The internet is far from a communal space. More often, its architecture exaggerates the divides of the real world. Writing in this publication in 2013 about the internet’s geography, Emma Green explored the work of the analyst John Kelly, who visualized the silos of the web and showed how they can work against comprehension of important topics. Those with divergent opinions on the same issue rarely communicate with the other side, though each might benefit in dramatic ways by doing so. “With a broader reach, communities can put their perspectives into dialogue,” Green wrote. “Car lovers might start to understand the environmental effects of their hobby, and environmentalists might start to understand the heart-stopping beauty of a blood red sports car.”
A marriage between an Indian woman and an American man hardly ranks as a paramount global concern—and yet it also serves as a chance to connect different perspectives through the act of cultural analysis. Chopra, a Bollywood star turned American TV fixture (as the lead of the recently canceled ABC drama Quantico), paired up with Jonas, whose own fame arguably hit a peak in the early 2000s, before his band, the Jonas Brothers, retired. The coupling offers a Ph.D. dissertation’s worth of material to parse. Chopra’s status in India as a superstar seems not to translate to America, while Jonas’s quick slide into Indian married life—notoriously hard to exit from, and beset with many familial players—appears dazzled and hasty. Meanwhile, the visual opulence of the duo’s courtship is matched only by the swiftness of its timeline. The invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the wedding’s most divisive guest, affords an opportunity to examine the uneasy merger of celebrity and politics. Instead, any such analysis has taken a backseat to a media drama that reveals—to a greater degree than does most celebrity coverage—a modern inability to connect.
The intricate, layered optics of the pairing are reflected in the ways in which critical dissection of it has fallen short. Both phenomena—the coupling itself, and the debate around it—make clear how segregated the online town square, so to speak, is. As a member of a prime overlap in interested parties—I am an Indian American woman in media—I’ve found the most elucidating analysis to be among desi women, who text other desi women sophisticated hot takes that are rarely, if ever, shared in mixed company. Likewise, that an article as glaringly off-key as The Cut’s gets okayed in the first place reflects an institutional homogeneity in how ideas are vetted.
Writing at Jezebel about the latter misstep, Prachi Gupta, who happens to be Indian American, decried the American lack of awareness of Chopra’s immense level of fame in India (which Gupta blames for the Cut writer’s “racist and sexist” narrative). In an aside, Gupta makes a telling, if perhaps unintentional, reveal as to why such a blind spot, in general, persists. She notes that she has spoken with “every Indian woman” she knows about the implications of the romance between this particular brown woman and white man. Gupta even adds that the pairing is a topic in her therapy sessions, and that her therapist (also an ethnically Indian woman) speaks of discussing the matter with her own Indian girlfriends. These women all share a broadly similar take, according to Gupta, in opposition to the one blasted out at The Cut. Their interpretation revolves around two questions: “Who is Nick Jonas?” and “Does this white boy understand that he is marrying into royalty?”