This ‘bad date’ on Netflix’s new show is an illustration of cultural insensitivity

Posted by
Sarah Shaffi
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Gurki from Dating Around. Image: Courtesy of Netflix

There are bad dates, and then there is what this woman went through…

Dating can be an awkward experience at the best of times, but it’s infinitely worse when you’re faced with someone who insists on telling you how you feel and assessing your past relationships through a white, Westernised lens.

This is something which Gurki, who recently appeared on Netflix’s new show Dating Around, learned the hard way.

For those who have yet to see the show, each episode of Dating Around sees one person go on five blind dates before choosing someone they’d like to see for a second time.

Episode two focused on Gurki, a 36-year-old jewellery buyer for Barney’s in New York, who soon reveals that she was previously married to her high school boyfriend and divorced him after he cheated on her.

Justin and Gurki on Dating Around. Image: Courtesy of Netflix

Justin and Gurki’s date can be seen on episode two of Dating Around

Gurki, who grew up in Texas, is honest with her dates about the relationship and that she got married because it was culturally expected of her.

“It was a taboo for people to be dating and not have marriage as the end goal,” she says on the show. “So then you’re like, ‘well, it seems kind of petty to not get married to this guy you have been dating’. But we weren’t the best of ourselves with each other and I feel like when you’re in a relationship you want to be the best of yourselves for each other.”

Gurki talks about her cultural upbringing early on in her date with 34-year-old Justin, telling him her parents had an arranged marriage and met for the first time on their wedding day. She goes on to say that “they’re not wildly in love at this point”, to which Justin immediately responds: “That’s terrible. I want to be wildly in love with my partner til I’m 85.”

While Justin’s comment about being wildly in love is uncontroversial, it’s the “terrible” that, at best, displays cultural insensitivity - Justin is clearly disapproving of arranged marriages and sees “love marriages”, the name given in a number of cultures to marriages between two people who fell in love first, as superior.

And it only gets worse from there, when Justin refuses to accept Gurki’s thoughts on love and attacks her for her decisions.

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Their argument begins in earnest when Justin asserts that if you love someone, you let a part of yourself go, with Gurki disagreeing and saying: “No, I think if you find the right person, you’re not letting anything go.”

But Justin doesn’t let her continue, telling her: “You haven’t lived here long enough.” He’s referring to New York, where he has lived for 13 years and Gurki for two, but coupled with Justin’s disdain for Gurki’s cultural upbringing, it’s easy to read the comment as referring obliquely to her ethnic origin.

Justin goes on to say that Gurki has never been in love so “couldn’t possibly understand”. Although Gurki protests that she was in love, she just had doubts, Justin begins what becomes a sustained attack.

“Who says yes to getting married and you have doubts?” he questions, barely giving Gurki time to talk about the culture clash between them before dismissing it as “an Indian thing”.

Gurki on Netflix's Dating Around. Image: Courtesy of Netflix

Gurki ended her date with Justin alone after he stormed off

Calmly, Gurki tells Justin that “it’s a very cultural thing to not understand societal pressure on getting married to somebody you’ve dated”.

But Justin refuses to engage in a meaningful discussion, telling Gurki that she lied to a man and ruined eight years of her life. When she protests, Justin continues: “You totally ruined it. You lied to him and yourself. You agreed to spend your life with someone in front of friends and family and it was a complete lie.

“How could I ever trust you? How would anyone ever trust you?”

At this point Gurki, who has already exercised more patience than even Mother Teresa would have done in this situation, begins to look visibly upset, prompting Justin to patronisingly explain to her how dating works.

“Look, I don’t want you to be upset,” he says, despite having spent much of a date attacking her. “If you’re gonna go on a date and you’re gonna talk to me or any guy in New York City, I feel like they’ll ask the same questions, because you wanna know the true, honest answers. You wanna know somebody from their core. And if you can’t handle that and are gonna get defensive…”

Gurki, saying that she knows she and Justin won’t see each other again, tries to engage him in debate but, ironically, at this point he gets defensive and leaves.

Netflix has released a clip of the date with the caption: “Wanna watch a really bad date?”

But Gurki’s date with Justin is not just bad; it’s an example of misogyny and latent racism by a white man. Justin judges Gurki on a past relationship, something no one wants a prospective partner to do, while simultaneously being dismissive and disdainful of the cultural upbringing that shaped some of her decisions. 

Thankfully, Gurki’s other four dates were with men who listened to her and engaged in conversation with her. But her date with Justin was so horrendous that it’s no surprise Gurki ended the show by choosing not to see any of her dates again. 

Instead, in the final scene we see a confident, smiling Gurki walking alone in New York City, content in her Justin-free future. And for that we salute her.

Images: Courtesy of Netflix


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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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