Recently, Netflix released a reality dating show: Indian Matchmaking, following Mumbai matchmaker Sima Taparia as she sets up Indian couples around the world.
As an Indian American, I was skeptical to watch the show and its take on arranged marriage within today’s modern Indian community. Though Indian Matchmaking is an enjoyable watch like so many other reality shows, there are definite issues that need to be recognized, especially with the social system that the show brings to light.
Indian Matchmaking focuses on a few singles from different places, like New Jersey, Texas, and Mumbai. They all have vastly different personalities and tastes in dating profiles, but with the help of astrologers, fellow matchmakers and photoreaders, Sima Taparia aims to find them all viable matches based on their criterias. She shows each of the singles “biodatas,” reports that include every potential match’s interests, physical details and photographs.
We are wrapped into the world of the matchmaker and all of the different hopefuls trying to find an ultimate partner. One thing the show does well is enticing the viewer – it’s a reality show, after all. There’s the usual intrigue and drama of ghosting, awkward silences and failed dates. It also manages to avoid and change expectations of arranged marriage, as it shows a modern view on the subject and how different it is than we may expect. Some view it as an expectation the couple doesn’t choose for themselves or a hurtful practice. In some cases that’s very true, but there are others who are willing to give it a try. Many examples shown in the show represent a contemporary culture, challenging our notions about the traditions of an arranged marriage.
Big issues with the show are body shaming, colorism, sexism, heteronormativity and casteism. For example, it comes across as a “fact” when Sima speaks of people wanting “slim” and “fair” partners. Such conversations are also primarily in reference to the women. Many members of the cast in Indian Matchmaking mention that women should be willing to move for their partner or they should be more lenient. Discrimination and stigmatism do need to be resolved because they are ingrained in the old traditions of our culture. It doesn’t help that the show doesn’t always refute these points, which makes it hard to watch especially when you belong to one of the many groups they shame on screen.
For all of its faults, I think it makes sense Indian Matchmaking captures these comments because this is the reality. This is the uncomfortable world many Indian people have to face when getting married and the impossible standards people hold for their children’s partners or their own. The show is sparking important conversation that needs to be had within the Indian society and within our own families.
I am Indian and I thought this was a fun watch. Overall, I liked seeing the main cast members as well as their complicated dating downfalls and successes. At the same time, as interesting as the show is, I have heard many of the remarks made in this show directed at me or others I know in real life, which was a bit difficult to witness. Indian Matchmaking glorifies problematic statements and I think we should all have a significant conversation about the societal issues the show raises.