Netflix is well-known for commissioning hit reality shows as it attempts to break into a market of television dominated by more established brands such as MTV.
A list of shows such as Love is Blind, Dating Around and now Indian Matchmaking have all gone viral and sparked conversation on social media platforms for the more outlandish scenes and behaviour of their contestants.
However, Netflix’s latest programme Indian Matchmaking has become the recipient of even more backlash, from many in the South Asian community, following its colourist portrayal of dating criteria surrounding the matchmaking process.
Many outside the Indian community were also angry at the deeply colourist remarks made on the show as issues of lighter skin superiority are a common reality felt by many in Black and Brown communities.
The show, which was initially pitched in 2009 by Oscar nominated director Smriti Mundhra and was rejected for “essentially not being white enough”, did little to challenge racist undertones of fair skin preference that were seen to be acceptable demands for people looking for potential spouses.
On many occasions, the marriage consultant, Sima Taparia, affirmed the value of potential matches for their “fair-skin”.
These comments irked Twitter users, with one user @novallkhan commenting, “[Netflix has] normalized colorism and let casual statements describing the ideal partner like “Not too dark, you know, fair-skinned” fly. A window into the reality of colorism without challenging it is HARMFUL”.
A few twitter users also noted the anti-blackness that seemed to be present as one candidate was anxious about her Guyanese-Indian heritage acting as a barrier from having enough options from Taparia’s dating pool.
Despite her fully Indian heritage, the woman spoke about how she was perceived as non-Indian and one twitter user referred to this as a result of “proximity to blackness”.
Eventually the candidate found a man who accepted her Caribbean heritage and deemed her “still Indian”.
The outrage also extended to representations of gender roles, body standards and feminism in the show. However, many also pointed out the stark differences between the native Indian candidates and those from its US diaspora as signs of progression.
All of the Indian-American candidates in the show ignored fair skin as a standard. Furthermore, the only representation of darker skinned Indians came from the inclusion of second gen Indian-American, Vyasar from Texas.
One Indian-American candidate even specified he wanted a woman who was a “feminist” and many on social media praised him for this.
At time of writing, Netflix has not announced if Indian Matchmaking will be renewed for another season, but many fans and critics hope that audience responses are not gone unheard and that Netflix will implement changes to tackle glaring issues if there is more to come.