A divisive Netflix reality show — once described as a "cesspool of casteism, colorism, sexism, and classism" — earned itself an Emmy nomination this year. When the 73rd Emmy Award nominees were unveiled, Indian Matchmaking was on the list. The series follows elite Indian matchmaker Sima Taparia as she guides single millennials from Houston to Chicago to Mumbai towards successful arranged marriages.
The controversial series earned recognition in the Outstanding Unstructured Reality Show category. The series was up against Becoming (Disney+), Below Deck (Bravo), RuPaul's Drag Race Untucked (VH1), and fellow hit Netflix reality series Selling Sunset. Speaking with The Independent after the show earned the nod, host Sima Taparia, nicknamed "Sima aunty," expressed her excitement.
"I am delighted to hear about Indian Matchmaking's nomination at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards. Waking up to such exciting news! We couldn't have asked for a better gift to celebrate one year of the show," Taparia told the outlet. "The success of the show has been because of global viewing. I have shown my Indian values which are hundreds of years old. I pray for India to win this award. I love all my fans, be it critics, admirers, clients, and their families."
Whether it was due to the controversy surrounding it or not, the show ultimately did not win the Emmy. In one of the awards given out ahead of the big Sunday night program, RuPaul's Drag Race Untucked took home the prize.
Debuting on Netflix in July 2020, the series has been shrouded in controversy since the start, with many slamming the show for its portrayal of arranged marriages and for what many viewed as an endorsement of gender stereotypes, colorism, and classism. NPR noted that throughout the eight-part first season, "female participants are encouraged to be flexible and submissive," and Taparia could often be seen advising "her female clients to 'adjust and compromise' when it comes to choosing their life partner. When Aparna Shewakramani, the headstrong lawyer, rejects her first match because he is not ambitious and would never move somewhere that didn't have an ocean nearby, Taparia says 'she should not get a life partner if she is this negative.'" The show also faced backlash for glossing "over the dark roots of arranged marriage" and for glorifying it "as a harmless, quirky alternative to dating."
"Arranged marriages in India are very much caste-based, so when you have a show that features a matchmaker going through biodatas that [explicitly] mention caste, or say the women should be 'flexible,' you're promoting ideas that harm Dalit women like me," Srishty Ranjan, an anti-caste activist, told VICE World News. Of the show's Emmy nomination, Ranjan added, "we look at Emmy's as progressive and trying to include more diversity of voices, so I was surprised when they nominated a show that is so regressive."
Netflix never responded to the backlash over Indian Matchmaking's Emmy nomination. The 73rd Emmy Awards air on Sunday, Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. The show will broadcast live from the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles with Cedric the Entertainer serving as host.