In this study, we conceptualise the phenomenon of cringe watching in order to understand why and how consumers engage with media that make them uncomfortable. We mobilise de-Western feminist thought to analyse our reactions to the Netflix series Indian Matchmaking. We find that ‘cringe’ is a bundle of consumers’ “ugly feelings” belying complicated affect and biases that are often rooted in Western values. By leveraging collaborative autoethnography as our method, we allow space for both “visceral” and “rational” experiences, challenging the role of researchers as subjects by positioning ourselves, additionally, as objects. Our findings reveal that engaging with media artefacts is a recursive process wherein consumers may encounter ‘cringe’, which when subject to introspection reveals unexpected socio-affective states like self-compassion, empathy for others, and understanding their own limitations as well as their place in the world. These findings have implications for marketing and consumer research on media, representation and affect.
Bibliographical noteBoth authors have contributed equally to this work