Most unsurprising has been the apparent revival of drama on television desperately trying to make up for the missing (in every sense of the word) genres of film, theatre and multiple restrictions on other recreations in our country.
In other words, drama comes in handy in the absence of other healthy outlets. So far, so good. The ‘neotradition’ of television drama has set some new rules, making multiple exceptions from its classical version of the golden era and. One such is, at the risk of sounding cliched, the gender imbalance that is both interesting and discouraging.
Women dominate the local television both in respect to characterization and quantitatively — more women-dominated characters, women in lead roles and the number of female characters. Like morning shows and religious program, which would have been otherwise invaluable only if they had attempted to change public perception, they do exactly the opposite.
Religious shows nurture the same hang-ups we need to let go of. Morning shows not only nurture both the social and religious dogmas but encourage ‘innovation’ in them. Frustratingly mediocre in every respect, seems like television has fallen flat on the education front while successful on ‘entertainment, and nothing beyond that.’
So, drama. Let’s not even get into the whole objectifying or sexifying women argument. Domestic drama, to borrow the post-modern term for theater, has set appalling standards in reinforcing social stereotypes. The point in case is all the recent ‘blockbusters’ (which, by the way, is the most dangerous bit).
The most famous plays have the worst appeal. ‘Larkion ko yeh play zaroor dekhna chahiye’ (every girl must watch this play); ‘yeh tau kerna parta hai’ (there is no other option); ‘har aurat ke liye yeh missal hai’ (this is an example for every woman); ‘jo bhi ho, hota aisa he hai’ (this is the ultimate truth). To use the text lingo ‘urgghhh’ is the sensible reaction. Stop it women. No, this doesn’t have to happen.
There seems to be but one unifying argument, the woman as a victim is a hero. Take, for instance, the insanely popular play acclaimed both for its performance, cast and direction shows a woman brutally humiliated, physically abused by the fashionable mother-in-law and eventually abandoned by the ignorant husband makes a come back only when her ‘innocence’ is proved through a letter. In another play, a mother shares her experience as a wife and as a daughter-in-law to her own daughter telling her how she suffered at the hands of her mother-in-law and the egoistic, arrogant and indifferent husband but she made it by taking all the crap.
Right, so that’s the way? Unless you tolerate the nonsensical, mindless arrogance of the new family you are not a good woman. Morning shows is a different story, their encouragement of mediocracy and down-right ignorance can be a raw material for thesis. This is not news, which is often criticized for lack of journalistic ethics. Rather this is popular media whose appeal is way broader in terms of audience.
There is an undeniable religious narrative working here — the good woman. Adam turned out of Heaven because of Eve; a woman shows complete devotion to her Mijazi Khuda for salvation; Sita proving she did no hanky panky with Ravan. Reminds me of another story in which Ayesha, the wife of Prophet (pbuh) stranded in the desert by the caravan was brought by Safwan bin al Mu’tall it caused a scandal and there were some questions raised about Ayesha’s chastity.
The problem is clear, these plays which appeal to the masses especially women are only reiterating and permeating stereotypes which are hazardous to intellectual growth. The argument is not whether women are more impressionable than men, it is actually the lack of argument that these plays present. This is a good woman and that’s it. She destroys her ego; kills her ‘self’ to salvage everything that means something to her, her husband and her marriage. The self — the lack of it actually — is the only answer to a successful relationship between a man and a woman. The overrated ideals of sacrifice and purity when reinforced in fiction because women identity with them (I have heard so many of them say ‘yeh tau merry kahani hai’).
No, misandry is not the answer, and that isn’t even the issue. It is to move on. There’s a lot wrong with how we function as a society, let’s not make it incorrigible and resign to it. That such plays and shows are most popular is the worst part. Learn something from shows that are meaningful in subject thoughtful in argument, from the neighboring country that is. I say men should also watch these plays in a what-not-to-do way.