By Kahini Iyer Feb. 07, 2019
Four More Shots Please! treats Damini no differently from the women journalists who have come before her in the chick flick genre. Like Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw, Damini is not just an unlikeable character – her many flaws are framed as aspirational.
Amazon Prime’s latest homegrown offering, Four More Shots Please!, revolves around the rich people problems of four glamorous twenty-something Mumbai women who spend a suspicious amount of time at the local bar. There’s Siddhi, the chubby rich girl; Umang, the slutty one; Anjana, the lawyer; and of course, Damini, the journalist.
If this sounds like a hackneyed, insultingly reductive list of characters, that’s because the show offers little more than what we’ve seen a thousand times over in the “chick flick” genre. Anjana and Damini have serious, high-powered jobs that somehow allow them to leave the office and go day-drinking (because duh, four more shots, please!) Umang is bisexual, which means her chief hobby is fucking random strangers in public bathrooms. Siddhi, despite being a perfectly normal-sized woman, is treated like she’s morbidly obese by her suffocating mother. On second thought, that might be the most realistic part of the show.
It’s worth noting that “four gals, big city” is not a revolutionary concept, having been done to death by the ladies of Sex and the City, and then revived by their insufferable millennial offspring in Girls. To expect relatable characters and situations is to miss the appeal of shows like Four More Shots Please!, which is an idealised fantasy ripped from the pages of Cosmopolitan magazine. Perhaps that’s why these chick flicks always seem to feature a very specific, totally inaccurate version of a “journalist”.
I’m grateful that, as an aspiring young writer, I never looked up to Carrie in Sex and the City, or Jenny in 13 Going On 30 (2004), or Andie from How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days (2003). If I had, I would have been sorely disappointed to find that writing a weekly dating column like Carrie’s will barely cover the bijli ka bill, never mind a cutting-edge designer wardrobe, and that editors don’t give you ten days to write fluff pieces on how to lose guys.
These fun, thoroughly watchable rom-coms are from a different era, when strong female characters were still rare in Hollywood. But even back then, Andie was writing trash for Composure magazine in hopes of eventually becoming a political journalist — although she immediately gives up a Washington job interview for love. Sixteen years on, Four More Shots Please! is definitely an update on the trope: Damini is not a superficial fashion writer, but an investigative journalist of national renown. She works at a digital publication whose name, in keeping with chick flick tradition, is the laughably terrible “Investigator.com”. She’s trying to uncover hidden truths and break the story that will win her a major award for the fourth year running.
At least, this is who Four More Shots Please! wants Damini to be. The show does attempt to engage with crises in modern media — Damini lives in fear of the violent, angry trolls who hound her, a real concern following the most dangerous year on record for journalists. There’s also an exploration of the systemic issues that have seen a thousand talented Buzzfeed and HuffPo journalists laid off in recent weeks. No one wants to read Damini’s hard-hitting stories, and with the gossip and entertainment section driving all of Investigator.com’s traffic, her job is in jeopardy. At one point, Damini, sitting in a coffee shop, yells at a cluster of girls at the next table who are giggling over gossip news, accusing them of putting her out of work.
To expect relatable characters and situations is to miss the appeal of shows like Four More Shots Please!, which is an idealised fantasy ripped from the pages of Cosmopolitan magazine.
It would be a more powerful scene, and certainly a valid social argument, if it weren’t for one small detail: Damini is out of work because she’s objectively awful at her job. Day-drinking aside, she’s constantly embroiled in costly defamation lawsuits that are anathema for any company. Worse, she keeps losing those suits, leading to a lot of questions over how exactly she’s kept her status as an award-winning journalist. When Investigator.com is in danger of going under, Damini is off celebrating her birthday in Goa. Which boss in their senses wouldn’t fire her?
Ultimately, Four More Shots Please! treats Damini no differently from the women journalists who have come before her in the chick flick genre. Just like Jenny and Andie, she’s selfish, unethical, and entitled. Like Carrie, Damini is not just an unlikeable character; her many flaws are framed as aspirational, a representation of empowered, no-fucks-to-give womanhood.
In a world where The Wolf of Wall Street exists, there is a certain, pleasurable equality in glorifying women’s bad behaviour, too. But feeding into dated stereotypes of working women is both counterproductive and boring. For a chick flick protagonist to be truly empowered, she doesn’t need to be an award-winning, hardboiled reporter. An ordinary journalist who does her damn job would be revolutionary enough.
Kahini spends an embarrassing amount of time eating Chinese food and watching Netflix. For proof that she is living her #bestlife, follow her on Instagram @kahinii.