How many of you will agree when Amitabh Bachchan said, “Mard ko dard nahi hota”. We have learned the so-called correctness of sexuality and gender from mainstream media for a long time now. A man is typically a knight in shining armor, saving the damsel in distress. Media is credited for bringing us unique and life-changing movies, serials, and entertainment shows. It has brought in cultures and values from across the world onto our screens. Today, the media is the major medium that embeds our lives with every turn. If you are looking up for the latest movie, the media comes to your rescue. If you’re looking for fresh morning updates, the media offers you that too. It has also become the way we decide on living our lives or shaping them. For instance, the movie Udaan has inspired many young people to follow their dreams and parents to be friends with their children. While this is a flowery side of the media, there is a massive shadow that the press has left in viewing gender and individual sexuality. Unfortunately, this shadow continues to thrive, and there are slow steps taken to replace it with light.
All mediums of media have represented men and women in a conventional manner which has only limited our perceptions of genders. It has also ensured a stereotypical way of how a man and woman should behave, which has a difference of two poles. Let’s look at how the media has showcased genders, sexuality and developed a certain street to go on and perceive them.
Media and the Male Representation:
Men have been represented as the icon of society. They are considered to be the thrust point of moving a society ahead through progress and natural aggression. Males have been given a lengthy screen time because they are considered to be the epitome of leading others. They are supposed to maintain the macho man’s quality, which implies they are strong, authoritative, and tough. They are considered to not bother about petty issues and let their heads stay high in whatever they do. One of the gravest things that the media could portray about the male population is that it is okay for a man to be violent and headstrong. These two qualities have consistently been shown in the light that the man is to protect others. So in this process of protection, he can continue with the violence he has within him. For instance, Amitabh Bachchan was named the Angry Young Man of India. While that might sound like a good title, it is truly a one-way street. This title is nothing to be proud of, and if there is, it is only about how young men are rewarded for being angry.
Another portrayal of the media about men was that they are the decision-makers for their homes despite what they do. For instance, the movie Biwi No 1, shows Salman Khan to be in a relationship with another woman, despite having a wife and children. The film typically shows how the male population is always running behind desires. It also portrays that the male character involved in an extramarital affair escapes while the female counterpart is held accountable. After all that the male partner does, he is accepted and continues to be the head of the family, making decisions for them. This again emphasizes that the male were expected to be the bread giver for their families. In this process, whatever they did was overshadowed just because they were earning a source for their homes.
The media has also presented the males to be stones rather than human beings with emotions. They are meant to control their feelings and express less even when times become hard for them. The famous saying, “Mard ko dard nahi hota” (Men do not feel pain), emphasized that men should hold in their emotions and have a strong personality even after a rock drops over them. For a long time, this is why men thought that expressing themselves meant that they were weak. This particular acquired quality had led to the rise of alcoholism in men. There are prominent male characters in the media’s representation who drank liters of alcohol, and the reason was to forget and suppress their emotions.
Media and Female Representation
Media and its portrayal of the female population have always been controversial. To start, women had less screen time in any of the major media projects. They were considered either to be the love interest of a hero or a devoted homemaker. For instance, the movie Kal Ho Na Ho brings tears to our eyes, yet it has indulged in portraying women to be a love interest. Remember when Shah Rukh Khan taught Saif Ali Khan about “Che din, ladki in.” While you might laugh off at this tactic, it comments gravely on the females in a severe scenario. This dialogue has no other meaning, but it only means that women are meant for love and relationships.
Women have also been presented as sex symbols. This again pressurized women to have a perfect body and shape, which is approved by others. Dialogues like “Ooparwale me tumhe aage or peeche bohot Kuch diya hai, lekin oopar Kuch nahi diya,” “Akeli ladki khuli hui tijori jaisi hoti hain” implies how a woman is expected to be seen. For the longest time, the media has continued to portray women as slim-figured, fair-skinned, having innocent facial features and elegant walking style. This has left a pierced image about women in the mind of people and has normalized shaming women based on their appearance.
Media also presents a certain dressing style for women, which gives them the much-needed modest look. So, a dress worn from head to toe is considered to be the definition of modest dressing. And to this date, it continues. The recently released Kabir Singh saw the male lead obsessed with covering his girlfriend properly. He can be heard saying, “Preeti chunni thik Karo”. This also brings in another interpretation that women are to be controlled. Dominating females is okay, be it the way they dress or whom they meet. There are times where the media has shown a female to be a passive character at home. She is only meant to nod her head and, in some cases, obey her husband or family.
Media and the LGBT Community representation:
It is only now that we and the media are accepting a community that has been thriving with us for a long time. The portrayal of the LGBT community in media has always been an element for adding comedy or humor.
The LGBT community has mostly been portrayed in the stereotypical limelight, with the members reduced to begging on the streets for money. The people belonging to this community have always been treated as outcasts. Their sexuality is used in places where the other person is suspicious of a person’s gender. They then commonly refer to them as “yeh toh woh hai”. Such ignorance shows how words like gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender are used to insult someone rather than refer to them with respect.
Even though some shows and movies have discussed the LGBT community, they were shunned because they were reluctant to accept another gender living beside a boy or a girl. And if there was the use of this community, they are shown to be aggressive. For instance, in the movie Sadak, the LGBT community is portrayed but only in a negative light.
The media has also succeeded in showing that belonging to an LGBT community is a shame. This let the ordinary families disregard their members if they came out to be one amongst this community. In the recently released movie Laxmi, the kinnar Laxmi is abandoned by her parents because she was considered a shame.
While these are the ways the media has constantly been presenting genders and their sexualities, we cannot deny the slight positive shift that is visible now. Today, the media is trying to bring in the different lens of viewing a man, a woman, and a person from the LGBT community. It also emphasizes that being a man is not only about being strong and hard. It also gives women opportunities to play an independent individual’s role and is bringing out true stories of women who fought their way to success. It also shows that the LGBT community is not only an object for laughter but is also capable of leading a nation towards progress.
Having pointed that out, the journey for the media to bring in change has not stopped. There are miles to go before it develops into a holistic medium. The media must change from the traditional patterns of presenting gender. There is always room for improvement and ladders to climb for bringing change with time. The media must understand that it shapes numerous lives. It is better to give rational and flexible individuals to a nation rather than presenting yet another macho man, innocent woman, and pessimistic gay.
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