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This Tamil language anthology series gives us a look at how the same emotions might be expressed differently by men and women thanks to social conditioning.
Some time ago, I was reading different opinions on the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard. It occurred to me that treating crimes (murders) of passion as lesser crimes than premeditated murders might be biased against women.
Women are not taught to be loud about their emotions. They are told that they cannot be impulsive. They are not socialised to have direct, physical reactions like slamming someone’s face into the ground out of anger.
However, just because someone is quieter about their emotions, and cannot afford to react as impulsively, it does not mean that their responses are any less emotional. Just because an act involved more planning, it does not mean that the person who did it was necessarily thinking clearer than someone who did it impulsively.
And these gendered differences in the expression of emotions are not limited to anger. Unfortunately, not every single episode does this. But on the whole, Navarasa does end up showing how men and women often tend to display the same emotions differently.
The most obvious example of this is Roudhram, the episode on anger (each episode focuses on a specific emotion). The main character is male, and he expresses his anger impulsively by physically assaulting another man. However, there is more to the story. How does the main character’s sister respond? Is her anger any less scary than his, even if expressed differently?
And then, there is Ethiri, which I expected to be a stereotypical story of a woman showing compassion towards a violent man. However, I could not have been more wrong. Both of them are shown to display compassion as well as the lack of it. One of them might do it more obviously, and yet the message is clear.
Summer of ‘92 barely seems to have any significant roles for its female characters, and yet Lakshmi’s joke is the last line in the movie. Her quiet sense of humour comes through despite the male protagonist’s loud comedy being the focus for most of the episode.
Thunintha Pin is another episode that focuses on its leading men (there are two of them). And yet, Muthulakshmi’s confidence in the face of hopelessness is courage, even if she’s not engaged in a literal war unlike the male protagonists.
Payasam focuses on a seriously envious man who is attending a wedding, and how he ends up doing something really petty as a result. His widowed daughter by contrast, is extremely gracious. And yet, do we hear a hint of something more in her voice when she asks if the cook recalls making the same payasam (a type of sweet dish) for her wedding?
If Netflix does end up releasing a Volume 2 of Navarasa, I would love, love, love for all of the episodes to really dig into the intersectional gender dynamics of emotional expression, instead of most of the episodes focusing on men with only a little bit of space left behind for the women (even if they did shine in that little bit of space).
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Shows like Indian Matchmaking only further the argument that women must adhere to social norms without being allowed to follow their hearts.
When Netflix announced that Indian Matchmaking (2020-present) would be renewed for a second season, many of us hoped for the makers of the show to take all the criticism they faced seriously. That is definitely not the case because the show still continues to celebrate regressive patriarchal values.
Here are a few of the gendered notions that the show propagates.
A mediocre man can give himself a 9.5/10 and call himself ‘the world’s most eligible bachelor’, but an independent and successful woman must be happy with receiving just 60-70% of what she feels she deserves.
As long as teachers are competent in their job, and adhere to the workplace code of conduct, how does it matter what they do in their personal lives?
A 30 year old Associate Professor at a well-known University, according to an FIR filed by her, was forced to resign because the father of one of her students complained that he found his son looking at photographs of her, which according to him were “objectionable” and “bordering on nudity”.
There are two aspects to this case, which are equally disturbing, and which together make me question where we are heading as a society.
When the father of an 18 year old finds his son looking at photographs of a lady in a swimsuit, he can do many things. What this parent allegedly did was to dash off a letter to the University which states: