Royal Vomitfest: Forced Love and Marriage on Royal Pains

So, I’ve been sort of enjoying the USA show Royal Pains. Hey, it’s summer, there aren’t a lot of options on television, I need some entertainment, and I initially really liked the show and the concept behind it. Sure, it’s a little cheesy and maybe not the most deep television ever made, but sometimes that’s needed. However, I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with it in the last few weeks, due to two separate (though related) plot lines.

The first is Divya’s. My initial delight at having a woman of colour in a major role has been succeeded by dismay at how they’re handling her. Because she’s Indian, you know, so that means she must be in an arranged marriage with a man she doesn’t love, and dominated by parents who are more interested in social climbing than letting her live her life.

I’ve been growing increasingly uneasy with the whole arranged marriage thing, and it pretty much came to a head in “Wonderland,” last night’s episode, in which we finally see the infamous engagement party which has been fluttering at the edge of the story all season. Complete with numerous Indians in saris, an exchange of rings, and a brief fantasy moment in which Divya imagines telling everyone to get stuffed. But, of course, she meekly accepts her ring and puts one on Raj’s finger, and yay, everybody claps, except for Hank, who sits in the audience looking disappointed because she’s not standing up for herself.

I feel like this plot has kind of, you know, reinforced some negative stereotypes about the Indian community, in addition to just being annoying. The show seems to vacillate between portraying Divya and Raj as both wanting out of the engagement, and depicting just Divya saying no, and Raj thinking that the marriage will work out, with time. Her marriage is also assumed to be the end of her professional career.

So, yeah, that’s annoying.

The other thing that’s really annoying is the storyline between Jill and Pete, her ex-husband. Well, almost ex-, turns out they haven’t finalized the divorce. So we are forced to endure a series of painful scenes in which Pete attempts to “win her back” by being a manipulative, misogynistic, disrespectful asshole who apparently thinks that if he just tries hard enough, everything will return to the way it was. It’s abusive, it’s disgusting, and I hate it. It’s a total mockery of the very real abuse women endure when they try to leave their husbands; Pete is smarmy and gross and it makes my skin crawl.

What I hate more is that so far Jill has been strangely passive. She may feel uncomfortable, but she doesn’t say it or assert herself, and she clearly expresses, on several occasions, that she’s thinking things over, and considering whether or not she wants to take Pete back. At least until last night’s episode, in which she finally told him off, but it kind of felt like too little, too late: we’ve been watching her passively not deal with the issue, and now, finally, she gets with it? Come on.

It’s really frustrating to me that I can’t even enjoy some basic stupid summer television anymore. Nope. It’s all got to be ruined with at least one stupid plot line that lives me gritting my teeth in rage every single episode.

2 Replies to “Royal Vomitfest: Forced Love and Marriage on Royal Pains”

  1. Right on! I feel like we watch a lot of the same tv (based on your list from the Eye Candy page). These two things have been bothering me a lot about Royal Pains lately as well. I really wish Divya would have said what she was thinking, but, of course, they needed some sort of “twist” and a way to keep a woman in her box. Don’t want women to be too independent now, do we? And you’re so right about it being stereotypical about Indian culture. There are so few examples in mainstream culture of an Indian character who is not in an arranged marriage or it is at least mentioned or joked about on the show (I’m thinking maybe Kutner on House, but I can’t remember if House ever makes a joke about arranged marriage, he probably does).

    And everything I see Pete my skin starts to crawl. Basically because of everything you said.

  2. I am so glad to see someone else sharing my creeped-out-ness about Royal Pains. I mean, the show started out so lighthearted and fun, and it’s become so problematic! It’s very frustrating. I keep hoping that it’s going to redeem itself, but it seems like it’s falling into a lot of the same old stereotypes that always ruin television for me.

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