Ever since Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas announced they were getting married, their relationship has been fodder for gossip and speculation. Will they last? How will they reconcile their careers and cultures? Are they — gasp! — even a real couple?
The rumor-mongering was laughable for a while. Now it has crossed the line to ridiculous and mean-spirited.
Chopra and Jonas were married last weekend in a lavish wedding in India. Two days later, New York magazine’s the Cut published an essay by writer Mariah Smith titled, “Is Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’s love for real?” The piece only went downhill from there.
Smith originally began her essay — which was first updated to tone down some of the language and then deleted — with the line: “Nicholas Jonas married into a fraudulent relationship against his will this past Saturday, December the 1st, and I’ll tell you why I think so.” She went on to claim that Chopra insidiously planned to make Jonas her “forever b—” and that “all Nick wanted was a possible fling with Hollywood’s latest It Woman, but instead he wound up staring straight at a life sentence with a global scam artist.” She also made some pointed comments about Chopra’s love for luxury goods and what that apparently says about her character. Yikes.
What’s so remarkable about the piece is that it somehow managed to play into sexist, racist and ageist stereotypes all at once. It’s not just about the far-fetched insinuation that Chopra and Jonas dated and then married each other just to boost their brands. It’s also that Smith insists on pinning the blame on Chopra, while casting Jonas as entirely without agency. In Smith’s warped telling, Chopra was “shopping around for the finer men” and added Jonas to her “short list of Hollywood men” for a possible romance after also considering Tom Hiddleston.
But all this conjecture misses a fundamental point: By many measures, Chopra is more successful than Jonas. She has acted in more than 50 movies in Hollywood and Bollywood, launched a career in American television and also found time to record a couple of pop songs. She has almost 10 million more Twitter followers than Jonas does. She doesn’t need to link herself to him for the publicity; in fact, Jonas could gain fans through his connection with her.
That’s not all the piece got wrong. As TV Guide features editor Krutika Mallikarjuna pointed out on Twitter, the essay completely misunderstands Indian culture. Though Smith made sure to intersperse her tirade with Hindi words such as “Sangeet” and “mangalsutra,” she also complained that the wedding festivities lasted a week and involved trading flashy jewelry — both of which are common, meaningful traditions in Hindu culture.
Last night, the Cut published a post about Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra’s relationship that shouldn’t have gone up. We’ve received dozens of messages from readers expressing their anger. We want you to know that we hear you and we’re sorry. The whole piece missed the mark. There is no good explanation for this other than human error and poor judgement. This was a mistake, and we apologize to our readers and to Priyanka and Nick.
But that still leaves open many more questions about why the Cut’s editors agreed to peddle what amounts to a conspiracy theory as cultural commentary in the first place.
The issue extends beyond this one absurd article and gets to the heart of celebrity journalism. Chopra isn’t the first star to have to deal with blatant, racial stereotyping in tabloid pieces: Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex, faced similar attacks on her character while engaged to Prince Harry. That both Chopra and Markle are women of color is no coincidence. Tabloids have continued to use racial and sexualized tropes even as the rest of the mainstream media has moved on. They continue to sell vile stories about fake relationships, made-up pregnancies, cheating, and much, much worse. We often brush these stories off as ugly but irrelevant — but when they play on offensive stereotypes and keep these narratives at the forefront of public discourse, they can do real harm. Even if Chopra is ready to ignore the malicious commentary, as she implied in a statement on Thursday, imagine what Smith’s snide comments about Chopra’s foreign upbringing and age signal to young female readers.
It’s fine to engage in harmless speculation about celebrity relationships carried out in the public eye. It’s also fine to analyze the details of a wedding that was publicized from the outset. But that doesn’t give writers license to spin unsubstantiated rumors about foreign “scam artists” and scheming older women. Of all outlets, a website dedicated to showing readers “what it means to be a woman moving forward in the world today” should have known better.