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Couple’s Instagram Reels: Thoughts on Love, Marriage and Gendered Roles

Consuming reels on Instagram has become a guilty pleasure. Unfortunately, this means that I am spending some time scrolling through Instagram before falling asleep at night. But even when consuming reels, the sociologist in me is omnipresent in the consumerist self. One of the top genres of reels that often show up on my feed is ‘couple’s content.’ This couple’s content includes reels that are created by either husbands or wives or sometimes by joint accounts. 

Couple’s Content and Instagram Reels

Embarrassingly, I am an avid consumer of reels centered around couples which has led me to notice a few patterns. Unsurprisingly, these reels are governed by existing ideas of gender roles, marriage and intimacy. I will make my argument based on the content analysis of a few creators—Vihaann Goyal (@vihaann09), Amrita Singh (@amritasbharadwaj), Chandni and Vinay (@ rajput_jodi_).

Vihaann Goyal has 1.2 million followers, Amrita Singh has 137,000 followers and Chandni and Vinay have 779,000 followers. While Vihaann’s content represents the husband’s or the man’s perspective, Amrita’s represents the wife’s or the woman’s. Chandni and Vinay, on the other hand, is a joint account showcasing the couple’s perspective on marriage. Their content is mostly in the reel form—short videos of 1-1.5 minutes. They are created as light-hearted in nature.  

Gendered Perceptions of Marriage

Vihaann’s content reflects how marriage and wives are often perceived by men. His reels centre around his relationship with his wife Jasleen – @missjasleenarora (who is also a content creator on Instagram) with 1.9 million followers. Most of them show them engaging in light banter over issues that concern the household. There is a clear gendered division of work—Vihaann is the office goer whereas Jasleen is a stay-at-home wife.

His reels focus on Jalseen’s questionable cooking skills, the time taken by his wife and sister to get ready when they have to go out, as well as on her love for shopping. Most often, these are based on humor that has been normalized in our society—how wives spend their husband’s money after marriage, take long hours to get ready before going out for any event as they cannot find anything to wear, etc. 

Harmless Flirtation or Double Standard?

Several reels mention a woman in the neighborhood—Mrs, Gupta—whom Vihaann is interested in although he is married. His interest which often assumes the form of flirting—taking Mrs. Gupta shopping, praising her beauty, etc. is portrayed as harmless and funny, even though his wife does not appreciate it. Vihaann is also interested in his secretary as there is one reel in which he is shown buying the same dress for both her and his wife.

It is interesting how the husband’s flirting with other women is likewise normalized in reels created by other content creators. For instance, Resty Kamboj’s (@restykamboj) content—an influencer with 1.3 million followers, too, revolves around his dynamics with his wife and his supposed interest in other women. In one particular reel, he laments the fact that he could not kiss his neighbour as her husband came home at that very moment. The wife’s anger and unhappiness are shown as overreactions and funny.  

Whose Perception Matters?

Amrita’s content, on the contrary, depicts the understanding of marriage from a woman’s perspective. Her reels are centred around how she manages work at both home and office. She looks after her child as well as does cleaning and cooking at home. While her husband is shown as loving and caring, he is also working long hours. So she complains about him not spending enough time at home with her and their child. But there is no mention of another man in the picture. It’s all about her and her husband. 

Chandni and Vinay’s content is the portrayal of their marriage, often offering humour at Chandni’s expense. While Vinay is the one who works outside, Chandni is busy fulfilling her domestic responsibilities—raising the children, cooking, cleaning, etc. The reels show Vinay making fun of her kitchen hacks as well as how wives behave—being suspicious, not possessing practical sense, etc. Like Vihaann and Resty, Vinay, too, occasionally flirts with other women while Chandni does not. 

Recreating Pre-existing Stereotypes

One can argue that these content creators recreate and reflect the pre-existing stereotypical notions of marriage and gendered roles. Men see marriage as a suffocating institution, whereas women lament how their husbands do not like to spend time with them. The wives are also portrayed as suspicious and control freaks who ask a lot of questions and restrict their husbands’ freedom. Their favorite activities are shopping and gossiping—often typecastedly associated with women. The men’s interest in other women and their flirty nature is justified in the name of ‘men will be men.’ 

Papa Ki Pari (Father’s Princess)

One trope that a lot of content creators, including @rajput_jodi_ have capitalized on is the ‘papa ki pari’ which can be translated to father’s princess in English. This is an image that rests on the idea that a woman is treated as a princess by her father and at her natal home, which results in her not learning how to do household chores. For instance, she does not know how to cook, which results in her facing difficulties at her affinal home after marriage. The mother-in-law tries to teach her cooking but is not successful as the daughter-in-law lacks even the basic knowledge. To give an example, when asked to boil water and milk to make tea, the daughter-in-law is shown trying to literally boil one glass of milk and water each, instead of mixing them in the saucepan.

This ‘Papa ki pari’ depiction becomes a way to make fun of women who don’t know how to manage their lives, especially perform the gender roles that are expected from them like cooking. The woman’s mother is often chided for not teaching her the feminine domestic responsibilities of maintaining a household which is reflected in the dialogue—‘Maa ne kuch nahi sikhaya’ (your mother did not teach you anything). 

The Broader Social and Cultural Context

The ‘papa ki pari’ trope is often connected to reels that show how love marriage is different from arranged ones. In the Indian context, arranged marriages have often been the traditional norm with families playing a crucial role in deciding one’s spouse. The choice of spouses in arranged marriages is governed by similarities in religion and caste, hence restricting the choice of a partner. Love marriages—in which the couple exercise their choice in choosing a partner, are hence, often frowned upon.

The woman particularly is seen as incompetent in household work, often being a ‘papa ki pari.’ This is reflected in reels that show the difference between arranged and love marriages. For example, in love marriage, the woman is unable to make round rotis (a form of flatbread). In comparison, a wife who has been married through an arranged marriage is shown as a good cook.  

Final Thoughts on Love, Marriage, and Gendered Roles 

What these comparative reels of love and arranged marriages do is reinforce the notion that marriages that involve parental choice are better. Love is seen as a threat. This is especially truer for men because they get to marry women who are gender confirmative through arranged marraiges. Many matrimonial advertisements also reiterate this point. Grooms and their families explicitly mention that they are looking for ‘non-feminist brides.’

As the analysis of these couple’s content on Instagram shows, gendered stereotypes and expectations are a crucial part of reels. While the medium of content dissemination is digital, the form of it is very similar to television serials. So viewers actually end up consuming old content in a new form. 

Rituparna Patgiri

Rituparna Patgiri has a PhD in Sociology and is one of the co-founders of Doing Sociology – a digital resource dedicated to promoting sociological consciousness among young people.