Hi, Sima, from Mumbai!
That's an introduction you'll grow to absolutely hate and roll around laughing whenever you hear it after binge-watching the entire season of “Indian Matchmaking”. The show's premise starts off by perpetuating the stereotypical “traditional” Indian family lifestyle. Find boy/girl for your kid, if they are rich/have good parents, get the wedding gifts ready!
When I first saw this show on my Netflix recommendations, my initial reaction was “What on earth?! Are they really going to show the crazy process of arranged marriages, and somehow make it non-controversial and TV-ready??”
My suspicions were warranted. They did not make it very non-controversial. And here's why.
This show, released on Netflix in early 2020, divided viewers, and received some backlash regarding its problematic plot and lack of diversity. But, let's get to the premise of the show and find out why it was such a controversial hit.
So Sima Aunty (from Mumbai!) comes to the house of a prospective “match” and essentially asks them what kind of partner they want from a menu. The criteria range from relatively reasonable, age, hobbies, etc. to openly discriminatory, such as weight, caste, skin color. The blatant casteism and colourism is endorsed and not addressed even once. The family is often considered as the main decision-making body, not their kid looking for love. Which, sure, does prevail in some areas, but to not even talk about how unfair this is, just doesn't make sense. For instance, in one of the men's case, the mother is seen doing everything. I kid you not. She writes the “list of preferences” for her son, and it's very obvious the son really does not want to be here.
The worst part is, he's like a 3 at best and (SPOILER ALERT) the girl he meets eventually is a solid 11.
The not-so diverse cast of millenials flip through “biodatas” of their prospective dates and eventually find one they like (after a lot of persuasion from their parents). And you, as the viewer definitely will have your own strong opinions. “He's not good enough!” “Yuck, who says that?” “Why would she say no?” are sure to fill your binge-watching session.
Now, don't get me wrong, you will have the characters that you root for 100%. It's natural for a show like this. So I really liked the girl who didn't really care much about her prospective partner, and rumor has it, she came on the show to advertise her business. Queen behavior.
Another significant mishap of the show, is the frequent arguments that the girl must be flexible. And no, they don't mean she must do Pilates. The matchmaker regularly adheres to her view that marriage is all about compromise. But, as the New York Times wrote, does adjustment mean “open-mindedness, or gender imbalance?”
However, there are a couple of people on this show don't adhere to Sima's conventional ideas, like the aforementioned queen. You go girl!
Another thing this show has
kind of definitely messed up on, is perpetuating the whole “Marry before you become undesirable, which means before 25!” Society as a whole needs to normalize getting married at any age, not when your helicopter mom wants a grandson! (Yes, I'm talking to you Akshay's mom, get a life) All the people on this show are pressured by parents, friends, Sima Aunty, and god forbid literal astrologists to get married ASAP. This generation and all that come after need to know that getting married isn't a necessity. You don't have an expiry date and you definitely don't need to marry the first person you meet.
You might be thinking, are people even watching this mess of a show? Well, they definitely are. It's become a bit of a meme, in fact, with multiple Instagram pages flooding people's explore page with memes, character analyses and cringe-worthy screen caps. But also, one thing you can say for the show, is that it reveals something a lot of non-Indians probably don't guess; that this “matchmaking” process is pretty commonplace. Additionally, it is an accurate portrayal of how people like Sima Aunty pressure their clients. I guess that's what attracts the population, not the 67% it got on Rotten Tomatoes.
The thing is, it holds a cracked mirror up to society. It shows the Western world that these things still exist. Matchmakers, astrologists, people who find out your destiny and love life from a photo. They all exist, and it makes you think twice about what you are actually watching. Not just a comedy, but something that acknowledges the harsh realities, and doesn't shy away from showing them.
But kids, according to Sima Aunty, love isn't a deep emotional connection. It's a business deal, and you don't get to say a thing. Don't be like Sima Aunty.
That's not to say this whole procedure should be condoned. By glorifying arranged marriages, that originated as way to uphold caste supremacy, and failing to offer other narratives, it misrepresents and normalizes something that really should not be considered completely fine.
Now some people think this show should be completely boycotted for its misrepresentation, perpetuation of harmful ideas, and complete lack of sensitivity and diversity. But i don't think we should be so quick to dismiss it. It has its moments, insane as they may be. And for the most part, it lets people know that this happens, people genuinely go through this. In a way, it does kind of bring awareness to the matchmaking/arranged marriage procedure and how unfair it is. It reveals truths some people are uncomfortable with, and reading between the lines should be done with more focus than actually watching the antics going on.
In my opinion, the show is pretty hilarious to watch.The people in it are so sincere and crazy it makes you cry with laughter. I imagine the cast just wanted to be on TV and maybe find someone special, but instead they got turned into Foxnut-eating memes! But, you must make sure you don't incorporate these classist and racist ideals of "fair, slim and trim" into your life. Despite what Sima Aunty says, that is not all a person is. Beware of those blatantly discriminatory ideas, and you'll be fine. So binge-watch it, and I promise you, you'll leave having had a good laugh, having thought a little about the weird way society works, and having scrolled through a million memes of Akshay's mom and her high blood pressure.
But it's safe to say that my idea of a perfect show isn't Indian Matchmaking. Guess that's a failure on your part, Sima from Mumbai, I would like to see some more biodatas.