Comfortable in her own skin: VOD, web series and podcast selections

The burden of living up to social expectations is ubiquitous. As such, the struggle to get rid of the demands of modern society – from unattainable body standards spread through social media to the pressures of embracing marriage and parenthood in the name of tradition – is a major obstacle, especially for women.

If we are to resist the idea that the “obvious” or “natural” roles of women are the angel of the house and “baby-making machines,” we need a representation of the problematic ideals that society holds for women. The discrimination that takes place in the name of fitness and healthy lifestyle evokes compulsive attitudes towards weight monitoring, body shaming and fat phobia. These gender stereotypes of what a woman should conform to, whether in appearance, marriage, or family life, are detrimental to women who feel comfortable with their choices, bodies, and lives in general.

By dismantling the idea of ​​fitting into prescribed forms, this week’s VOD, web series and podcast selection explore the situation of women in different socio-cultural and socio-economic environments and focus on ways to break the oppressive and controlling social order.

Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia’s “Leftover Women” document the lives of three women living under a government that stigmatizes being single. Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti’s “Made in Heaven” addresses the hypocrisy of Indian elites and their obsession with finding the “right match”. The web series also discusses the stigmas that older women, single women and non-binary people face in Indian society. “I Weigh with Jameela Jamil”, a podcast by the “The Good Place” actress, seeks to inform people about the toxic dietary cultures and pseudo-feminist attitudes that dominate social media, while emphasizing self-acceptance.

Here is Women and Hollywood’s latest selection of VOD, web series and podcasts.


“Leftover Women” (documentary) – Directed by Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia

“Remains of women”

In 2007, the Chinese government considered unmarried women over the age of 27 as “sheng now” or “surviving women”. This documentary by Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia explores this concept of “leftover women,” a “derogatory term used throughout China to describe educated and professional women over the age of 27 who are still single,” Shlam says.

“The film follows three women struggling with the stigma and social pressure that forces them to embark on an exhausting quest in search of ‘Mr. Right,'” Shlam and Medalia describe in an interview with Women and Hollywood. After the lives of three successful women – Qiu Hua Mei, a 34-year-old lawyer; Xu Min, 28, working in public radio; and Gai Qi, 36, an assistant university professor in Beijing – the documentary depicts the difficulties of having thriving careers in a society that looks down on women who choose to remain single and childless after their mid-20s. Although they excel professionally, they are still expected to perform household chores and pursue a family.

The documentary begins with Qiu visiting a dating agency in Beijing, where she is told by the matchmaker that she is “not beautiful in the traditional sense” and that she is too “old” for husband hunting. Through “marriage markets” where parents are looking for potential partners for their children, the film shows a mother retreating from Qiu as she is a lawyer. A woman who has a degree is considered “bossy” and “not obedient,” Qiu says. We later witness Qiu reject a suitor when he says he wants to be the “dominant” in his marriage.

In a gripping depiction of the compulsive social order, which presents fulfillment in the form of marital happiness, Gai Qi is ultimately seen to settle for a much younger suitor, after lying about his age to the suitor’s family. “She got pregnant very quickly and she got married very quickly. She did not say it out loud, but her actions said it: she wanted to run away from the stigma, and that was what she did,” says Shlam.

While Gai Qi chooses to compromise and evade social ridicule, the final scene in the film sees Qiu go to France to pursue his dream of studying abroad. The tender departure underscores society’s inability to accept women as they are, while showing the gradual approval Qiu has been able to reap from his family. As Medalia puts it, “I am very proud that we gave these women a voice and allowed them to say what they think and share it with the world.”

“Leftover Women” is available on PBS and can be rented on Amazon Prime.

Web series

“Made in Heaven” – Created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti

“Made in Heaven”: Amazon Prime Video

“Made in Heaven” follows Tara and Karan, two wedding planners based in the upper class community of Delhi, India.

The web series is a commentary on “the great Indian wedding”, where outdated traditions like astrological superstition, outdated practices like the dowry system and other regressive attitudes dictate lavish modern weddings.

Created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, co-written by Alankrita Shrivastava, and co-directed by Nitya Mehra, the web series channels the problems that creators have faced as women and the discrimination that is still prevalent in modern society. Tells its own story as a single woman in her 40s, Akhtar recounts how every time she visits the capital, people who barely know her question her marital status.

Based on personal as well as used experiences, “Made in Heaven” shows the hypocrisy in the pulsating world of India’s upper crust. Tara is trapped in a marriage where she constantly feels like an outsider because of her humble middle class origins. Karan is a semi-closed gay man who is constantly forced to hide his sexual orientation as it will affect the attitudes of both clients and landlords. The duo tackles several challenges that emerge in the nine-episode series, ranging from stigmas surrounding late marriages, to the refusal to accept a daughter-in-law based on her sexual history.

The dowry system – an amount of property or money brought by a bride to her husband in their marriage – although banned by the Indian government, but an active practice in arranged marriages throughout the country, is depicted in the series. In one of the episodes, the family of a seemingly progressive high-ranking official asks for a dowry for their son’s marriage, the moment that represents the regressive perception of women as an economic burden that has not developed through generations. The bride cancels her wedding by knowing that the groom was complicit in this claim.

The series paints a realistic picture of intolerance in the supposedly educated sphere of Indian society – where Karan is brutally beaten and sexually assaulted by the police as his landlord informs them of his sexual orientation and a bride is asked to undergo a virginity test after a private detective reveals the possibility that she has had an abortion for the groom’s family. Co-creator Kagti say “All this has always been a tool for us to explore Indian society, to come up with some kind of social commentary.” She notes in another interview, “This kind of show is hard to remove from who you are and your politics,” adding that the point of the series “is to really look deep into themselves to find out their identity and what makes them happy.”

“Made in Heaven” is streamed on Amazon Prime.


“I weigh with Jameela Jamil” – Created by Jameela Jamil

“I weigh in with Jameela Jamil”

“I Weigh” is the podcast offshoot of Jameela Jamils ​​”Community Allied platform” the same name. The podcast starts as a post on Instagram and provides a platform to discuss and look for solutions to the various challenges, stigmas and mental problems that Jamil and the guests face in everyday life.

The weekly podcast features guest speakers from a variety of backgrounds and professions each week, including thought leaders, artists, activists, influencers or even Jamil’s friends. According to his Mission statement, “‘I weigh’ connects, strengthens and amplifies different voices in an accessible way.”

The podcast celebrates progress rather than perfection and covers a host of mental as well as physical health issues. Jamil brings the modern toxic diet culture to light through his own disturbed eating and also sheds light on topics such as feminism, racism, LGBTQIA + problems, body positivity and marginalized experiences. IN an episode, actor and singer Demi Lovato opened up about their body image, experiences after rehabilitation and pansexuality. IN another, Reese Witherspoon burst into tears and honestly expressed her feelings of being marginalized in corporate boardrooms dominated by men.

By inspecting this idea of ​​not belonging, the podcast encourages people to be kind and accepting of themselves. In an interview with Variety, says Jamil, “If we just had a little bit more empathy, a little bit more patience, a little bit more kindness, a little bit more self-reflection and education, this whole world would be a whole different place.”

Instead of a reflection of physical weight, the title “I weigh” is an expression of self-worth and self-love. The podcast is actively working to condemn fatphobia, and many of the episodes focus on how women have struggled against the toxic diets and body shaming that have spread in the digital age.

Learn more about “I Weigh with Jameela Jamil” on its website, and listen to Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Earwolf.

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