In January this year, there was a storm of social-media protests over an episode of the Sex and the City sequel series, And Just Like That. Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) is invited by her new friend Seema Patel (Sarita Choudhury) to her family’s Diwali party and the two walk into a “sari” shop to buy appropriate apparel for the event. Only, as most South Asian viewers pointed out, the outfits in the shop are actually lehengas and what Carrie finally wears to the party is also a lehenga. Outraged cries rung out over this “cultural flattening” — presumably the makers of the show thought that distinguishing one South Asian garment from another would prove too bothersome for a viewership that speaks fluently in Balenciaga and Alaïa — but the episode helped highlight, albeit inadvertently, the zones of grey between inspiration and appropriation.
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