Episode 69: Lessons from Bridgeton for me with Shivani Gupta

I'm Shivani Gupta, and welcome to the Ask Shivani podcast. I believe that one of the best presents that you can give yourself is time to be able to sit down and ask yourself some questions. I believe that the quality of the question that you ask yourself will determine the quality of your life.

Shivani Gupta

Hi everyone, and welcome to the AskShivani podcast, I want to talk about Bridgeton. Today, I don't really want to talk about Bridgeton. But it is a global phenomenon, you know, over 80 million people have watched. A friend of mine suggested to me in the first season when it came out in 2021, to watch Bridgeton and I started watching it, and it just felt a little bit. It just wasn't me a probably because I don't watch much TV at all, or very many series. If I need some downtime, I will usually watch a movie. Like I said, I don't watch much mainstream TV, I don't watch many series. And my downtime might be music or reading or a movie. And I usually really love the cinematic experience and being able to go to the movies that way. But she suggested I watch it, she has been a friend of mine for a very, very long time, in fact, two decades, and I thought, okay, I'm gonna give that a go. And I started watching it, I started reacting a little bit to how limited and structured that era was. And the women were constrained and almost felt this inequality between men and women around that. But one of the things that really started to interest me was how a lot of the main characters were, you know, really diverse in terms of their ethnic backgrounds, they have different accents are relevant in traditional era pieces, whether it's a movie or a TV series, where everybody changed the accents to become bad, and you know, fitted a particular mold, particularly of that era of lots of very wealthy white people. I started to notice, you know, that the Queen was not white, I noticed that the main male character wasn't white. And so, there was all these really interesting things about it that fascinated me, I noticed that it was a lot of modern music began as, as you know, very old type of music, but they were, you know, Taylor Swift songs on the who were Miley Cyrus songs and whoever they might be. So, it really started to fascinate me. So, when Bridgeton came out in the series this year, in March last month, one of the things that I decided to do was, I thought, you know what, I'm going to watch it, I'm going to see what happens. And I wasn't bad, interested in in the storyline as itself or which character it was about, but I was really interested from a diversity point of view.

And I noticed yet again, that there were different characteristics. There were different people, and the two main female characters this time, so the male character was a white male. And then the two female characters were two Indian actresses or actors, female actors who took those roles on. And I found it really interesting with their background and the part of India perhaps that they, they were representing and having been born in India, this whole connection where nobody in their families, I guess, spoke about the color of their skin. They were just representing a particular character. Nobody talked about whether they were brown or whether they were black. And again, I don't want to get into political messages. But certainly, having watched Prince Harry and Megan Markel stuff where those comments are still being made to the child. And I know having grown up in India, and then moving to Australia, and coming across a fair bit of racism, not from a broader community, only two or three, I guess, boys at one school. But that stayed with me for a very long time. And the fact that I'm speaking about it now, it still pinches a nerve Occasionally, when I see racism happening, so one of the things I noticed watching Bridgeton, was that nobody was saying, oh, my God, what do you mean? you're gonna marry this brown girl, and you know, like, she's so dark, or she looks like this, or there weren't any racial comments about it, it was more about the personalities of the two characters, and the dance that they did to arrive to, you know, where that where that arrives to and Bridgeton certainly got me thinking a lot. But you know, when I was growing up, but the expectation was that I would certainly marry somebody Indian, you know, maybe if there wasn't an arranged marriage, but certainly that would be arranged in the sense that my family would meet other Indian families who had prospective boys or marital sons, and that I will then be introduced to a number of families and I will get to pick my pick my husband, and so that didn't feel like a picture of me growing up, but never when I was very young, did I imagine that? You know, a character could marry you know, a white guy and it would be romantic but this character in the second season is really head strong. And I really resonated with her not just from her color of her skin, but also how headstrong she was, how she had made a decision not to marry, and how she wanted to do her own thing, and she wasn't going to almost be robbed, you know, bullied him by what was happening at the time, or certainly by male. And I certainly could relate to that aspect of it even more so than the color of his skin growing up, where I was constantly told I was headstrong. I remember one time I announced that I was going to become a lawyer, in my early teens, and one of the women who was in our family friends circle said, well, you know, you're pretty argumentative already. Shivani. And if you stay really argumentative, how will you find yourself a husband.

And so, growing up that wasn't, you know, my whole family, my dad was very much into education of girls. And my parents were very much into education for me, and having that equality. But there was still this expectation that being too headstrong wasn't fantastic. You know, and there was no ever mention of the fact that you would have a choice of marrying anybody that would be outside of your culture. So, for me, as I relate it to this character, and bringing it back, and then noticing that as I got into my 20s, and the people that I dated, and the people that I'm aware of, certainly did not fit that mold. And also, more importantly, didn't fit that mold because they weren't Indian or a particular culture. They didn't fit my mold, because I am pretty headstrong, and I wanted somebody that wasn't passive in a relationship. That wasn't somebody that just said, yes, I'll do whatever you want Shivani that would not work for me either, being pretty headstrong, that it was somebody that matched it, somebody that was equal in all senses, and somebody that would absolutely support me in terms of my career and decisions on friendships and other choices that I chose to make. But also challenged me.

One of the guests that we interviewed, or many of the guests we've interviewed spoke about when they've got really good coaches or mentors in their life. One of the things that these mentors do for them is that they support them. And they say, you know, that's a really excellent idea, and they utilize the sounding boards. But a really good coach or mentor will also challenge you, they will actually challenge you to think differently, and challenge you in terms of your decision-making process, and challenge you to slow down or speed up or think about things differently. And other all the good mentors, I've had in my life have done that for me. And so, for me, looking at a partner I was looking for that somebody that would support me, but would also challenge me. And I think the great thing, and again, I'm not a TV series fan, I'm not suggesting that I know every intricacy of Bridgeton and who does what and all the characters. But what really fascinated me being a brown woman from India growing up in a very white Australian society. And now having married somebody who is white, who is a great supporter of me, but also a really big challenger of me. And having just ticked over 15 years of a wedding anniversary last week, how important it is to actually have people in your life that will support you, but also challenge you. And I don't mean that just in a partnership, I think it's so important that the people around you recognize that you're different, but value you that for not just the color of your skin, but how strong headed you are.

I know sometimes, you know whether it's different settings that I've been in, it's not always serving, there's still an expectation even living in Australia that that I am seen as sometimes difficult because I will raise things. And I'm not doing it for the sense of being difficult. I guess, I also don't have that need that I used to have in my 20s and even in my 30s to try and make people like me and make people see that it's actually okay not to be headstrong and to be a bit more passive and to go along with other people's ideas. I'm very supportive of other people's ideas, but if I have an opposing view, or if I disagree with them, that I need to respectfully and engagingly bring that up to say actually, that's not that right in terms of how that's done, but also challenging people around me to look at diversity differently. There's a lot of places that talk about diversity and inclusion. And often, you know, people will talk about having people over indigenous backgrounds and having them involved. Certainly, gender and having more females on boards or leadership roles is really important. But one of the things that I've noticed is that goes missing in our society is people want that diversity in how people look, whether they're females, whether they're different cultures, whether they're different skin colors, that do they really are they really ready for their diversity and thinking and so I have been asked to be on certain boards and certain subcommittees on different things, because of the color of my skin or all my sex being female. And I think that what becomes more important to me is don't pick me because I'm female. And don't pick me because I'm brown. Or don't pick me because I'm female and brown. But pick me because I am difficult, pick me because like the Bridgeton character, Kate, who's the main character in the new Bridgeton and series, she is really headstrong. She has different opinions; she's not going to comply. And yes, she's got those feminine aspects, but she's also got those masculine aspects in terms of being that so I just really resonated with that. And if you are a Bridgeton, or you absolutely are not a fan, I would love for you just even to watch a little bit and look at it from a diversity perspective, in your own mind. What that means in your family. What that perhaps means in your workplace. And are you really open to having women, perhaps have different skin color of men of different skin color? But more importantly, are you happy to be surrounded by people that are pretty headstrong, like Kate in this in this series? Are you happy to have where you disagree, where it causes some, you know, dissonance where people feel a bit uncomfortable having certain conversations where debates are held. And not everybody's in agreeance with everything, but at the end of the day, you come up with better outcomes. 

And one of the things that I'm not seeing and experiencing whether it's volunteer things that I sit on, or client things that I sit on is people are good with the physical aspects of diversity, but perhaps not some of the mental aspects of diversity and being really open to the healthy debate.

Anyway, I didn't think I would watch a series back-to-back and by the way, I finished that series, I think it was 3 am in the morning, and I hardly stay up past 10 pm. So, I watched it all and I was fascinated not only by the love story of people that look very differently, because I could resonate with that part of it having married and Australian, but also, I could really resonate with her character and loved how that developed. And she started to develop both the masculine and stayed with the masculine aspects of herself from my experience and my take on the show but also was able to encompass the feminine aspects of yourself too.

So, what should not watch it that I just wanted to share that with you in this episode in terms of looking at diversity from the way that people think and allowing for those debates and allowing for that headstrong people to come through male or female to really look at how that can enrich the experiences and what people are trying to create for the future. Thanks for listening.

I'm Shivani Gupta. And you've been listening to the Ask Shivani podcast where I'd like to ask some questions. Thank you so much for listening. Please follow Ask Shivani on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. And if you haven't done so, please go to the Apple podcasts and subscribe rate and review this podcast. It would mean a lot. Thank you.