When I was in high school, reality television was quite popular amongst my peers. Being a teenager who craved acceptance, I found myself watching these shows and laughing at the insane lives of these people. I remember telling someone that they must love the show “Shahs of Sunset” because they can relate to their story being told on television. Their reply was polite, yet to the point, “That is not my story, and this show is everything wrong with the depiction of Iranians.” In my head, I just thought they did not like the show and felt that it was silly. I did not give it much thought, not because I did not agree, but because I did not know better. That show still airs on different channels to this day, and many different shows have come out.
This year, the channel has decided to produce a show called “Family Karma,” which intends to follow the lives of a group of Indians who migrated to the United States and have settled abroad. When I first saw the trailer, I thought it was a joke and a spoof on how stereotypes within the South Asian community have been perpetuated for years. I saw the trailer and not only felt mad, but disappointed because this is going to be the benchmark for how North Americans view South Asians. If you find yourself drawn to the idea of the show, please watch the trailer and hear the comments about how all the parents go out together for happy hours only to talk about their kids. While I do acknowledge that South Asian parents are very preoccupied with their children and their respective futures, this show focuses on how Indian parents are simply focused on how to infiltrate their kids’ lives while being able to gossip about other kids.
The show is scandalous and from the one-minute trailer, it shows that it will be able to attract an audience based on the fact that it reinforces every idea that people generally have about South Asians.
Moreover, I worried about how this will become the benchmark for how Indians are. While children of the diaspora have led many different lives and adapted to many different norms, this show may force them to explain how they do not relate to this show.
I, for one, could not relate to any part of the trailer. My parents did not have an arranged marriage and when they moved to Canada, they had a diverse friend group and my friend group very rarely included the children of their friends. My parents have never pushed me to get details about my life, I have just shared them naturally because I trusted my parent’s guidance. While this may not be the same narrative for every single person, this is the issue with shows like this. It will somewhat be seen as the “norm” for a majority of South Asians, regardless of the fact that the cast is mainly Hindu and not representative of South Asians abroad.
While the show has catty comments such as “Do you know she is a virgin?” and it is yet again focusing on how women in South Asian societies are constantly shamed for any reason. Given that many South Asian women face patriarchal rules and may fear fighting it due to the fact that it can get them shunned or worse within their community, a narrative that shows how catty women can be and that all they do is gossip and comment about other people feeds a very basic narrative that women only have one role and they themselves don’t break try to move away from those roles. I would like to add, that the trailer does portray Indian mothers as very annoying and overbearing. Why is this the narrative we choose to portray? South Asian women who have started their families abroad are some of the strongest women I know. Not only did they make a foreign land their home, but they have also adapted to a whole different culture, made a community for themselves and continued to build themselves in a society that may have shunned them constantly.
Do I believe this show will be ground-breaking for representation amongst the South Asian diaspora? Not at all. I am actually very wary of how women, especially housewives, will be portrayed in this show.
I believe that as children of the diaspora, we have a role in protecting the rights of women, especially those who are in our immediate circle. Thus, when children of the diaspora come out and make umbrella statements about their parents and the norms, we are not moving forward. We are maintaining and perpetuating a norm that is problematic. Housewives do not simply run around their sons and worry about their children’s marriages.
Their show will have a wide reach and become the norm, while other stories will not be explored given that they are not scandalous enough for television or that they are not “Indian” enough, this show may try to become a narrative for all Indians or for anyone who is brown for that matter.
This show adds to the danger of a single story which Adichie has spoken about and discussed the damages of such narratives given that they become the story for everyone regardless of that story representing everyone. I implore you to watch it, to absorb it, to think about other instances when a single story has been damaging to you, or to those around you.
While you may want to watch this show, because the representation of the people of colour is limited, please keep in mind that this show is only showing a side that is entertaining for television, and not actually correct. Do not forget that the diaspora still faces many issues and that perpetuating stereotypes and gender roles may do more damage than good.
The South Asian diaspora is full of talent and groundbreaking work that I wish was highlighted more and given more light.
Let me know what you think! I would love to hear other opinions on this show!