DI Voices | Rating South Asian representation in television | Part II

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Photo courtesy of IMDB

Actresses Simone Ashley (right) and Adjoa Andoh (left) start in the fifth episode of season two of Bridgerton, “An Unthinkable Fate.”

By Vidhi Patel, Columnist

For those who have not read the first part of this series, I am assessing and rating the three main television series featuring South Asian characters. In part two, I will examine “Bridgerton” and draw my concluding thoughts on South Asian representation in Western media.

Bridgerton

The last of the three is “Bridgerton,” which has the best South Asian representation in all Western media. Season two of this show features two Indian characters, Kate and Edwina Sharma, on an equal plane with all its others — they are simply women being women, who happen to be Indian.

I love this take so much because I’ve always been viewed as Indian before everything else. It’s not that I’m ashamed of it or that I think the best representation ignores culture, but the women in this show are given roles that South Asian women rarely had before: they’re love interests. Kate and Edwina demonstrate that South Asian women are capable of receiving someone’s love. 

Edwina is named the jewel of the season, which means she is the most desirable woman in their society. Kate, on the other hand, is not trying to find love, but her personality makes her a love interest for the show’s main character. It’s validating to see South Asian women perceived as attractive after being seen as “less desirable” for so long.

Aside from their desirability, the show depicts India in a refreshingly positive light. Kate discusses how beautiful it is and how she wants to go back. A white Londoner shared her view, saying he visited once and thought it was gorgeous. Media often portrays India as a chaotic, colorful and messy place, but “Bridgerton” emphasizes the beautiful scenery and how tranquil it is for Kate.

Another aspect of the show that improves subtle representation is the clothes. Kate wore outfits that had Indian influences, like her dresses and jewelry. And to top it all off, the show that is known for classical renditions of modern pop songs included a brilliant feature of “Khabi Khushi Khabie Gham” — the title song of one of the most popular Bollywood movies ever made. 

Maybe it’s just me, but hearing that song in one of Netflix’s most popular shows made me tear up; I felt so very seen.  

The show did not ignore Kate and Edwina’s culture through their representation. When Edwina was getting married, the family practiced Hindu wedding rituals. The sisters also refer to each other as “bon” and “didi” and their father as “Appa,” which are common familial terms used in various parts of India. 

Overall, this show provided me with the casual representation I had been desperate for growing up: I give it five stars. 

The Final Verdict

It was hard to decide which series has the objectively best representation because they all tackle it differently. None of these shows can be appreciated without the existence of the others to create a comparison.

“Never Have I Ever” is a realistic teen show about a South Asian girl dealing with realistic first-generation Indian girl problems. “Ms. Marvel” is a superhero show about a South Asian girl whose identity as a superhero is rooted in her culture and ancestry. “Bridgerton” is a romance about a man in love with a woman who happens to be South Asian.

If “Never Have I Ever” did not exist, I would not appreciate “Bridgerton” as much because I might have been upset about the show ignoring their culture. If “Bridgerton” did not exist, I might have been upset with “Ms. Marvel” for focusing so much on culture when Desi people can be Desi without their entire identity revolving around it.

However, after viewing all these forms of representation, I believe “Bridgerton” is the best. Desi people are so used to their ethnicity being the trait people fixate on, which has been synonymous with mockery and racist humor for so many years. 

I’ve always been seen as Indian first and as myself second. As important as this cultural representation is, I think it might be more important to be seen as a human first.

 

Vidhi is a sophomore in LAS.

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