Four More Shots Please!, an Indian Original web television series by Amazon Prime Video that released its first season to mixed reception back in January, 2019, dropped its second season on April 17th, 2020, to an even larger spectrum of varying reviews.
The series is branded as revolving around four modern, unapologetically empowered women, and this is exactly what it fails to get right.
It’s always nice to watch a film or television show that does not shame and criticise its women for their lifestyle choices – be it their sexuality and sexual preferences, or drinking alcohol and smoking.
However, these are superficial tokens of empowerment that do not contribute much to the feminist narrative.
Four More Shots Please! brings up topics that are vital to progressive attitudes towards women, but refuses to actually delve into them in a nuanced manner. The result is what feels like the creators merely checking off boxes of “wokeness” while writing the show – have a token fat girl, token queer representation, woman with OCD and anxiety who never seems to struggle with it, token single mother, mention feminism and Simone De Beauvoir, and don’t forget to scream the title every time they have a drink.
The topics are relevant and important to women – they hold the potential to make the show exactly what it was marketed to be. However, they seem to be handled with no desire to dive beyond the superficial. In the midst of all the gloss, glamour, clumsy dialogues, and forced wokeness, the women and their situations are treated with sympathy at best, but no empathy.
Unrealistic portrayal of workplace misogyny
The women of Four More Shots Please! are career-driven and passionate about their work. Like most women with careers, however, they struggle with conflicts at their workplace – most of which are rooted in sexism and misogyny.
In Season 2, Anjana, a lawyer at a firm, is subjected to constant and blatant discrimination from her male boss. The boss in question neglects her opinions despite her expertise, casually makes sexist and demeaning comments, and hands over her cases and promotion to a male junior.
The boss has been given horribly unsubtle and misogynistic dialogues like – “Everything is my business – even your time of the month, which I’m assuming is right now. It would explain why you’re being so hysterical.”
Anjana fights back against his continued bigoted behaviour, and eventually resigns.
These instances make it clear – Anjana’s boss is sexist and discriminating against her for gendered reasons.
Discrimination against women in work-places in reality, is almost never this transparent and obvious.
They’re more likely to be subtle – justified as jokes and disguised as harmless. These microaggressions are much more prevalent, much harder to fight, and much more damaging. They’re almost always impossible to call out or fight back against. They leave you second-guessing yourself, wondering if you’re overthinking things and reading too much into what is being said or done.
When you skip a nuanced and more realistic depiction of workplace sexism and instead replace it with a script that is more ‘Workplace Harassment for Dummies’ and less ‘Here is what sexism at the workplace can look like’, not only do you add zero depth to the conversation, you run the risk of over-simplifying and even negating what is otherwise a much more complex experience.
Not everyone has the privilege to resign from their jobs like Anjana did, despite blatant misogyny and discrimination.
Starting a conversation about how women can attempt to deal with and put an end to sexist behaviour in their workplace when they cannot afford to resign, would have not only been realistic but also helpful.
A skewed representation of women and men
There is a line, and not a fine one at that, between empowered and entitled, self-assured and selfish, and messy and mistaken – a line that the creators treat as invisible.
The female characters are wooden with barely any character growth. They make the same mistakes over and over again, deal with insecurities by developing superiority complexes, have a twisted idea of independence and maturity, and treat everyone around them with little empathy.
It’s surprising to see a television show with a woman-dominated crew create female characters who are this flat, and male characters who are even more so. Milind Soman and Prateik Babbar’s characters are nothing more than blatant eye-candy. All the male characters in Four More shots Please! are treated with little respect by the four central women.
A show that feels the need to be reductive towards one gender could never be successful in truly empowering the other.
Sisterhood of not really caring
There are moments of female bonding and camaraderie in Four More Shots Please! that are truly heart-warming and relatable.
The show is abundant in instances of the women rushing across the city to get to each other – across the globe from Mumbai to Istanbul in season 2 – and are constantly (CONSTANTLY) pulling each other in for group hugs.
However, showing up is not equivalent to being there. One of them complaining about her problems is almost always followed by the others responding with their own complaints. It’s baffling, the number of times the women talk to each other but refuse to actually listen.
A fight like the climactic one in Season 1, with its venomous spite and nastiness, does not burst out the way it did, in a healthy sisterhood; nor does it get resolved with barely any hashing out of their problems, the way it did in the very first episode of season 2.
No more shots please
Four More Shots Please! is a show about a group of privileged people targeted towards a group that is much the same. It exists in a vacuum that could be aspirational for some, and regressive for others – but is completely removed from reality for both.
The second season was much like the first, without the novelty. If there is to be more, adding depth and a more nuanced depiction of empowered feminists and progressive feminism would go a long way. After all, not everyone can handle shots – sometimes, it’s good to add a mixer.