Reel vs Real
By Cherry Agarwal
Gender is very much a 20th century consciousness. The linkage of gender and media has been of the recent past. Television is a strong medium of social conditioning therefore its use of characters has to be optimized. Television has not only been a perpetrator of trends in costumes and attire but ideologies and stereotypes as well. It can either present the feminine glory and empowerment or draw her as weak and fickle in a biased judgment. Since soap operas have been the source of entertainment in the vastly diverse India, it has caught up with day to day life of most Indian women becoming an impeccable part of her close knit life.
The Indian Woman, who is this quintessential Indian woman? Is she a political figure, a home maker or a usual victim of a vamp in the much broadcasted television soap operas?
The prototypical Indian woman has several facets some revealed others yet uncertain. She can be Jane Austen’s Elizabeth, head strong and opinionated or she can be Ichcha from Uttaran, the highly ranked prime-time soap opera, who gives in to very whim of another leading lady Tapasya.
What has been the grid that the television sets an Indian woman to? Beginning with the appearance almost 99% has the women clothed in saris or traditional suits setting up the stereotype. Do all Indian women fit into this particular typecast? No, the variations not limited to the dress code of a traditional outlook. But the characters come on air in such expensive attires and heavy makeup, which is beyond the reach of the rural, lower middle class and to an extent even the upper middle class, which has been unrealistic to say the least.
Television serials have a far and beyond reach, right to the core of masses. Thus, it becomes necessary that whatever they chose has a relevant theme, for the viewers to imbibe and develop and relate it becomes essential that they recognize the elements being portrayed.
Television has been instrumental in portraying the Indian woman in a very strong way. It has set a trend for education and literacy through characters’ like Sandhaya from ‘Diya aur Bati’, Gopi from ‘Saathiya’ and Anandi from the off-charts show ‘Balika Vadhu’.
Sandhya is a persistent and strong willed woman, who was tricked into marriage with her education and dreams of being an IAS officer left uncertain. But she did not succumb to the shackles of society. She stood her ground, gelled well into the new family and like a perfect Indian wife supported her husband in all tips and turns of life.
Gopi is a meek character, but like a number of India women she has been the backbone of her family, preventing it from any unwanted elements.
Anandi has had far reaching effects. She became synonymous to a message – that you might just be able to bend the Indian woman but not be able to break her. She learns finds her ground and stands steady and ready to face and boomerang that might be hurdling towards her.
While women are being portrayed either as the sturdy protagonist or the heinous villain, the other sex has been proposed as the inconsequential.
Where on one hand television serials have portrayed Indian women as the epitome of power on the other they have been type-casted into the frame of a justified victim. Visual media creates a virtual world for the viewers as it covers and surges into every crevice of life, many a times handicapping judgment between reality and fiction. The imitation of reality is of such high resolution that it might as well get imprinted on the molds of intolerant minds. Visual imagery reinforces observation and behavior which often remains below the conscious threshold bring about a vortex of conventional and unconventional ideas to fruition or to an end connected to Indian womanhood, as she plays the protagonist is by far most shows on air.
Television shows have been turning one’s perception to societal norms, attitude and consequently position and status in the societal hierarchy in a very convenient fashion, steadily over decades of broadcast.
The theme of shows have been such, that it simply sets up a very entertaining show by drawing a protagonist, a woman only to be thumbed down by what is the anti-thesis of the protagonist – the vamp, which is most conveniently a woman. This portrayal has many interpretation of which comes out strongly – Is a woman the strongest enemy of one of her own kind?
Television has showcased extreme cases of the idealist Indian woman, making it a tough-nut job for reality to compete. The virtual woman showcased has never been hesitant in obliterating her life to be on consequential support in the well-women drama of family life. This creates a rift when it comes to Indian woman who are trying to make it bigger than life while still tending to the multifarious edges of her rubice cube being compassionate, loyal and yet serving her domain as a home maker.
The television woman has to be censored and scrutinized before they come in conflict with reality and create issues pertaining to gender issues. It can be used as medium for sensationalizing the crimes against this fair sex as molestation's dowry, infanticide, illiteracy and more rather than simply focusing on her ‘conforming and submissive’ image.
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