“The World’s Strictest Parents,” is a reality show on the BBC narrated by Gary Mavers. Two families send their trouble making, disrespectful, and unruly teens to live with a host family from a different country. The teens learn not only rules and respect for others but also about themselves through experiencing other cultures. As someone who understands how the media does not always do an accurate representation of a culture and its people, it’s nice to know that this one represents people of color, lesbian, gay, and single parent households without forcing stereotypes.
Very often we hear or see stereotypes of Asian families, usually a very strict family who enforces harsh and unrealistic expectations on their children. Yet, despite the name of the show, the parents featured aren’t just strict and demanding of respect but also loving, nurturing and greatly involved in community service. “The World’s Strictest Parents” doesn’t rely on stereotypes but lets the families act naturally which gives the viewers at home a proper glance into the lives of people all around the world.
One of my favorite episodes is when British teens Nadia and Aron are sent to live in Bangalore, India with the Nanjundyya family.
Mrs.Nanjundyya is a single mother of three, the owner of her own business, and also works to give back to her community. When trouble starts up with Aron for breaking the rules and wanting to take a smoke, Mrs. Nanjundyya sits with him and rest of the family to patiently wait until an agreement can be made about him smoking. And when a heated argument is started between him and Nadia, Mrs. Nanjundyya reasons through the conflict and talks things out to ease the tension.
There are many wonderful things about this episode such as the value of ambition, the pretrial of a successful and independent single mother, but most importantly it shows a side of India that most people don’t see on screen—the rich, modernize city of Bangalore.
In another episode, teenagers Nicki and Jerri spend a week with the De Zylvas, a family that practices Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Mr. Dezylva runs a finance company and Mrs. De Zylva works in advertising. Their four children attend different levels of education. Although there is great emphasis on education and their children have made many achievements, the parents also care about their children and not just their achievements as common misconceptions would have us believe. Mr. De Zylva wakes his children every morning with a warm cup of milk. This however did not go over well with the hot-headed Nicki, who is not a morning person. She yells and berates her host father but he gently talks to her and eventually take her to a Buddhist temple where she learns to meditate to control her temper. Mrs. De Zylva works with Jerri to provide food for the poor and arranges for her to give makeovers to the mentally and physically impaired to teach her the value of inner beauty.
The show gives viewers an insight to how actual people all over the world live. And although it depicts people who are rather well off financially, it does debunk the idea over complete and total poverty for some non-Western countries. Another wonderful point to make is that it shows different families from a country more than once and does not play into false diversity or tokenism as it showcases many different kinds of families within a single country or continent.
Although the original British version no longer produces new episodes many can be found on YouTube along with other variations.