Category Archives: Media Messages

In The Court Of The Bombay Begums

If you haven’t already seen Bombay Begums, consider this your spoiler alert. I approached the show with trepidation and a lot of thoughts. For one, it falls squarely into what I recognise as a Netflix India formula. A cast made of a yesteryear star, a sprinkling of Bollywood also-rans and a variety of character role new darlings. Queer people (and bi women are cutting edge because gay men are so passe) and a precise/antisepic quota of cultural differences for ‘diversity’. Gratuitious nudity & sex scenes that go on forever, around 1/3rd into the start. Lots of dark interiors with an occasional too-bright scene (usually an unpleasant situation) and soft-focus (blurry) shot to convey relief. Yes, I have been watching A LOT of Netflix in the past year.

raniLet’s start with the prime Begum, the one in all the promos, 90s bad girl Pooja Bhatt. My generation saw her enter public limelight as a mere teenager and thanks to the movies she was cast it, her trajectory as a spoilt/confused adolescent, a pampered diva (Poo but from the 90s) and some kind of awkward young woman not very comfortably cast in the traditional glamorous/sanskari Bollywood heroine mold. The last I heard of her is that she moved on from a rollicking and very public sex life with numerous starling boyfriends and married the Haryanvi farmer from the MTV promos. On one hand it’s startling to see her play the dignified CEO, Rani. On the other hand, the composure that is hard won, the quiet inner turmoil, the shrewd/soulless compromises, the jaded emotions feel real because we remember a younger Pooja Bhatt. I have no idea if this is how she is in real life but it would make sense to me if she was.

I remember steeling myself not to faint or double over in menstrual pain while making an important presentation. I was surrounded by men circling like vultures, waiting to pounce on the slightest stammer or hesitation. At one point, I said, “I’ll hand it over to <vulture colleague> for his thoughts” and bolted to the bathroom to puke my guts out. Then I washed my face, took a deep breath and walked back in, with a mug of coffee pretending I’d done it on purpose. All the times Rani masterfully tides over hot flashes to push through the boardroom made me feel seen, heard and most importantly, lauded.

Rani is not so much a grey character as a complex depiction of Strong Woman. She’s not damaged or broken but she isn’t quite whole. She is hyper-functional, never once losing her cool but we see the toll it takes on her health, her relationships and sense of self. She looks sore from carrying wounds that will never heal. She hasn’t made peace with her past as much as struck a kind of grim truce with it. And that’s real.

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It made me really happy to see another depiction of the strong, successful corporate woman in the form of Fatima. Like her, I’ve struggled to look for mentors. I have also grappled with the guilt of not having it as bad as the women before me, anxiety that I’m not doing better (or for that matter, even average), been bewildered at how little the conventional gender expectations fit me, been a success in things that I’ve wondered if they were worth it. All the regrets as well as the helplessness that regret would be a part of any scenario, no matter what decision was taken, that’s Fatima. It wasn’t comforting to see it spelt out on screen but it was relief to know I haven’t been alone.

Shahana Goswami is a brilliant casting choice, especially fresh off her role in A Suitable Boy. After playing the flighty, society madam, she brings real dignity & restraint to her performance. Fatima (BB) & Meenakshi (ASB) both have adultery play a big part in their storylines but it is as if one is watching different people and it never occurs to you to compare because they’re played by the same person. I don’t know if every woman who has worked in a cutthroat corporate environment can relate to these two characters but I could. I could see myself in scenes of both these women.

I only want to mention the child character Shai because she’s presented as one of the ‘begums’ of this story. She wasn’t memorable except for her annoying voiceover narrating between scenes. What 12 year old talks like that? I can’t see the sense of depicting the inner lives of complex adult women in the writings of an unrealistically articulate brat. I think she’s less a character and more a prop to detail Rani’s life.

lilyI quite enjoyed Lily and her cheery, never-say-die personality. But I am aware that her story looks exactly the way someone like I would think of it. I only have hearsay references for what life really looks like for a single mom commercial sex worker in Mumbai. I have a feeling she was in the story to ensure that it was taken seriously and not written off as a saga of ‘high-class auratein’. I’m not sure it does people like her justice but it probably was a valiant effort anyway.

Which brings me to the character that troubles me the most. Ayesha *deep breath*. I loathe this character so much, I got into a bad mood every time she appears on screen. She’s exploitative, inept and entitled. She sleeps with anyone who can help her but considers herself superior to Lily who does the same but also bears social judgement. Ayesha enjoys the privilege of middle-class respectability but doesn’t value it in the least. She smokes up in her PG accomodation that doesn’t allow it, sleeps with the ex-boyfriend she’s staying with even as his girlfriend sleeps in the next room, leads on a colleague so she can live with him but also cheats on him. She carries out the same horrible behaviour in her workplace, getting fired for ongoing ineptitude, being reinstated in a bigger role, sleepwalking through the work & pretending she’s destined for better things. The only people she values are the ones that draw clear boundaries with her – a lesbian friend who sleeps with her but tells her they’re not exclusive and a senior manager who takes sexual favours from her in return for a (completely undeserved) promotion.

ayesha

I needed some time to digest the story because of this character, so visceral were my reactions to her. But now I’m realising it’s because she represents a very uncomfortable question. Does any woman, whoever she is, however she is, deserve rape? Can we consign such an unlikable character (and similarly real people) to that horrible fate? She falls prey to a system designed to exploit her. The moral policing that calls any independent action, rebellion. The objectification that reduces women to their bodies and their bodies to sex objects. The rape culture that prizes aggression in men and victim mindsets in women.

As far as female archetypes go, if Rani is the Queen Bee, Fatima the Rising Star, Lily the Amazonian Warrior and Shai the Fragile Princess, then Ayesha is the Professional Victim. She is not a good person or even a sympathetic one. She has no redeeming qualities. The best we (and other characters) feel for her is pity and even that is easily gone when she blunders into her next selfish move. She’s not a begum and never will be. But she’s who most people become when faced by life’s hard questions. Being a woman, makes these questions harder, louder and many more.

This wasn’t intended as a review so I won’t post any recommendations to watch or not. But if you have seen the show, post a comment. I’d really like to hear more thoughts on this story and its characters.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Is This Feminism?: Women’s Day

This is a Women’s Day post.

Does that make me a good feminist or a bad one? I’ve called this day a marketing ploy. It is. I’ve been offered gigs around this day. I’ve taken them. My most famous poem (albeit not my favorite one) is about feminism & was performed on this day (albeit not for the first time). I regret nothing.

Will I avail of discounts, of pink themed offerings? Yes, I will. It’s been a hard year & I could do with being pandered to. Is it capitalist? Yes. Is it feminist? I pay for myself, I know I am doing it & I consent to it. And that makes it feminist for me.

Is it privilege? Yes. Privilege is not unfeminist. Shame is. Guilt is. Lack of self-respect is. Even if they’re inflicted by someone else. Precisely because they are inflicted by someone else. Why should someone else get to decide how you feel or how I see myself? Take it back. Take it all back. I will not apologize for who I am. Not today, not ever.

Am I cashing in on my gender on this day? Hell, yes. Systems are oppressive till you figure out how to work them. It doesn’t show great returns right now but some day it will. Each day I invest my faith, my self-assurance and today I reap a tiny return. Self-interest is feminist. So is vision.

If today the patriarchy wants to cleanse its guilt, let it. It’s only a bribe if you have to give something in return. You don’t. Not your self-respect, not your validation. Happy YOU day, every day.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Valentine’s Day Farce

Whew pink season is over, what a relief!To paraphrase Mad Men, romance was invented by capitalists to sell more stuff. Valentine’s Day single-handedly created an economy of greeting cards, pink teddy bears & red hearts. Nothing wrong in these, of course. But let’s not pretend it’s something else.



It hit me yesterday. Some of the worst friends I’ve had were women who promptly stood me up when a boyfriend showed up. SATC, that holy grail of 90s pop feminism pays lip service to the romance of girlpower but has a protagonist that consistently misbehaves & takes her supposed friend-soulmates for granted. Old-fashioned romantics use romance as an excuse to behave badly.

Toxic setups are glamorized by romance, like “you & me against the world”. Baby, I call abuse priming. “I’ll walk out on the whole world for you” is not loving. It’s insecure, weak & poisonous. Are you going to trust someone who easily flakes out on their world? That’s not love, that’s addiction & it’s nothing but ugly.

I think romance gives people an easy shortcut to buy their way into the illusion of security, a screeching shrill ILOVEYOUILOVEYOU to drown out self-loathing.

I’ve had a fairytale proposal, down on bended knee, under the stars, by the sea on this very day, in fact. The same person constantly told me I was stupid, deliberately damaged my prized possessions, poisoned my friendships, cheated on me, routinely humiliated me in public & battered me more than once. A person who loves you doesn’t do any of that. Not even one of that, not even in lesser measure. These are acts of hatred.

How shallow to think love could be bought this easy, tax not included. Or for that matter, security or validation. No, those are things you create for yourself & hope that they don’t get stolen from you by monsters wielding a gaslight called romance.

And when they do, pick yourself up, heal, blink, paint on a heart & smile because you love yourself and that costs nothing. Or everything.

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This is part of a series called #ARomanticLife exploring our ideas of romance, its media depictions and how they impact our lives. There are also posts over at my other blog The Idea-smithy and two Live conversations (Rajni Arunkumar, TJ Coulagi)

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Romance Gardener

I found my kinship with green things when I was 8, watching fascinated as baby shoots poked out of the mud laid on a try, where I’d sprinkled mustard seeds a few days earlier.

About 10 years ago, a doctor having his yard renovated, handed me a sprig of ajwain, saying it would aid the cold I was having if I put it in my drinking water. Instead I stuck in a pot, layering mud I scratched off the ground. That herb parented the many plants that have kept my company & given babies that I gave to select people to start little green paradises of their own.

You might think a love of green things would include flowers but oddly, it didn’t. Flowers were things I saw enchained in garlands at weddings & political functions, strangled into wreaths or bouquets for sombre occasions, reminders of rules that were oppressive.

At 28, a boyfriend told me white lilies were his favourite flower. I was charmed by this glimpse of tenderness in an otherwise brutish masculinity (boys’ school, engineering college, investment banking). I sent a modest bouquet of 3 white lilies to wait for him at his office desk on Monday. I received an angry call from him calling it inappropriate & me, desperate.

Years later, I shared this story with a healing group. They awwed. 3 men of different ages approached me later to tell me not to be stopped by this. Men like nice things too, they said, it’s a lovely gesture. I began tentatively taking flowers to some people I trusted. A single gladiola with lunch, a pair of yellow gerberas while dropping off a book.

5 years ago, as I began processing old hurts, I realised my garden had never had flowers. It was now a thriving Eden of sturdy herbs, proud vegetables & an occasional succculent. Like me, it was strong, resilient, protective. But it wasn’t gentle, cheery or inviting. That’s the domain of the flower, the plant kingdom’s personal mating call.

And so, tentatively, I welcomed romance, the very idea of it into my garden & my heart.

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This is part of a series called #ARomanticLife exploring our ideas of romance, its media depictions and how they impact our lives. There are also posts over at my other blog The Idea-smithy and two Live conversations (Rajni Arunkumar, TJ Coulagi)

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Can Masculinity Be Safe?

A lot of straight women feel safer around gay men. It has felt, I’ve thought, like having a girl best friend but who can drop me home when it gets late. Yes, that’s shallow. But also, what does it say about masculinity (since straight men have led the charge on how that’s defined)? It says masculinity means it’s unsafe for women.

So why does a gay man feel safer? Because he isn’t trying to prey on my body. The subtext is that what a man wants, he takes, consent regardless. It’s safer not to anger or disappoint a man. It’s safest to not be wanted by masculinity.

How do straight women reconcile this with feeling attraction & wanting reciprocation? Affection itself feels unsafe; sex like an evil place.

Can we not expect self-control & something it’s contingent on – self-respect in men? Not in a world that says ‘boys will be boys’ & excuses their misbehaviour, teaches them that they will not be held responsible for their actions. Not when men who show compassion & consideration are shamed for it.

But women are overwhelmed by the same conditioning too. How do we make sense of a man who doesn’t make us feel unsafe? We’ve spent too long being told that attraction must feel dangerous, romance must be predatory. How do we respect a man when we’ve been taught only fear for the male gender?

I think it starts by remembering that every adult holds responsibility for their actions. That things like respect, trust, attraction happen between human beings, not gendered boxes. And that these must be earned, not assumed.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Feminine Side Of A Man

I’m told this means traits like gentleness, delicacy, modesty, being nurturing. Why are these feminine? The argument goes that biological roles dictate these gendered traits. But who says decisiveness is not a maternal (supposedly feminine) trait? Or the ability to adapt & compromise doesn’t align with the hunter instinct (traditionally masculine)?

I’ve grappled with my gender identity since my personality has been described as ‘ladkon ke jaisa’, ‘tomboyish’, ‘as if I’m a man’. The subtext being that my BIG personality & my vocal, confident, take-charge behaviours are masculine. I don’t think genitalia comes with personality attachments.

There’s a big problem with seeing human qualities as gendered. We are constantly shocked to find them appearing in bodies that we do not expect. Every gendered quality is a good one – assertiveness, gentleness, courage, resilience, determination, adaptability. They’re only turned into vices when we encounter them in people we don’t expect to find them. A confident woman becomes a bitch. A sensitive man becomes a weakling.

I wish I could say I’m free of these but I’m not. I don’t know how to respond to gentle men. True, I haven’t met many. But also, being a more assertive person myself, I may miss quieter aspects of other people’s personalities. It’s not helped by the fact that men feel the need to hide this since it’s supposedly ‘feminine’ behaviour.

My own traits are mine; they are not borrowed from another gender. Thus, I return to pondering what the feminine side of a man is. Any thoughts?

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Sailing The Age Bar

I watched @netflix_in #FabulousLives. I loved Neelam as a kid & even more now. At a self-confessed 50, she exudes the understated confidence that comes from riding life’s ups & downs. But there’s also a vulnerability, the hesitation about her looks, the uncertainty of comeback roles. Unlike the brittle tantrums of the others. This is owning age well, not resisting it.



People say I look younger & expect me to take it as a compliment. I do not want to be 25. I’ve already been there. I didn’t carry myself with the same ease because my body was newer to me & it held painful things. My life was not my own. Each day was surviving the control games by men, family, authority figures & social systems while trying to find identity.

At 41, many of those battles are over, some won, some lost. I don’t bear most of the scars anymore. But I have reduced vision, longer lasting hangovers, more medicines, supplements & monitoring needed where earlier a day would run along carelessly. I am not careless anymore. It’s a new story of me so it annoys me to be force-cast into an outdated one.

I have haters saying I should ‘act my age’. It means shut up & stay invisible. It’s ageism. I also get people demanding I take care of them or tolerate misbehaviour because I’m ‘wiser’. This is ageism too because why does 41 have to look a specific way?

In the show, the daughters of the main cast seem very young to me. Not in an appealing way. Their rawness makes my interest wane. There’s a mind-numbing uniformity because after all, their youth is as yet unformed & only trying on various costumes, moods, identities. The mothers have such distinct stories, their choices, their regrets, the possibility of plot twists in their stories.

There’s a bit about the term MILF. I’ve dismissed it as an excuse for Oedipal syndrome. I stand by that. I’m not interested in being anyone’s babysitter/sextoy.

But I also believe our sexual desires carry clues to our hopes & needs. I must admit, this one implies at least recognition & admiration of the wealth of age.

At 41 I’m on the same journey I was on at 25 or 33-to write who I am in this moment. Why impose one role on me?

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

A Voice To Shatter The Glass Ceiling

I became a singer in my student days. I was on workaholic track but some classical training & 2 years of guitar lessons had me considering my vocal potential. Bollywood competitions were respite from classroom debates & projects. So I became a regular on the college festival circuit.

The ability to carry a tune I discovered only got you past selection. Audience response was a big factor in a win. My 2 friends would be no match for the big contingents of the other colleges in attendance. How would I compete?

The host asked which songs we’d sing. The usual suspects came up- Kishore on a bus to Goa or inciting a dance revolution to Meera’s ghungroo, Sonu Nigam bemoaning the luxury of loneliness. Big dramatic songs to match the cinematic scenes they’d scored.

I told him, “BAS ITNA SA KHWAB“. The host frowned. “You can’t sing that. That’s a man’s song.” & moved away. I had no time to point out that the song was about ambition & what did gender have to do with that? Instead I chose “MANN KYON BEHKA“. The host’s introduction was a jeer-the girl whose mann was too behko’ed so would everyone be patient? That night, I trashed my setlist. Lata Mangeshkar’s repertoire of demure tunes would be like carrying dolls to a gunfight.

Next time I went up, eyes downcast, smoothed my dupatta & crooned “HAI RAMA“, that scintillating siren call from Rangeela. First prize hands down. Another time, clad in kurta & jeans I belted out “MUNGDA“, the rustic, raunchy charms of the forgotten Mangeshkar sister brought forth in Helen’s seduction. My song literally brought the faculty & staff to the yard.

Later a boyfriend would assault me for singing ‘slutty songs’. The pattern would repeat in the harassment following my feminist poetry. In protest I’d deliver a silent performance. A male comic would ridicule even that. But I never forgot what real winning tastes like.

At my alumni meet, someone requested ‘MUNGDA’. As we got down to dancing, my classmates began cheering my name. A friend said, “Ramya, you gave us an anthem.”

That’s really all I ever dreamed of. Bas itna sa khwab.

📸: @alivehive
📢: Sing like your heart beats

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.


Is This Feminist? – He’s Just Not That Into You

I love good romcoms because done well, they’re such refreshing narratives on how we approach love and falling in love. I was around for the golden age of romcoms and came of age with the genre’s steady decline. Since this genre primarly targetted women, it also echoed our evolution (even if not always well). I have mixed feelings towards a lot of these films because at best, they tried some interesting/progressive ideas and at worst, propagated horrible ones. One that I’ve always been conflicted about is ‘He’s Just Not That Into You‘ so I wanted to decode what’s going on there.

[Spoiler alert for ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’, the book as well as the movie]

The inspiration for the book and later a movie, based on the book

This ensemble cast/multiple storyline film is based on a nonfiction book by the same name. That book in turn, is based on a single dialogue in an episode of Sex & The City. I was a huge fan of the SATC TV shows (and disgusted by the movies) so I also read the book that that show was based on (and didn’t like it because the book was outdated for me). When I saw the book ‘He’s Just Not That Into You‘, I grabbed it. The movie in turn, so many feelings. Let’s put it under the feminist scanner because I’ve realised this is where my bar of worthy-or-not stands.

On Women Not Being Passive Objects

The book was arranged chapter wise around specific behaviours/statements that indicated the titular truth ‘He’s just not that into you’. It was written in a he said/she said style. My problem was every chapter also assumed that all behaviours had to be expressed by men and the absence of these meant zero potential for connection. It left out a whole universe of shy men, confused men, men who like assertive women and every single woman’s personhood.

The film shows pairs where a woman makes the move and various endings to this action. (I’m going to refer to each character by the name of the actor playing them)

  • Bradley Cooper is married to Jennifer Connelly because she issued an ultimatum, which is not really ‘making the first move’ but the kind of thwarted aggression that comes from repressing natural feelings. Her first instinct on hearing about his infidelity is to take on the blame herself and ‘try to work things out’. Her storyline is about her finally breaking loose of that oppressive stereotype of the all-accepting woman. Learnt feminism is no less feminist.
  • Jennifer Anniston says she called Ben Affleck after their first date, instead of waiting for him to make the move and they go on to have a relationship of 7 years. Their dynamic shows that different things work for different people and notions like women not making the first move are regressive. Their storyline actually challenges the patriarchal notion of weddings being the grand prize for women and their only measure of worth.
  • Scarlet Johannson quite obviously seduces Bradley Cooper, tiding over his weak protestations of being married (but also responding enthusiastically to her overtures). They do end up having an affair, a plotline that isn’t condoned by the problem there is the cheating, not who was being more assertive. True, there is the lingering stereotype of a sexually aggressive, marriage breaking vamp which isn’t feminist in the least.
  • Ginnifer Goodwin is eager to make the move but seems to diffident/shamefaced about it, meaning some part of her still thinks she’s stooping to behaviours that she should not be doing. So her storyline has her frequently rejected by these men. At the time, I hated that she comes off stalkerish and needy. But in retrospect, I can see how her behaviour is shaped by the oppressive pressures laid on women and her values of hope, romantic idealism and the determination to find love (usually positive traits) end up muddied in this system.

On Male Misbehaviour

The book’s premise that “If he’s not calling, he’s just not that into you” hammers in the corollary that if he is calling, he is into you. The movie nicely overturns that with the admittedly funny ditty on Drew Barrymore’s musician date who voicemail bombs different women with the same cheesy message.

So just because he’s calling you does not mean he’s into you anymore than Bradley Cooper marrying you means he’s into you. We see Bradley Cooper watching others smoke & struggling to say no to a cigarette. He lives on the edge of temptation because everything he wants is what he believes is wrong. While neither cheating nor lying are okay, this must make him a very unhappy person and unhappy people can’t be in happy relationships.

The cheating storyline troubled me the most. But cheating is neither patriarchal nor feminist – it’s just bad behaviour. Patriarchy allows men to get away with it easier by treating it as a minor bending of rules, yes. But the rule is monogamy (itself arguably a patriarchal construct) so cheating is breaking that rule. Given that this plotline ends with the wife kicking her husband out while the mistress also seemingly parts ways with him to follow her own path, that’s a reasonably feminist approach.

Both Drew Barrymore’s storyline and the Bradley Cooper one are about male misbehaviour and its impact on women (ranging from frustration to deep anguish). The book seems to condone it in a ‘boys will be boys’ way but the fact that both these storylines end with less than glorious endings for these men, I’d say it’s a step up.

We’ll skip the obviously problematic statements like “Maybe she just wants you to be a man and do something” simply because this movie, like everything else was a product of its times. Showing gay people at all was pretty progressive (even if they formed none of the main characters) and having a gay man say this was, well, confusing. But it was a confusing time for people who grew up with the 80s hangover of Baby Boomer/hippie culture parents and the toxic masculinity of the 90s, then found themselves in a new millennium adulthood where everything they’d believed was wrong.

On ‘The Signs’

I only realised in my first read through of this post that I’d completely blanked on the Ginnifer Goodwin-Alex Long storyline even though that’s the one the film follows most closely. That might be a cue. My theory is that this storyline was the original plot but it didn’t have anything particularly new or interesting so the makers padded up the film with a bigger cast and a tie-in with a popular franchise. This storyline works decently enough to showcase the nuances of decoding men’s behaviour in dating. It does so by spelling it out rather baldly in an otherwise nuanced film. I’m not sure there’s anything either patriarchal or feminist about a couple that takes turns chasing each other and then decide to stop and become a couple.

All in all, I end with a film that takes its source material a notch up (and away from problematic) while still having room to grow. But I’m writing this in 2020 and the movie came out over a decade ago. Feminism is an ideology and must evolve to inspire the needs of the time and culture. In the meantime, that means there’s room for so many more stories exploring how we relate to each other.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

On The Sitcom Couch

I’ve been watching FRIENDS. I’ve only known of it through extensive pop culture references. I’m only watching it because my content needs are very specific now – nothing dark/gristly (goodbye 75% of heavily promoted streaming content and all of social media), nothing deliberately addictive (tata, cliffhanger ending seasons). And I’ve run out of options that serve up bite-sized portions of 30 minutes or under.

I missed the first wave in the 90s satellite boom because my TV time was restricted – first by my family and later, by myself when I realised my reading had declined and I didn’t like it. I ignored the second wave in the 2000s because I was embracing hipsterdom and more interested in the obscure or at the very least, the contemporary. Plus I didn’t have any nostalgia to pull me. If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, I may have given this millennial 90s nostalgia resurgence a miss too.

But also because of the pandemic, I’m reexamining how I feel about various decisions in my life. It is the filter through which I’m viewing all I read, watch, listen and think. And going through FRIENDS is like pulling up an old showreel of my teens and early 20s. Each episode reminds me of someone from my past and suddenly I know what they were quoting (or in some cases, the fact that they were quoting, not saying). Actions are starting to make sense too.

I was waiting for some slow downloads yesterday and ended up bingeing several episodes. And I found myself absolutely revolted by an early and intense chapter of my love life (details on this another time, another place).

Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) in F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

I realised the character closest to that person and so many of the other exploitative, quasi-or-directly abusive men I’ve dated, is Chandler. The smart-talking, sarcastic wiseguy. He’s also the one I felt most attracted to, in all these years even from a distance. It hit me when I came to the episode about his mother. Oh My God (let’s do this in Matthew Perry’s voice), that is my pattern. Dysfunctional men with dark backgrounds who wear the guise of cool aggressively to the point of hurting me and never caring. (Here’s an article that presents it as a good thing though)

Ross Geller (David Shwimmer) in F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

I also examined how I’ve felt about Ross, a character I’ve always thought of as boring and meh. This is exactly the kind of man I’ve never given a second glance to. And there have been so many. So the friendships, the dating may go on but these men haven’t made my heart race. I’m still untangling my thoughts on this because I’m realising Ross represents male vulnerability on this show. And there’s a part of me that’s been rejecting that. Shrinkspeak? I reject vulnerability in men because of my own patriarchsl notions and because I’m rejecting my own vulnerability. Whew, that’s heavy stuff to experience while watching a sitcom.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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