The problem of romance on reality TV

The problem of romance on reality TV

Dating shows perpetuate harmful stereotypes

Sima Taparia became a ‘Memes Queen’ after ‘Indian Matchmaking’ for her tangy one-liners (Photo: Netflix)

With the growing popularity of reality shows such as Love is Blind and Too Hot to Handle, OTTs are increasingly producing shows that satisfy audiences’ need to watch “real” romance onscreen.

Reality TV shows featuring blossoming love on television have been around since the early 2000s, with reruns of originals like The single person (2002) still released today. Despite accusations that these programs are scripted, audiences are often unable to look away from the screen as they become invested in the carefully crafted stories and characters of the participants.

This list features a mix of recent hits and classics from Indian reality TV.


One of the most iconic reality shows on Indian television, Splitsvilla started airing on MTV India in 2008, and over a decade later continues to record strong ratings in its 13th season. In the Indian television reality genre, it ranks in the 99.5 percentile.

The show looks like Island of love (2015) and features young single boys and girls who are isolated from the rest of the world in a villa and participate in various tasks to be able to stay competitive and develop a potential relationship.

Splitsvilla Season 12 Winners Shrey Mittal and Priyamvada Kant

Some of the disputes that have surrounded the show’s format relate to accusations that fights and “ideal matches” are heavily scripted and that excessive physical tasks can negatively influence young people. However, TV critics say that regardless of the controversies, the public demand is steadily high for this kind of reality TV.

“Honestly, that makes great TV and like it or not, it also fuels the voyeuristic and thrill-seeking mind and its innate need to know about other people’s lives. Another reason could be the other way to consume content even if you’ve already thought about it – hate watching! Sushri Sahu, entertainment reporter, recounts India Media Group.

Indian matchmaking

Released in July 2020, Netflix Indian matchmaking, which describes itself as a documentary television series, immediately rose to infamous not only among Indians around the world, but even among foreigners who may have finally had the chance to understand what arranged marriage really looks like.

The show follows four “clients” spread across Delhi, Mumbai, San Diego and Houston as they go through a string of difficult dates with potential matches and questionable-faced readers. Sima Taparia, the wedding consultant and star of the show, has been recognized for her frankness and funny lines, which have also sparked countless internet memes and online games, such as “Weddings these days are like. cookies, they keep breaking ”and“ Indians are afraid of Bahu (daughters-in-law) who are lawyers.

“I watched it with my friends and it was really funny because some of the people we just couldn’t take seriously. But it was also quite shocking because it happens in real life. Even though I’m still doing my masters, I’m facing a lot of pressure from my parents, so in reality they weren’t that far away from that aspect, ”says Aperna Nair, a university. American-Indian. Student.

Aparna Shewakramani, a Houston-based lawyer criticized by Taparia as being too ‘negative’

The show has been heavily criticized for its lack of representation. Although it is referred to as “Indian” matchmaking, it only focuses on a specific sector of India’s 1.4 billion people: wealthy Hindus and upper castes. In fact, the controversial subject of caste is conveniently hidden under terms like “similar origins” and “shared communities”.

“I don’t think they should stop doing these shows; I think they should recognize the huge responsibility that comes with knowing that shows as such can influence pop culture and therefore the young people who experience and breathe it. Packaging and courier are essential; does not glorify toxic relationships and you will be fine! Sahu explains.

Kennith Rosario, journalist for the newspaper The Hindu, swept the show, saying attendees “believe in some of the more atavistic ideals of marriage, and the show, in its brilliant demeanor, endorses it.”

what is love

Another Netflix series, what is love (2020) features Karan Johar as “Cupid” who tries to help six singles in their twenties find love. Johar, who is a prominent name in Indian cinema known for directing iconic love stories, appears to be the ideal candidate for the role, even asking contestants the famous “What does love mean to you? ” line of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998). He manages to create a “somewhat believable and endearing personal narrative around each participant,” according to critic Surabhi Srivastava.

Karan Johar as Cupid in Netflix Original ‘What the Love’

Similar in some ways to the hugely popular American reality TV series strange eye (2018), an interesting feature of the program that sets it apart from other dating shows is the dedicated makeover montage, both physical (makeup and hairstyle) and mental (helping them identify their insecurities).

Another extremely attractive trait of what is love is that due to the flexibility of an OTT platform, the show actually addresses harmful Indian stereotypes, presenting and commenting on the issues of LBTQ couples in India as well as an episode in which a young doctor explains how her weight was freely judged by all of her marriage prospects, a stark contrast to Indian matchmaking, where “slim, trim, beautiful” is often considered the only acceptable standard.

Skulls and roses

Described as a hybrid of Splitsvilla and the popular Daredevil reality show Roadies, Skulls and roses (2019) is an Amazon Prime production that stars eight couples embarking on an adventurous journey between “Rose Island” in the Andamans and “Skull Island” in Knysna, South Africa. The main premise of the game is that contestants must choose between “trust, love and survival” as their relationships are tested by grueling tasks and dramatic discussions of elimination.

16 competitors take on a series of difficult challenges

The judges or showrunners are Rajiv Lakshman and Raghu Ram, the original creators of Roadies (2003). Lakshman and Ram spearheading Roadies to a huge hit among Indian youth, and it eventually became one of India’s oldest reality TV shows with a 17-year history. However, they failed to achieve the same level of success with Skulls and roses, with an IMDB rating of 4.3 / 10 and largely sweeping reviews of the show and calling it “insane entertainment.”

Responding to public criticism of this stream of dating shows, Sahu believes reality TV should be treated as “car accident television”, as pure entertainment rather than some kind of educational viewing.

“I don’t think they’re harmless. But I don’t think they are there to degenerate us either. If anything, it’s a reflection and amalgamation of things, including the ever-changing dynamics of dating, social labels, and simple human behavior, ”says Sahu.