"A clinical psychologist discusses why its okay to love The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, the show that launched a thousand memes "
Maheep Kapoor, Neelam Kothari, Seema Khan and Bhavana Pandey in a still from Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives
This weekend I binge-watched The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives (after having made fun of the trailer like most people I knew). I didn’t know what to expect, all I wanted was something visually appealing to spark some joy and my massive crush on Neelam was my only assurance. The show made me laugh more than I had in a while and sparked unbridled joy even though it was over-the-top and borderline problematic. Being the supposed-woke human I am, I shared my fondness for the show (on Instagram of course) by labelling it as my ‘guiltiest pleasure’.
After checking out the show’s official social media, I was not shocked to find that the producers (Karan Johar’s production company) have embraced the show’s ‘guilty pleasure’ label in true Karan Johar fashion. Viewers may be divided on whether they love the show or hate it, but they can’t stop watching. In this age of shortening attention spans, it would be reasonable to say, if we can’t stop watching, it must be pleasurable on some level. So, why the guilt? What are we trying to avoid saying? What are we trying to portray ourselves as?
We spoke to Ms. Priyanka Varma, Clinical Psychologist and Founder of The Thought Co., to better understand guilty pleasure, being unapologetic about our preferences, and much more.
What do we mean by guilty pleasure?
It's binge season! The ultimate guilty pleasure that makes you feel fabulous, is now streaming on #Netflix!#FabulousLives@maheepkapoor @neelamkothari @seemakkhan @bhavanapandey @netflixindia @apoorvamehta18 @aneeshabaig @scrappypants #UttamDomale pic.twitter.com/RNqUxbPDxr
— Dharmatic (@Dharmatic_) November 28, 2020
“To understand the term guilty pleasure, we should begin by understanding the psychological construct of it. Guilt is when we make a mistake and then direct anger at ourselves for it. The emotion of anger surfaces in guilt because we operate from a place of ‘we should have known better or done better’. The difference between the expectation from ourselves and our reality often gives rise to complex emotions of guilt. This guilt is laced with anger towards ourselves. Pleasure, contrary to guilt, is felt when we engage with an activity that gives us a sense of joy. When you combine the two, guilty pleasure is an activity that gives you joy but you believe is bad for you”, explained Priyanka.
What makes us love these shows?
Even though we can identify the problematic behaviour, shows like The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives have us hooked. “Pleasure is as much a psychological experience as it is a physiological one, what contributes to the complex experience of pleasure comes from our previous experiences, relatability, empathy, and desire,” said Priyanka.
The show has four middle-aged women being their unapologetic selves. Be it Neelam’s apprehensions about her comeback, Bhavana’s spiritual activities, Seema’s relationship with her sons, or Maheep’s concern about her daughter being trolled, their vulnerabilities make them relatable and earn the viewers’ empathy.
Also Read: Fabulous Lives Of Bollywood Wives Web Review - Insta On TV, Innit?
“The show is interjected with moments where you feel for the women and moments where you condemn their behaviour. This can be a confusing experience because as you disagree with some of their values and decisions, you also relate to some of their behaviours. As viewers, we need to look at content without judgement on ourselves, and just pay attention to our feelings in the experience of consuming a show. Judgement wears its ugly head in too many areas of our life, it does not need to taint a mindless, pleasurable, and escapism intended experience,” explained Priyanka.
The pleasure we derive is overwhelming enough that we make allowances for the show's problematic areas.
Why do we feel guilty?
The conflict lies in our failure to accept that we can want very different things. The problem lies in our binary outlook- wherein we insist on labelling experiences as good or bad. This is often limiting and restricts us from freely expressing ourselves, and pushes us towards feelings of guilt, shame, and anger.
“We need to recognize that our experience of pleasure does not always have to fall in a binary, it can be experienced along a spectrum and it is unique to each individual and their life context,” said Priyanka.
You can enjoy The Crown and The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives. You do not need to question the pleasure you derive from the latter, simply accept it. We are serious beings who also like frivolity.
How does guilt impact our experience?
“Our neurons fire with happy hormones when we are consuming such content. But then guilt confuses the experience, remember the nagging parent that we have internalised. Condemning experiences leads to fear and guilt for having indulged in it. It is important to understand that watching a show, being able to call out maladaptive styles, and still finding comfort in the familiarity of it is fine,” said Priyanka.
How important is it to be unapologetic?
Talking about the importance of being guilt-free when it comes to our preferences, Priyanka said, “We need to create safe spaces for people to be honest with themselves about their experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Owning your space and what you like is what takes away the guilt and moves us from a place of confusion to awareness with acceptance. This often requires us to step away from the comfort of societal expectations, and embrace our personality and preferences. Being able to identify the problematic content and still accepting the consumption of the content is liberating because we no longer have the nagging parent tainting our experience with guilt.”
There’s a page we can take from these women, they know the internet will not be kind to them but they unapologetically accept their dramatic privileged selves and make no excuses for it. Something we can work towards doing ourselves.
Imagine what life would be like if one had the freedom and acceptance to make their own choices and be comfortable with it.
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