Skewing Traditional Identities of women

The skewed depiction of traditional versus modern identity of men or women in Indian media is neither beneficial nor believable. These media portrayals influence societal roles and create unrealistic role models. According to Laswell, an early political commentator from the 1940s, Mass Communication has three objectives: surveillance (research into what is happening around the world); correlation (interpretation of the events and news for the masses); and transferring social heritage (making sure the values are transmitted to the next generation). Charles Wright added “Entertainment” to that list of objectives about 10 years later. Sixty years later, discussions of media and mass communication might still benefit from holding mass communication to these four objectives. However, there has been a shift to a more political angle in media. It’s not just the news that aims to raise awareness or inform its audience.
The global villages paradigm: where the Vasudhev Kutukbkam has taken the face of Facebook and Twitter, an analysis of the political, social, and economy driven motivations of mass communication is warranted. Much like the study of political communication, it requires understanding the process of constructing information, crafting, and assessment of impact on audiences.

In the Indian context, the women and men are effective conduits for messages containing the ethos of mainstream western values. While the women’s protest for equal rights and professional lives are highlighted in media, the media disregards the disadvantages of balancing so many roles. Shows do not depict the struggles of a working mother: unstable marriages, living single or co-inhabiting as replacements for arranged marriages, divorce and single parent families, and other ways of depleting social supports. The list of  struggles ignored on TV is long. ..the women from Khushi (of Iss Pyaar ko Kya Naam Den) to Pratigya (of Pratigya) use charming undertones to suggest all the awful things happen to women who are simple and gullible. Portrayal of women as great home makers, independent, with clear boundaries in relationships coexists with really deft and efficient women within the home. On the other hand, men of Star Plus are presented as role models of husbands who are devoted to their wives and loyal sons. Ranging from Viren, a lawyer in Ek Hazaron Mein Meri Behena Hai), to the jewelry showroom guy, Naitik (in Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai), these men are enterprising and educated, a perfect fit for the cosmopolitan world of emerging India and its aspirations. Their nine-to-five jobs do not cause tensionsat home. There are no discussions of who is going to do the dishes, help with homework or wake up with the babies in the middle of the night. Female protagonists are subtle, hard-working characters who have ambitions, such as Sandhya (in Diya aur Bati), Gopi (in Sathiya), or Saanchi (in Ruk Jaana Nahi) who is trying to get an education. The traditional woman are portrayed as misguided, misinformed and have issues which make life difficult for the young and modern generations. Suhana, the sweetheart daughter in law (in Sasural Genda Phool) whose character is much like a Disney character, says it all when takes up acting and refers to her traditional character as “the dumb and stupid bahus” and the “stupid people.”
Traditional life styles are either hauled up for their simplicity or berated for their degenerate misogynist structure. The conceptualization of patriarchy is simple and uni dimensional. For instance, in the serial Maryada- Lekin Kab Tak, there are five primary male characters. The head of the family – Brahmanand, is a highly placed, obviously traditionalist, also sexually debauched, violent man who has emotionally abused his wife, has an affair with his “saali- sister-in-law” and sexually assaulted his “bahu- daughter-in-law”. The sons include a gay and married older son Gaurav who is kindly towards his wife though his heart is with his boyfriend. The younger brother, Aditya, is nice but traditional, lacks refinement, and struggles to understand his wife’s feeling after she leaves him. The servant, Jaggi, is more representative of the American Blue Collar media portrayals of “the help.” The fifth male character is Shubhankar, the cosmopolitan, educated, professional lawyer who in the process of helping the woman of the household get a divorce when he falls in love with her. Similarly, in “Iss Pyar ko Kya naam den” the rustic brother-in- law Shyam is trying to kill his wife and covets a younger girl who is now married to his brother in law. In Man ki Awaz Pratigya, the entire male clan is portrayed as rustic boors who mistreat their women as a norm. Comparatively, in Sasural Genda Phool, the easy going men represent the lower middle class much like the men in numerous American sitcoms. They are funny and quirky and not necessarily strong, traditional “providers.” They are like Ishaan, who is nice, supportive, and often compared to “Amol Palekar” the un-angry sweetheart icon of Basu Chatterjee, who is not too good looking nor too ambitious. M men who don’t stand out as obviously rural, or traditional are from business class families as in Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai. If you were a fourth generation Indian urbanite, you would look down on the impression of people wearing dhoti kurta, with rural accented speech would be negative. You would prefer the cosmopolitan suave hardworking male. While urban youth and adolescents are likely to look down on the rural imagery, the aspirations of those living in rural India would also not be the degenerate patriarchal male of Indian society as portrayed in Star Plus serials.

The intentionality behind communication could be argued as criteria for making it a political versus a social communication. Framing and deconstructing television serials can help enlighten as well as entertain.


About Chun Mun

Chun Mun are bloggers for E-Women! All the women from the Indian Subcontinent, who have anything to say are a part of the Ewomen Indian world and have this space to share their thoughts. We might not endorse or support any of their thoughts but we endorse and support their right to speak and share their opinions. Ewomen is a document on women's journey as women Reclaim their own identity and Create and Contribute to the lives of others.
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