more to the show apart from our collective inclination to binge-watch TV shows and share memes on the internet?
After the show, I also watched a video released by Netflix India which interviewed some of the personalities on the show. They called called out some of the evils portrayed on Indian Matchmaking.
I took some time to come to terms with my own views and feelings about the show. Especially since I both raged at the TV and poked fun at the eight-part series I watched in two evenings with my mom.
But what made Indian Matchmaking so different from similar shows like Love is Blind, or Too Hot To Handle or other romance and dating shows on Netflix?
We neither accept nor condone the ‘tall, fair, slim and trim’ expectation that seems trumpeted by nearly all of the families we see. However, we still can’t help laughing in puzzlement at the outrageous standards that they seemingly propagate.
What are we left with after unraveling the near addictive cringe-fest, soap-worthy dram and its normalisation of hierarchal and problematic power structures in the South Asian society?
Our ability to accept the hilarity of the show is also a telling of society and how easy it is to normalise some of these damaging ideas and notions. The uncomfortable questions it brought to the forefront and its plethora of internet memes is proof that we realise, there are important problems to address.
Similarly, our readiness to laugh and watch the show simply for the entertainment is symbolic of how much we shove under the rug. How much we shove things under the rug when it comes to experiencing some of the issues in our lives.
The power of editing has been a key asset to the show. Especially in the way, it not only mirrors Indian society but allows us to get up close with some of our main characters.
We are in touch with the character’s own thoughts and feelings and are almost able to form a kinship with them. Our characters are multi-faceted layered individuals who are victims of society’s many regressive notions even today. For instance, we were able to sympathise with Nadia when she was stood up by Vinay, and understand Vyasar’s difficult childhood.
Young women like me will immediately understand the double standard faced by people like Nadia and Aparna when it comes to societal judgement. Nadia, in particular, is on the receiving end of some of the show’s colourist and casteist ideas. And even Ankita, who received flak for wanting to exercise her own freedom and independence.
A majority of the characters are also millennials and young people in our own shoes. They are struggling to understand what they want from life and career as well as juggle their own expectations with that of their families.
This near-universal struggle, particularly among those in the Asian and South Asian diaspora, is widespread. They are no strangers to the insurmountable pressures of finding potential rishtas and answering the dreaded questions about marriage and kids.
Indian Matchmaking is, first and foremost, a show about Indian matrimonial practices, particularly arranged marriages.
The backlash the show received is also representational of our self-awareness about some of these social ills. Those that continue to be so prevalent in our society even today. Particularly ones on the vestiges of casteism and colourism which still continue to pervade Indian society particularly in marriage as an institution.
Many people also believe that the show did offer a mirror and a social commentary on the Indian society. At the same time, it may also have done more harm by normalising and feeding into this toxic culture.
Overall, it simply is not enough for us to see past the many issues in the show and accept it for ‘what it is.’ It is also equally necessary for us to understand the reasons why we continued to click on the next episode each time in the first place.
Rather than pandering to popular opinion and making a second season, we should explore more shows that actually shed light on honest and open discussions about these pressing issues.
Picture credits: Still from the series Indian Matchmaking
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Shivani is currently an undergraduate political science student who is passionate about human rights and
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