Why a battle in the first place?

Telly Talk

The whole idea of power as a definining element in the relationship between a man and a woman, is explosive and something that the genders have been debating for centuries.

Ideally, the keynote of this debate should be harmony, not mutual negation. This isn’t something that our television ad film makers understand. Atleast not all of them. Gender roles even in the earlier days of TV advertising were wonky but men and women were by and large, joyous creatures who liked being in each other’s company in TVCs.

Remember Shekhar Kapoor painting his wife’s nails in the Digjam ad? Or Anuradha Patel playing a playful, funny and much cherished wife in a Brooke Bond ad? For every passive woman cleaning the toilet, there was another enjoying a bath under a water-fall or sharing a cold drink with friends on a beach. And this in relatively less progressive times.

Now the female protagonist of TVCs is either playing a vixen who salivates at the sight of any cologne sprayed male or the wife who takes a tiffin of jalebis for her husband to the movies or someone vindictive, hurtful and almost frightening. She is not averse to seducing her sister’s husband in one seriously appalling cologne ad. When a love struck guys follows her for a dance, she sprays him with water. She plays mind games with a boy who is trying to catch a glimpse of her in a coffee shop.

As the mother of a growing boy who watches TV avidly, it disturbs me when a young girl answers a perfectly decent “excuse me miss?” in a shampoo ad with a rather aggressive, “Kyon, hockey ki pitaai bhool gaya?”

In an attempt to create a powerful girl or woman, ads are emasculating men and it troubles me that young boys like my son see hardly any positive exchange happening between a man and a woman.

The depiction of men in advertising is no better. An ad for a vest shows a man suddenly emerging from a weepy ‘I am so persecuted’ track to strike a ‘macho’ note where with just one gesture, he scares a posse of women off to show them who is the boss. A car ad has a tagline ‘Men are back’. Where did they go anyway? Almost every cologne ad shows women as limpets following the scent of a man with little or no dignity.
A watch ad shows a young man and a woman getting intimate and then telling the audience how to get rid of each other and move on! What happened to simple story boards, heart warming romance, the kind we sometimes encounter in the Airtel ads? Everything right from ads to reality dance and music shows on TV has been turned into a girl versus boy battle. A singing contest on Zee has Abhijeet and Alka Yagnik battling over whether a girl or a boy will win the booty this time. Why does it have to be a battle anyway?

Hans Baliye, a fresh new show has celebrity couples doing stand up comedy where every single routine is based on sexist perceptions about a woman’s weight, her talkative streak, her spendthrift nature and her clingy, over-possessiveness while the guys are all depicted as insensitive boors or wimps being tortured by wives who can’t cook.
There is an element of mutual disrespect in today’s advertising and TV programming, especially in comedy shows, in these already charged times that serves no purpose at all.

This is a country where gender-based violence is the norm. Influential film stars get away scot free despite being accused of beating their girlfriends while occasionally, the law actually manages to nab a lesser actor accused of rape. In an environment, where acid attacks and dowry deaths and molestations and honour killings and foeticide are everyday events, the projection of the man-woman relationship must be done with a certain amount of sensitivity and maturity to show the possibilities of an adult relationship where no one hunts or hurts the other. Yet, what we see today on TV are extreme viewpoints that pay no compliment to either gender.

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