South Asians are one of the most overlooked minorities in mainstream media. South Asia is a vast region. It consists of the following nations: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. However, South Asians are exhausted from seeing a stereotypical version of themselves on screen. Why doesn’t the mainstream media consider all the rich cultures instead of playing out the same, worn-out character?
As a South Asian female myself, it is exhausting to see the typical South Asian on screen. Typically the role includes an over-exaggerated accent while leaning into nerdy stereotypes. In addition, there is often an abundance of inaccuracies and misconceptions surrounding our culture.
These are all harmful to South Asian culture and lead to discrimination due to inaccurate preconceptions. For example, Apu from the Simpsons is a mere caricature and what’s even more insulting is that he is voiced by a non-South Asian. All of this made Bridgerton feel like a breath of fresh air.
When I read that the two leading ladies of season two of Bridgerton would be played by Indian actresses, I was interested yet apprehensive. Bridgerton is a record-breaking Netflix show about eight siblings known as Bridgerton. They are looking for love during the regency period. Was this just another show that would promise diversity but disappoint our culture? South Asian women are never represented as the leading lady or the focus of love stories. They are often supporting characters who have no sustenance and are tokenized simply for diversity.
When I started to watch the show, I cautioned myself not to get my hopes too high. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. The Sharma sisters, Edwina (Charithra Chandran) and Kate (Simone Ashley), set themselves miles apart from any other South Asian character. It was refreshing to see that their entire storyline wasn’t solely based on their heritage, yet it wasn’t brushed over either. Instead, the viewer sees glimpses of their culture when they call each other ‘Didi’ (which means sister). As well as through the performance in a typical Indian pre-wedding ceremony known as the Haldi ceremony. It was touching that the sisters were both leading ladies in a romance story. Edwina even bestowed the title of ‘Diamond, which meant the Queen singled her out for her charm and beauty.
As South Asians, we constantly see what the world expects and thinks of us on screen, but we are seldom the main characters in any story, let alone a love story.
Season two of Bridgerton was viewed for a staggering 627.11 million hours. The show successfully maintained its status as the most-watched English-language series. Mainstream media must take notes from Bridgerton. The show took a monumental step by showing complex, realistic South Asian women. It was long overdue, but regardless it’s refreshing to see. Bridgerton was empowering to South Asian females who were told they could never be the main character.
History was made- let’s make sure it wasn’t a one-time event.