While ‘cringe-watching’ Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, every time someone said something toxic or insensitive, I’d roll my eyes and move on. It was because I saw it coming, where I was hardly expecting the show to make sense, let alone be sensitive enough to make strides. And that happens with all these docu-soaps or reality shows that are passed off as a ‘guilty pleasure’ or a ‘cringe-watch’. We tend to laugh it off or let go off certain things just because we do not expect them to be mindful.
fabulous lives of bollywood wives is exactly the kind of trash content you consume on a weekend, everything they say is absolutely insane to me 😭— s (@yoongienthusias) September 3, 2022
In case of Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, Maheep being a toxic friend or dismissing her privileges, and even Samir Soni passing sexist comments as jokes, these are things that aren’t okay. They surely don’t have a direct impact on our lives, but how they’re played out, normalizes stuff that is offensive. For instance, Samir’s jokes are more than just irritating to listen to, they might end up making a viewer feel that it’s entertaining or just plain normal to go on and do it. And as much as we deny it, when art or cinema glorifies wrong ideas or doesn’t show us their negative impact, they end up normalizing it, which we easily bring home to our own lives.
There’s also the mere fact that it is wrong. Just because a person isn’t related to us or doesn’t have a direct control of our lives, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be bothered about what they’re doing wrong.
But these shows get away with a lot of things, which is actually quite clever. Makers promote them as something cringey and mindless, and in-turn they do not take any responsibility for actions that are clearly toxic. It ends up becoming a fun watch, and even we as viewers hardly expect them to do the right thing. It’s like when people get away with the shittiest behaviour, because “mazaak tha”. And let’s just face it, there’s always an underlying message to insensitive jokes, which is also the case with cringe shows.
Ensuring a potential couple’s caste matches up is a way of upholding casteism. That’s why that indian matchmaking show is casteist amongst other things. A show in 2020 talking about making sure a couple are of the same upper caste & ppl wanna say casteism isn’t an issue, okay. 🤡— M (they/them) (@mxmanukaur) December 13, 2020
Indian Matchmaking is just another example, which is an extremely problematic blend of casteism, racism and flippant misogyny. And while a lot of us treated it as a joke, or even a satire, the fact is that such regressive ideas and systems still exist. So more than questioning Sima Taparia, her bio-data and deeply incorrect lessons on ‘compromise’, we laugh and meme about it, which eventually just promotes the show. Hell, it received an Emmy nomination.
And really, the business and publicity outweighs the scrutiny that they’re exposed to. The makers do not feel liable to justify their stand, because they know that audiences aren’t taking any of it seriously, just as they intended it to be. So, say, when a Samir Soni or a Sima Taparia express their opinions that are regressive, they aren’t held accountable because of the inse-toh-umeed-hi-nahi-thi attitude. It’s like getting away from doing the work, by just being (intentionally) bad at it.
We have all seen versions of this play out in real life with the ‘men will be men’ concept. For centuries, this has been used as per convenience. Men have demanded utmost seriousness towards their opinions and actions, and have been given the same. However, when it comes to issues like flirting with women against their will, suddenly, they are labeled as ‘childlike’ or ‘creatures of habit’ who should be ignored and no offense should be taken to what they do.
Shows like Too Hot To Handle, Keeping Up with the Kardashians or reality shows like Bigg Boss and Roadies are just another example. The one common thing among all of them, other than being cringey, of course, is the fact that they get huge platforms – OTT or television, they have platforms with enormous reach. And given the impact, they do owe us sensitivity and responsibility. If not that, the bare minimum is to show them as a mirror to society, while criticizing everything that goes wrong. We all know, there’s a lot of it.
i think everyone on too hot to handle is so cringe like why are you saying this sexual shit to someone you don’t know??— myonna (@doubIevirgo) June 29, 2021
It can easily be said that it’s their personal opinion and life, which is why we shouldn’t care. But here’s why we should. A) There’s an entire camera crew following them, and they choose to showcase a part of their lives, which we consume as content. B) Even if something wrong exists as a personal opinion, it doesn’t make it okay. Because a set of personal opinions make up a society, that we live in.
Criticizing cringe-shows, expecting basic sensitivity and holding everyone who’s involved responsible, is normal — it’s what needs to be done. Because seriously, they know what they’re doing.