Sex and The City ticks the diversity box – Diwali, lehengas, arranged marriage. Just like that
Sex and the city is an iconic spectacle. It’s also sexist, classist and racist.
But restarting the show And just like that – without fan favorite Samantha, played by Kim Cattral – does her best to convince us that she isn’t.
The show follows Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) as they attempt to navigate the various cultural dynamics of real life in a cosmopolitan city. Trying to say that this is not an all-white show, he’s going to tick the diversity box by winking 10 minutes to Indians with an invocation of lehenga and arranged marriages.
Carrie now has a new Indian friend – real estate agent Seema, who was conveniently featured two episodes earlier. Played by Sarita Choudhary, she is Carrie’s unique and elegant symbolic friend, whose character is used as a spokesperson to diversify the series.
And just like that, the show now celebrates Diwali.
Sex and the non-sari
First off, Carrie wears a lehenga. Not a sari.
For some odd reason, Seema and Carrie repeatedly refer to the lehenga (worn without a dupatta, of course) as a sari. The two peruse a “saree shop” in Soho that only displays lehenga – a small detail that seems odd despite the show’s claim to serious cultural representation.
Carrie ended up wearing not just any lehenga, but one designed by luxury brand Falguni Shane Peacock – a favorite of many Bollywood and Hollywood celebrities. She joins the ranks of Priyanka Chopra, Aishwarya Rai, Mindy Kaling and Lilly Singh as she wears designer lehenga to a Diwali dinner (I guess) in Queens.
Photos of Sarah Jessica Parker wearing the lehenga on set went viral last year, but the hype outlasted the lehenga’s screen time.
Carrie ends up looking cartoonish and anti-climatic with an absurd flower mohawk in her hair – especially standing next to Madhur Jaffrey, who looks sleek and graceful in a real saree. If only they were talking about food instead of Seema’s love life.
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We also have to believe that Carrie, who has lived in New York City for over 30 years, has never heard of Diwali before. Seema believes that wearing a lehenga is “cultural appreciation” and not “appropriation,” as she tells both Carrie and the audience. It wasn’t a concern for a burqa-clad Carrie in Abu Dhabi in this damn movie Gender and the city 2.
But let’s move on. The show and its frankness certainly have.
And just like thatThe Diwali episode has other cultural cringe moments. One example is where Seema ties a thread around Carrie’s wrist as a “Hindu reminder of strength.” And how can global TV shows address modern Indian culture without demagoguery about arranged marriage? The trope is dredged up with a hat to Netflix Indian matchmaking.
An eye-rolling moment occurs when Carrie asks Seema if she has considered an arranged marriage after Seema said she was afraid her parents would tell her about her love life.
Fortunately, the episode is at least written by a writer of Indian descent – Rachna Fruchbom. This explains why the arranged marriage trope is treated as a question of fact, and neither romanticized nor dismissed as primitive. It’s refreshing to see Seema explain his personal aversion to arranged marriage without offering a generalized cultural statement.
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And just like that, an occasional mention of Diwali
Don’t ask me why the episode is called “Diwali”. The festival and its themes aren’t even the focus of this episode – they take less than 10 minutes in a 40-minute frame. There is more screen time devoted to Carrie who is annoyed by the incessant beeping than learning about this festival.
The show just wants you to know that it has expanded its range of cultural offerings. But not by much, because it would be a gimmick. So instead, it makes do with a clumsy acknowledgment that festivals like Diwali can also have a place in today’s mainstream shows with non-desi protagonists.
On the contrary, New York’s immense Indian diaspora can rest easy, now that the city’s quintessential “It Girl” knows about Diwali.
“You’re not progressive enough for that,” Charlotte told Miranda at one point in the episode. Back to you And just like that.
Opinions are personal.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)