Indian television versus reality.

This morning I overheard an hour and a half of three different soap opera playing on the Indian television while I Facetimed (it’s high time they make Facetime a verb) with my parents in India. Well, they talk to me during breaks, so it totally works for me. But the striking part about these series was that they all shared a common theme: quarrelsome families make good entertainment. 

Now this was extremely surprising to me not because I was culture shocked, but because of the massive fan following these series enjoy. And to basically watch women plotting and pitting against each other, spineless men having no opinions and making a fool out of themselves, extra-martial affairs, young women being tortured for not having given birth to a boy and more such extremely disturbing stuff. What is more upsetting is how normal everybody in India thinks it is.

So i’ve decided to come up with ten things that they show on Indian television that absolutely never happen in real life. Here you go:

1) Women are absolutely not as shallow as they are portrayed to be in these soap operas. They don’t spend every minute of every day making plans and plotting against another woman. 

2)Men have opinions. They don’t just listen to their mothers and their wives. They are perfectly capable of making sound and healthy decisions. And unlike the characters shown on Indian primetime television, not all men wear glossy suits to work and travel in fancy cars. And more importantly, not every man cheats on his wife!

3)Women don’t just dress up in their finest clothes every day! They don’t just watch television all day and they definitely don’t spend the better part of their lives in the kitchen. More than 80% of the women today work, have extremely fulfilling careers and enjoy an absolutely rocking social life.

4) The mother-in-law – daughter-in-law dynamics are just so outdated! I mean for heaven sake who talks like that anymore. And honestly, women are not as nasty as they are made out to be in this cheap shows. 

5)Have you seen the houses these characters live in. They are like palaces in lalaland! Does anyone in Bombay have that kind of a house and imagine the kind of money you’d need to live the kind of a lifestyle they propagate in these show. People actually have their own bedroom in the series, there are spiral staircases running through the houses and helpers pacing to please the rich. Honestly, only the Ambanis and the Tatas can afford a lifestyle like that.

6) How about dead people walking back alive in the series and varying levels of memory loss. That kind of stuff only happens in the bizzaro world. 

7)Don’t these characters ever take vacations? Because I’ve only ever seen them fighting with each other. Why not take a break, go to a peaceful place, come back all relaxed. ‘Honeymoon’ is the only time these Indian characters ever step out of their houses. Whoever thought you’d have to be married to take a vacation!

8)Let me break your myth, joint families are not the happiest families in the world. And these series amply prove that. You put three women together and add two womanizing men to the mixture and you have a perfectly messed up joint family in an Indian television series. 

9)Not all teenage girls who wear jeans are a lost cause. Similarly not all young college going teenage boys get wasted! People have goals to achieve and careers to make. Not every teenager is a spoilt brat if he/she hums an english song.

10)Everything shown in these series is a serious attempt at pulling us backward. These shows are not meant to entertain, but they are meant to reinforce hypocritical cultural values that seriously ought to keep up with the changing times. They are making sure our women stagnant and get caught in the stereotypes. 

There are far more important things out there that one need to learn and understand than to watch a woman seduce somebody else’s husband just to get back at her. Don’t waste your time. 







3 thoughts on “Indian television versus reality.

  1. Rural and small town India is very orthodox and highly patriarchial. The average number of years of schooling is 6 in India. In Germany, it is 13 years, in USA it is 12 years and in France it is 11 years. So in India, the mass media has to cater to a largely under-educated and ignorant population. The TV shows that we Sec A & B types like to criticize are not aimed at us although they are made by observant and business smart people who are definitely a part of Sec A & Sec B. Studies have demonstrated that people prefer to associate with people and places that reaffirm who they already are. This is called implicit egotism. This also extends to TV viewing. People watch supposedly ‘sexist’ & ‘regressive’ shows because that is exactly like their own societies. Most people in rural and semi-urban areas actually hold the ‘bad’ ideas that you have described above. This explains the popularity of these shows.

    Rural India cannot stomach a ‘Sarabhai v/s Sarabhai’ and a ’24′. If you compare a high society show like ‘Kitty Party’ with the kind of ‘regressive’ stuff served on Colors TV and on Star Plus these days, you won’t find much of a difference in the ‘pettiness’ level. Only the societal settings are different.

    Now to the impacts of these shows.

    1. Emily Oster and Robert Jenson found out that watching TV soaps by women leads to great improvements in women’s status in society and leads to significant increases in reported autonomy, decreases in the reported acceptability of domestic violence and decreases in reported male child preferences. They also discovered increases in female school enrollment and decreases in fertility (primarily via increased birth spacing). The effects are large and equivalent in some cases to about 5.5 years of education within the surveyed population.
    So let’s relax and let people who watch TV soaps watch them. It is bettering India!

    2. Women are shown to be dressed in their finest everyday. This has actually lead to a boom in sales of designer saris and cosmetics in India. India is gaining a fashion sense of sorts due to these serials. Another thing, it is not uncommon to see young girls in small towns dressed like models or actresses from movies. No skin show but they are definitely taking fashion cues from the movies. Their parents seem to be fine with this. Good for business!

    P.S.: I can’t stand melodrama. I watch psychopaths on the loose on Criminal Minds! My mother thinks I’m nuts! Cheers!

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