Seeing yourself on screen

By Samara Patel, and

Kate Sharma (Bridgerton)

The best Indian representation I’ve seen in a TV show is Kate Sharma in Bridgerton season two. Yes, this is the world we live in, where the TV adaptation of a bodice ripper-novel has better representation that 99% of shows within the last twenty years. Kate is unapologetic in her Indian heritage. The plot is not entirely centred around her culture, but instead is enhanced by it. The showrunner Shonda Rhymes, famous for Grey’s Anatomy, has been criticised in the past for not acknowledging the cultural backgrounds of her characters. A fitting example is the finale of season three where the Black Burke and Asian Cristina almost get married: everyone is totally cool and normal about a situation in which, as an Asian, I can guess the parents would have some thoughts about. Back to Bridgerton, Kate and her sister Edwina are shown to be bright and accomplished, not just for their talent for fitting in with the English ton, but also their mastery of various Indian cultural skills like being able to play the sitar, putting the two cultures on equal footing. I also think that this is the first time I’ve heard an Indian accent in Western television which is not used for comedic effect. It adds to the realism and depth of Kate’s character. The best example of this representation is before her sister’s wedding where they have a Haldi ceremony, in which the family smears turmeric on Edwina’s face and arms while an orchestral version of a popular Bollywood song plays in the background, perfectly blending India’s bright culture with England’s traditional music. Altogether, the second season of Bridgerton brings an excellent blend of Indian and English historical conventions with the cultured and classy Ms. Kate Sharma.

Andrea Sachs (The Devil Wears Prada)

As graduation looms, the inevitable reality of corporate life is setting in — working in a big city, in a big girl job, with big girl rent to pay. In The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Andrea Sachs, played by Anne Hathaway, seizes any opportunity she can get after university. Her character encompasses that graduate life isn’t as glamorous as it might first seem; you are at the bottom of the pecking order and have to learn on the job, as your degree probably didn’t give you the practical skills required. I feel comforted by her uncertainty and tentativeness, feeling similar emotions as I am told I should to know what I want to dedicate the rest of my life to at 20 years old. Unlike the fantasy of overnight success, Andrea embodies the real uncertainties coupled with the promise of determination, inspiring me as a woman striving to work in a male-dominated field. But then again, maybe I’m more like Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia! (2008) and will run away to travel Europe and escape the capitalist hamster wheel of life.

Abed Nadir (Community)

Abed Nadir is a character I have always related to as an autistic person. He is a central part of the sitcom Community (one of the best TV shows ever), and his ASD is a part of his identity that is continually celebrated throughout the series. From special interests to a love of structure, Abed exhibits many traits that are typical to autistic people despite this never being explicitly discussed. However, Abed is not limited to these traits; like all the other characters, he grows and develops in his own way, and never changes who he fundamentally is. Abed is never treated as separate from the group nor is he portrayed as a caricature of neurodivergence. Instead, he is accepted with all his differences. Abed has always meant a lot to me, because he is ultimately the heart of the show. He is logical, direct, and usually unemotional, but remains the glue which holds his friends together. This breaks so many stereotypes of the autistic community which are so often present in TV. Abed stands out because his ASD isn’t treated as a superpower or an insurmountable difficulty, but just one aspect of his complex and loveable character.

Illustration: Hayleigh McLean

One thought on “Seeing yourself on screen

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