We often argue that the reason we are inclined to American television is that the content of Indian television is the same- women crying all the time, villains and vamps plotting in order to destroy somebody, the rebirths etc. The argument is valid considering the typical Indian TV serial. It is also said that our shows tend to stereotype women by portraying them as meek and submissive. This is true to a certain extent considering what we get to see on most programs.
Pick out any prime time show and you are bound to encounter the following situations-The women of the house are not supposed to give their opinion or raise their voices when the men of the house are discussing a matter. In fact, it is believed that women do not possess the knowledge or capability to advise men on any kind of issue. In case a woman wants to go out of the house, she is supposed to take permission from her husbands or in-laws. Then there is the always the question of a woman working after marriage.
As per our shows, women are rarely allowed to step out of the house and go for work. Even if they are permitted, they are supposed to give their earnings to their in-laws, irrespective of the fact that their own parents are in dire need of financial assistance. Often we see that the even the parents of girls do not support them. If a girl wants to study, she is always asked, ‘what will you do after studying? What is the use of studying? Eventually, you have to get married and look after your husband and children.’
It is perhaps seeing all these things over and over again that we turn to foreign shows. Agreed that the storyline of Indian television shows tends to stereotype women and showcase them as somebody who is supposed to stay in the house, raise children, bind all people and relationships together; but if we notice carefully we will see that of late, there have been some changes in the content of Indian shows. Some of the programs have taken the responsibility of generating awareness among the masses about some of the crucial issues regarding women and its impact on society.
Here are a few examples- there is a show that spreads the message that women need to be educated in order to manage their household smoothly and lead a dignified life; and that age is no bar for getting educated. Yet another serial portrays the story of a woman who is supported by her husband in her career. The show portrays that the husband stands by his wife’s side through thick and thin so that she can realise her dream of being an IPS officer.
Another program deals with women who cannot conceive. Such women are often ostracised by the society but the show has attempted to change this mindset by telling people that a woman can adopt a kid and raise that child as her own. A serial also touches the sensitive issue of domestic violence wherein a woman is encouraged to stand up and fight against this injustice. A youth oriented show depicts the journey of a girl who decides to pursue mechanical engineering against the wishes of her family and encounters challenges in the profession that is dominated by men.
Therefore, it can be seen that even though slowly, Indian television is moving towards change. While we still have gallons of tears and scheming vamps, the quality of the content has substantially improved for some of the shows. These shows are encouraging women to stand up for their rights.
While there is still a long way to go before Indian TV moves away from its typical story-lines, it cannot be denied that change is around the corner. Some will say that TV stereotypes women, others will say that it is undergoing change. Which side are you on?