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Blood Harmony Vol. 26: The Great British Bake Off of Dating Shows
A few weeks ago, Netflix debuted a show called Jewish Matchmaking. It’s a parallel show to Indian Matchmaking, which is now in its third season. Indian Matchmaking is both a fascinating and frustrating show with issues that Radhika Menon, writing for Decider, summarized really well here. Jewish Matchmaking, despite sharing the same DNA as Indian Matchmaking, has a very different vibe due to its matchmaker, Aleeza Ben Shalom. While Sima auntie from Indian Matchmaking’s baseline mood appears to be mild-moderate exasperation with her clientele, Ben Shalom has a real warmth and sense of humor. She’s a generous person and as a result, it’s a generous show. If Love is Blind is Kitchen Nightmares and Dating Around is Top Chef, Jewish Matchmaking is the Great British Bake Off of Netflix dating shows.
Jewish Matchmaking includes intense moments of secondhand embarrassment, like any good dating show. We learn about Telavivian fuckbois! We see what tefillin are and find out that women think using them is hot! We get the joy that is STUART. We watch Ben Shalom, a woman with five children, have to keep her shit together while one woman tells her that she wants to have a baby ASAP but also jaunt off to Bali at a moment’s notice with her hypothetical spouse, baby in tow (PRICELESS). And, of course, the great Jewish-Phish connection is explored via a participant named Noah. Yes, there is an academic conference on Phish and yes it has included talks like “People of the (Helping Friendly) Book: Jews, Judaism and Phish”.
Gabrielle Briner, writing for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, noted some of the issues with Jewish Matchmaking including a lack of queer and trans representation and critiques that the show is “Ashkenormative” (which, amazing phrase). One thing that stood out to me is that there is a lot of body diversity on the show (relative to most dating shows) which I always think is a positive.
Based on workplace conversations and eavesdropping in my hair salon, I can report that Jewish Matchmaking is serving as a primer on Judaism for a lot of folks. It’s hard to imagine if you come from an urban area in the Northeast, but in the South many people have had very little exposure to Jewish life. I think the show does a nice job of covering the basics and showing the broadness of Jewish identity without pulling focus from the real goal which is to watch two people try to have a normal conversation in a half empty restaurant with a camera crew filming them.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the podcast Sanctum Unmasked is a real hoot. It tells the story of a Hollywood sex club and it’s a funny and super interesting exploration of sex work, fame, fantasy, toxic masculinity and the strangely enduring legacy of a very boring film, Eyes Wide Shut.
On Mother’s Day, I went with a friend to see Polite Society. It was such a delightful mashup of genres: Bollywood, Kung Fu, classic coming of age films, horror. At its core, it’s a story about sisterly love. It’s a lot of fun.
One of the songs in the trailer is “Crazy” by Doechii. I mentioned it before but I can’t recommend NPR’s Louder Than a Riot podcast more. They have a great episode about Doechii. But the episode that will stay with me for a long time is the most recent episode about Rico Nasty and having to be a strong Black woman in the face of hate from white hip hop fans. The heaviness of it is striking. Take a listen.
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