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SAWANT: Bridgerton season 2 offers refreshing look into South Asian beauty

Column: Sincerely Rue

Actors Simone Ashley, who plays Kate Sharma, and Jonathan Bailey, cast as Anthony Bridgerton, offer an authentic, refreshing depiction of love in "Bridgerton." – Photo by Bridgerton / Twitter

Last semester, I produced an article detailing my discontent with the representation of South Asians in our society, primarily in media.

I noted my disappointment that South Asian characters, actors and actresses were subjected to the most overdone, wrung out stereotypes, wedded to the model minority myth. Whenever South Asians receive a morsel of representation, more often than not, it is the same recycled storyline of the obsessive, strict parents, the nerdy, outcast student preoccupied with their grades and a tech support joke haphazardly thrown in there.

If you too love the show, you will know that recently, the highly anticipated second season of Netflix’s “Bridgerton” series finally dropped. The show takes place in the Regency era during the height of the high society’s chaotic marriage season in Mayfair, London. Daughters of the ton expect to be courted by various lords, while their ambitious mothers scheme to arrange their matches at an impressive lineup of balls and dances.

As you may expect, in the early 1800s, English society was made up mostly of white people. This show, though, is not only known for its costumes and riveting plot path but also for its diverse cast.

Season two is centered around the arrival of the Sharma family from Bombay — Edwina Sharma, her older sister Kate Sharma and their mother Mary Sharma. Edwina is to participate in the current season’s marriage mart, and Kate is set on doing whatever it takes to help her little sister find the perfect husband.

Along the way, though, she falls in a reciprocated (and complicated) love with Viscount Anthony Bridgerton (the eldest son of one of the most influential families of the ton), who is known for his bachelor status and inability to believe in the possibility of marriage based solely on love.

Subtle integrations of different aspects of South Asian culture and way of life were seamlessly integrated into the show that went a long way in underscoring the Sharma family’s origins without being loud and obnoxious about it.

Additions of small Hindi phrases, Edwina addressing Kate as “didi” (meaning older sister in Hindi), and the Haldi ceremony felt more like smooth dosages of culture that flowed well with the show rather than a big commotion trying to overdo and make the representation too obvious to the point where it feels unrealistic.

I also quite enjoyed the (unexpected) addition of the cover version of the title track from an extremely popular and beloved Bollywood movie, “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.” Also appreciated was the peppering in of small jokes Kate made (at least like those I make with my other South Asian friends), such as insulting English tea — the colonized version of a more spicy and delicious (biased, I know) Indian chai.

I find it overwhelming to fully articulate how much even these small details, when they add up, mean to me — just because it is a feeling of visibility that I have never felt until recently. To see my culture so beautifully portrayed on a platform where I know so many people are going to get to see it fills me with a sense of pride and visibility.

This is what I want people to see when they consider my culture — morning tea with freshly crushed cardamom and turmeric paste to make the skin glow before a Desi wedding. Not Ravi from Disney’s “Jessie” or Apu Nahasapeemapetilon from “The Simpsons.”

All of this, in a way, drew the positive attention to the South Asian culture that I had waited so long for. Obviously, I have my reservations and noticed some inconsistencies, but for now, I would like to celebrate all that was done right in season two of "Bridgerton." Though there is still much work to be done, this season was a good start and refreshing to sit through and enjoy.

My favorite part of the show was seeing Anthony, one of the most influential and notoriously single members of the ton, fall in love with Kate not because she was exotic, but due to her beauty, her quick wit and her ability to understand him better than anyone else.

To see their love blossom not on the basis of race as it has been done in so many other shows and movies but from pure desire for the person was empowering and refreshing. 

It truly allowed Brown girls to see themselves on their screens and feel capable of such a love. To see themselves as desirable and not at the butt of a careless one-liner joke inserted to provoke a few giggles from the audience. 

I am pleased to see a fellow South Asian woman find her own love so great that I can really only compare it to the great love shared between Elizabeth (Lizzy) Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Perhaps Anthony’s poetic confession to Kate, “You are the bane of my existence and the object of all my desires,” has become the new “You have bewitched me, body and soul,” especially for my fellow Brown girls.

Rujuta Sawant is a Rutgers Business School sophomore majoring in business analytics and information technology and minoring in political science. Her column, "Sincerely Rue," runs on alternate Mondays.


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

YOUR VOICE | The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Due to space limitations in our print newspaper, letters to the editor must not exceed 500 words. Guest columns and commentaries must be between 700 and 850 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to oped@dailytargum.com by 4 p.m. to be considered for the following day’s publication. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.


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