On Netflix’s “Indian Matchmaking,” marriage advisor Sima Taparia travels the world to meet with hopeful purchasers and assist them discover the right match for an organized marriage.
The format of the present is easy. Hopeful brides- and grooms-to-be meet with Taparia — usually with their overbearing mother and father in tow — for an preliminary session. Criteria are laid out, potential suitors are introduced on paper, dates are organized, and then it is up to the couple to resolve if it is a match.
The characters’ tales — in addition to cringier moments — play out in entertaining methods, at instances revealing the absurdities and awkwardness of matchmaking. I laughed when, for instance, Taparia sought the session of an astrologist and a face reader.
Matchmaker Sima Taparia meets with hopeful purchasers. Credit: Netflix
At different factors, the present presents brutal truths about Indian culture: the emphasis on being “fair”; the large strain to wed; the give attention to caste and class; the stigmatization of impartial, working girls.
But the present fails to contextualize and even query these problematic beliefs after they’re introduced up by its characters, presenting them as a substitute as the established order.
Mentioned casually but incessantly all through the eight episodes is the concept candidates needs to be “fair,” or in different phrases, have mild skin.
The topic of skin color and, subsequently, social standing in Indian culture is extremely complicated. While folks with darker skin tones are subjected to harsh discrimination and prejudice, equity is revered and related to magnificence, wealth and energy.
Vyasar Ganesan (left) and Rashi (proper) on episode six of “Indian Matchmaking.” Credit: Netflix
This cultural bias is engrained from an early age, with girls bearing extra of the societal strain to have lighter skin. If you are a girl, darker skin is usually a deal-breaker for households looking for the right spouse for his or her son. For males, honest skin is seen as a bonus but not as a lot of a requirement.
Colorism and the desirability of “fairness” is drilled into younger women. In my very own case, it began after I was in center faculty in India, when my classmates taunted me for having darker skin. Older girls would additionally make unsolicited feedback about my complexion, veiled as real concern for me and my future marriage prospects.
Fair and Lovely skin equity cream at a store in New Delhi. Credit: Sajjad Hussain/AFP by way of Getty Images
“Indian Matchmaking” itself provides a window into the existence of an elite class of Indians who can enlist the service of a top-tier matchmaker, and in some circumstances, fly them to the opposite facet of the world. This will not be one thing common households do, so standing is already constructed into the narrative.
Perhaps this makes it simpler for households to keep away from explicitly specifying honest skin as a part of their match standards. Taparia assumes it goes with out saying, and consistently describes girls as a “good person” or match as a result of they’re “fair and good looking.” Some of the households depend on this — it permits them to be politically appropriate and obscure in their seek for somebody “good looking” with out explicitly saying “fair.”
Pradhyuman Maloo in episode 4 of “Indian Matchmaking.” Credit: Netflix
Yet, they get precisely the type of complexion they need to see. It’s the equal of writing “caste no bar” in a matrimonial advert — a suggestion that the one that positioned the advert is keen to contemplate candidates no matter social hierarchy — but in actuality solely happening dates with folks from the “community,” which turns into a euphemistic catch-all time period for folks from the identical faith, caste or class.
Take the younger Mumbai-based Pradhyuman Maloo, who options prominently in the present, for example. His well-to-do mother and father desperately need him to cool down and discover a spouse, but he appears principally uninterested in the ladies introduced to him, till he is proven a photograph of Rushali Rai, an attractive mannequin from Delhi. His eyes mild up on the sight of her. Taparia describes her as “fair and good-looking, but also, she’s smart.”
When Maloo first sees her photograph, he’s elated. “Ahh, she’s so cute!”
“I’ll tell you that from her dressing style to her look and everything, how she carries herself, that I can meet her,” he stated. “It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be fun.”
Pradhyuman Maloo on a date with actor and mannequin Rushali Rai on “Indian Matchmaking.” Credit: Netflix
Watching the 2 side-by-side on their date, it is inconceivable to ignore the truth that, of all of the characters in the present, they’ve probably the most comparable skin tones. Their pairing does nothing to challenge the deep-rooted cultural notion that it is best to marry somebody with an identical background.
As for girls who do not match the “fair, tall and slim” standards, we do see the present acknowledging a special destiny. Businesswoman Ankita Bansal is shipped to a life coach, with whom she discusses the insecurities she had along with her physique rising up.
“People would come and tell me that you’re never going to find anybody because you have to lose some weight,” stated Bansal, including that she suffered from “off the charts” anxiousness. “So that played a very big part in how I lost my confidence completely in even trying to approach a man.”
The life coach acknowledges that such expectations will be unrealistic, and hurtful when it comes to a girl feeling her true value. “I think it’s so — superficial, maybe, that they’re only defining us by the way we look.”
Nadia Jagessar on episode two of “Indian Matchmaking.” Credit: Netflix
But attitudes in the direction of “fairness” and magnificence beliefs are altering. Young folks — who’re often extra social-media savvy and higher educated — really feel extra empowered to go towards the grain, and to put strain on those that proceed to perpetuate magnificence requirements.
The marketing campaign “Dark is Beautiful” has waged its decade-long combat towards colorism by creating consciousness applications about skin bias. Others like “Dark is Divine” and “Unfair and Lovely” have additionally since joined the combat.
The present sidesteps indicators of such progress, as a substitute offering a platform for outdated clichés over cultural debate and context. Fittingly, in one of many ultimate scenes, Richa, a younger Indian American lady, who Tapaira provides “95 out of 100,” reels off her standards for the right match.
It’s not the primary level in a protracted listing, but when she comes to it, it lands jarringly.
“Not too dark, you know, fair-skinned.”