Friday, October 22, 2021

Starstruck: POCs can be sexy (and problematic) too

Now streaming on ABC iView: A series where Indians and New Zealanders aren’t reduced to cheap gimmicks.

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

Fresh from its launches on BBC Three and HBO Max earlier this year, Starstruck puts people of colour in an unfamiliar spotlight. Simultaneously placing them at the forefront of Western entertainment where they are the action stars (instead of, say, the action star’s taxi driver) whilst also giving them the romantic, professional, and social peccadillos normally ascribed exclusively to non-POC actors, the show is a refreshing chance to see diverse characters represented as normal people.

Starstruck’s premise is straightforward: after a chance meeting in a nightclub on New Year’s Eve, Jessie (Rose Matafeo), a New Zealand millennial living and working in London, begins a relationship with famous Western film star Tom Kapoor (Nikesh Patel). As their relationship progresses, natural issues arise that force them to fight, make concessions, and figure out how to traverse their modern-day prince and the pauper tale.

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That’s it. There’s no deeper story. No wacky narratives that border on ridiculous. No crazy Costanza or Kramer-esque side characters. It’s just them; two people living as normal a life as they can together, notwithstanding one’s superstar status, the other’s Kiwi accent, and the difference in skin colour. All equally troublesome issues for sure.

It’s a story marked by simplicity, and this simplicity also ensconces the production. The direction by newcomer Karen Maine and co-writing by the previously New Zealand-based Matafeo and Alice Snedden exude the relaxed, wine-in-hand programming of other shows made by millennials for millennials, utilising a witty script and strong characters (courtesy their roster of up-and-coming actors and actresses) rather than elaborate production elements or expensive casting to sell Starstruck to audiences. As is typical from comedy-based British programming, there are no extravagant sets, profuse costuming, or complicated plots; what you see is very much what you get.

A snapshot from the comedy series
A snapshot from the comedy series. Source: Pinterest

But that doesn’t mean such surface-level simplicity is bad – indeed, it’s quite the opposite. See, it’s nice to be able to watch people of colour lead normal lives with normal problems. Just as we struggle with our relationships in the real world, so do the characters in Starstruck. Just as young people have either shed their overseas accents or embraced them for their distinctiveness, so have the Starstruck characters. Also, I must admit it’s pretty cool to hear Indian people being consistently labelled as ‘hot’. All these elements come together to reveal something special: rather than living in a domain crafted by individuals whose insight into people of colour toes the line between ignorant and racist, the universe Jessie and Tom Kapoor inhabit is actually like the one young people of colour know. Now that it’s on TV, the world can come to know it too.

Ultimately, thanks to a short first season driven by the characters with whom we as an audience can actually relate, Starstruck is an expertly crafted, simple-yet-entertaining look into the world of young POC. With a second season currently in development, and its tenure on ABC iView uncapped it’s never been so enjoyable (and so easy) to see normal people dealing with normal problems in a normal world.

Starstruck can be streamed on ABC iView for free at: https://iview.abc.net.au/show/starstruck

READ ALSO: REVIEW: Come From Away (Sydney’s Capitol Theatre)

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Manan Luthra
Writer, cricket fan, gin and tonic enthusiast. Emerging journalist passionate about art, sport, and education

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