And then, in a moment that tries to be fabulous and cheeky but instead comes off as seriously-what-are-they-thinking, Seema responds by saying let’s get you a sari, because that’s not cultural appropriation, that’s cultural appreciation. “I just saw one back there that I really culturally appreciate,” Carrie giggles, childishly.
As terrible as that exchange is, it gets worse. Because a few scenes and, I imagine, dress-fittings later, Carrie walks out of her apartment ready for the Diwali party in her outfit-slash-costume. Which turns out is not actually a sari, but a lehenga.
Just to point out the difference, a sari consists of a long piece of fabric wrapped around the body in a certain way, and a lehenga is a long, full skirt worn with a blouse. They look completely different. So after making such a big deal of getting a sari, Carrie ends up in an outfit that isn’t actually a sari. But hey, it’s Indian isn’t it? It seems for the purposes of the show, any type of South Asian outfit is lazily described as a sari, which is like me calling all western-wear a wrap dress. It’s just not okay, particularly for a show that made such a huge deal about being so woke.
What I don’t understand is why the show appears to make a big effort to culturally appreciate, so far as to include the terminology in the actual script, and then to get the basic facts so wrong? For me, that is cultural appropriation: taking the elements you like from a culture and making it more palatable for your audience. Did they think no-one would notice these generalisations, because any outfit remotely ethnic or South Asian is a sari, isn’t it? Did they think their viewers in 2022 were not ready to learn a new word for a type of clothing? It’s just ridiculous.
Quite frankly, the mistakes don’t end there. Despite having an Indian woman as a character, when the taxi arrives at Seema’s family’s Diwali celebration, the chat still boils down to the same boring storylines. Her parents are desperate to get her an arranged marriage. Surprise, surprise.
The writers could have used this storyline as a real opportunity to showcase South Asian culture that has long been, er, ‘appreciated’ – bindis at festivals, namaste at the end of a yoga class and chai tea, anyone? – but yet it still ends up having the same boring cliches. I was half-expecting Carrie, with her comedically inappropriate floral headdress, to walk down the stairs outside her apartment and climb upon an elephant rather than into a taxi. But I suppose even for the writers, that was a cliche too far.