Stop promoting misogyny and rape culture in Bengali soaps
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Bengali soaps or mega-serials are the mainstay of the Bengali entertainment channels like Zee Bangla, Star Jalsa, Colors Bangla and the like. They are currently the highest TRP shows in television, apart from a few reality shows. The popularity of such dramas (melodramas – to be honest) is immense, as is that of the people who act in them. So it is quite natural that the views expressed in such shows will make a huge impact on the common populace. It is regarding the objectionable content and views presented in these soaps that this petition is about.
In a majority of the soaps we see women with a narrow range of behavior being idolized while departures from them are rebuked. To give an example, homemakers, who are confined to their households and doing daily chores are portrayed as role models. While there is nothing wrong with that, the objectionable part is that the characters who take on different roles are portrayed in a negative light.
In a recent soap, an elite class family is being appraised with the fact that they are very educated but do not allow their women to work; as if it is ok for men to be ambitious, be careerist but if a woman harbors the same characteristics, all hell will break loose. Hence in such soaps we have a majority of female villains who are working and ambitious women and often women vested with some power. Shocking!
A major stress is given on theism. Women with traditional values who are very diligent in their faith and worship are projected as the pure souls. This looks fine on the surface, however, if we look at the other side of the coin, the female villains are associated (in 90% cases) with self-belief and atheism. Here lies the problem. This narrow mindedness is not acceptable in today’s world. Added to that, pious women are also shown to be performing demeaning rituals (like rolling on the street) as a part of worship. Does this give a good message?
Such elements are offensive and regressive to the core. A lot of us may laugh at such gross incongruence between the world projected in the soaps and real life, but we must not forget that the lower classes and people in the urban areas do not have a yardstick for such a differentiation. This is a gross mis-education that is happening through soaps.
In most of the soaps, we see women wearing only saris. Even if we get to see someone wearing a salwar before marriage, it doesn’t require much of a guess that she would switch to perpetually adorning the sari from the point of her marriage (in the soap). While there is nothing wrong in wearing a sari, the problem lies in the mindset that is being projected. I remember that in one such show, there was a long lecture on why women after marriage should only wear saris, why that is pious blah blah. Does this mean we do not see women wearing western outfits in these soaps? We do, but again mostly on the female villains! A lead female character may perchance wear a western dress, but it is quite predictable that she will be transformed into a sari adorning role-model after marriage. Apart from these scanty examples, generally the so called miscreants are shown to be wearing jeans, mini skirts etc thereby equating dresses with character. This is clearly an offshoot of rape culture. We criticize people when they comment about someone’s choice of dress, but fail to notice the fact that these mega-serials are doing exactly that, albeit in a subtle way. Again, we know this is wrong but imagine the effect on someone who forms their opinion via such shows. Imagine the effect on a child who may be exposed to such decadent ideology.
I realize that the greatest problem with this is that we are not taking it seriously. The people coming from an educated and urban background (who are the minority) have the privilege of mocking these shows, but their impact on the majority of the populace (uneducated, from rural areas, children) is a cause for concern. Time has come to expose these for what they are - regressive, anti-feminist and a social evil. (Do not be surprised to know that many of the writers of these soaps are women). Hence, we propose the following:
- A body should be formed to inspect the content of the existing mega-serials and the ones to come in the future.
- The soaps with offensive content should be given warnings to rectify immediately. If the writers fail to do so, the mega-serial should be pulled down, no matter how much TRP it gets.
- A sort of circular or directive should be sent to each private channel and if required to the writers clearly stating the guidelines to strictly avoid such offensive content in the scripts/shows.
- Soaps in future should work to undo the harm it has already done to the society. This can be as simple as showing an independent and thinking woman in a positive light. Effort should be taken to undo the wrong stereotypes imposed in the soaps.
We demand these actions being taken as soon as possible and make entertainment free of such malice.
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