Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Subtle brainwashing.

My first reaction to Rang De Basanti was that the movie gives out a dangerous message. Just because our freedom fighters avenged a wrong by employing extreme means of retaliation, it does not make it okay to do the same thing now. Yes, the protagonists in the movie did not get anywhere by doing what they did. But it did portray them as heroes. Martyred heroes.

But I think this movie might not really encourage such extreme behaviour, as some fear, because I think that the average viewer is rather discerning, and knows that what they did in the movie was quite idiotic. But that is because it is a direct, in-your-face message. Compared to this, far more alarming are the subtle messages that movies and television serials send across every day. Nothing as dramatic and controversial as Rang De Basanti. But far more dangerous. Slow poison. You will not even realize that your brain is receiving those signals. It seeps into your sub-conscious when you are not looking, and corrodes the collective psyches of the entire nation.

Everybody can see what Rang De Basanti seems to be telling us. But nobody realizes what serials are doing to us.

Take the saas-bahu serials. Repeatedly, they send across the message that the place of the woman is at home, looking after the affairs of the house. All the protagonists are paragons of virtue. They look after their husbands and in-laws, cook and feed them, and act as the wall of the family. They are traditional, have a lot of respect for "sanskaar"(culture) - how I have started hating that word! On the other hand, there is the scheming woman who is invariably highly professional, or ambitious. She is bold, confident and always wants to have her own way. Her husband is either her partner in crime, or a weakling. Watch this serial for a year, and you will develop an inherent bias towards the bold, ambitious woman.

Consider any ordinary soap. There are no grey characters. Everything is either black or white. All emotions are extreme. Rivalry, jealousy, quarrels, infidelity, backstabbing, and what have you. Relationships are never straightforward. No word spoken can be taken at face value. Every word, every look, every action has to be analyzed to ensure that there is no scheme behind it. A harmless sentence spoken by a mother-in-law is contrived by the daughter-in-law to mean something entirely different. I wonder how many perfectly fine MIL-DIL are going down the drain due to "maybe this is her actual intention" thoughts.

There are hundreds of situations which give the same message again and again in every serial, every language.

A guy molested a girl? How will she get married now that her "good name" has gone? So get her married to that very molester.
Did you get married? Give up your dreams and goals, cross over from jeans to a aaree, wear your hair in a bun, and make the kitchen your home.
No matter how much of an ugly spoilt brat the guy is, the girl should be "beautiful, virtuous and from a good family".
Observe fasts for the long life of your husband. No matter if he is a first class crook. After all, being a "Suhagan"(woman whose husband is alive, to put it crudely) is the supreme state.
Send your harrassed daughter back to her wife-beating, womanizing husband, because a "woman's place is in her husband's home".
Got a child? Make sure that he always comes first in the class in studies. Any other talent can go to the dustbin.
Your mother-in-law, sister-in-law, or daughter-in-law, or any damn female in-law can never have your good at heart. All she says is just a farce, and her real "face" will come out sometime very soon.
Any problem or bad phase can be overcome by appeasing the Gods by having an expensive pooja, homa or havan.
If a character is afflicted with a life-threatening disease, he/she is most likely to die. All medical breakthroughs are coolly ignored.
Utter rubbish.

Such conservative beliefs, superstitions and myths, are being continuously drilled into our somnambulent brains each time we watch a crappy movie or a serial.

You and I are "educated, broad-minded", and we know that these serials are "rubbish", and we are "superior" and do not get affected by any such "stupid" serials. But you and I do not make up India. You and I are not the sole bearers of Indian culture. We are just two among a billion and more. There are millions of people who watch these serials everyday. Millions who are still steeped in ignorance and backwardness. These people need a positive example, they need to be brought out of the darkness.

Instead, these serials are just reiterating and reaffirming the blind beliefs of yore and pushing the masses backwards into the eighteenth century.

Subtle brainwashing, working beautifully.


Sandesh said...

Very true, subtle brainwashing. I think it works on the so called "educated" people as well. It is not very obvious but there is a change in the way they approach things over a period of time.

You forgot to mention the "bindi" in the saas-bahu serials, a big deep hole in the middle of the brain.

Raj said...

Though I agree that there are people who might be being poisoned by these soaps, a lot of the viewers don't.

My mom watches lots of these soaps and so do all her friends. But she doesn't believe in what these soaps preach. She only watches these soaps bcos she finds them entertaining.

I've seen mom's friends laughing at most of the cliches you've mentioned in the post.

Hope Floats ! said...

I agree to your careful analogy of things happening arround in real world.But by and large i would say the world we see is changing , serials/ movies apart there is some thin air of change thats in the anvil. Women are getting liberated to an extent.The younger generation are bit out of the box, they can able to think in different way but still only put certain things into practice.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shruthi,
I just came across your blog. Yeah, I reflect you thoughts on the current soap serials. They are definetly a bad influence on the viewers. And, everyone at home is so keen to watch these soaps and most often relate the characters to real life. It is frustrating to watch these serials.
I wonder why they dont have more comedy based serials.

Shruthi said...

Sandesh: ROTFL!! :D
You might be right, about it affecting educated people too, but I think its usually the people who do not really have their own opinions and/or are slaves to the idiot box.

Raj: Yes, as I said in my post, your mom and her friends know that this is nonsense. But what about the other marginally educated strata of society? We are just a minority. And its the majority that really makes up a country, doesn't it?

Shruthi said...

Hope Floats: Very true. We can see that slight shift even in our movies.
But unfortunately, these serials still exist, and like I told Raj, still wield influence over the majority.

Vidya: Oh yes, relating the characters to real life people is alarming, and also very unfortunate. Coz usually the serial characters are either too good or too bad, and nobody is like that in real life. How I wish, like you said, there are more light, comic, or inspirational serials!

viveknest said...

If you look at the Indian Society in general - it does not take people as people it categorizes them into two halves - good or evil. They don't realize that human mind does not work like this. If all are saints or crooks, where would the common man go?

chitra said...

Sheesh....for the dumb, of the dumb and by the dumb !

Sri Harsha said...

It's more of a "stereotyping" rather than "subtle brainwashing" Shruthi.

Though i must agree tht in a way it does have a grt influence on one's perception of others. Period.

I'm not exactly sure abt the sphere of influence this has on the society. It's debatable.

Shruthi said...

Viveknest: Yes, what u say is true. But i dont know when this kind of segregation started. If you remember, Ravana was a grey character. He was cruel, but had lots of good turns to his character too. There are many such examples in mythology. Since when, and why, did people start being classified as crooks or saints? Beats me!

Chitra: Ah, bingo :)

Harsha: Stereotyping yes, but what does it result in? Brainwashing. Yup, sphere of influence definitely cannot be determined for sure.

Anitha said...

I totally agree with you Shruthi...

That is the reason we all should encourage serials which has more substance like "Muktha".

Today every director/producer would like to go the "K-Serial" way .. because thats an easy way to make money . (Not all can be good directors like TNS) But I feel once they realize that other good stuff also sells then the trend will change .. (I have seen some wonderful serials in E-Tv.. like maunaraga, yava janmada maitri, preethi illada mele etc..)

Even in the movies .. its easy to make a "machu.. long ..typical Darshan" kind of movies .. because that does not require any skill and it also sells ...

The least that we can do is to encourage good serials/movies so that it inspires good directors

Anitha said...

And Shruthi ..I have an other thought about the post .. the Saas-bahu serails as you said are kind of pushing the people back to 18th century ..

But what is more dangerous as I see is these fashion shows / Miss India kind of contests .. which makes today's young girls loose focus .. Somehow I feel because of these shows / contests too much of importance is given to being beautiful and attractive ...

isn't it nice to see a woman as someone who is highly talented , efficient and a person who can achieve anything (To communicate what I am thinking in a better way ... you could take the Eg. of Madhavi Patel in Muktha)

shammi said...

You're so right! I got sick of all the serials and movies looooooong back - simply couldnt bear to watch the same old prejudices and attitudes being aired. Earlier, you could distinguish the "heroine" from the "vamp" because it was only the vamp who dressed sexily and behaved provocatively. Nowadays heroines themselves wear very little and behave like vamps - but even though wearing western clothes is seen as "being modern", I doubt there are many movies which show them as successful, independent and intelligent in their own right. Sad but true.

Emma said...

Very well put, and can't agree with you more...

Sachin said...

Shruthi, could not ignore your post seeing that I have a Rang De Basanti post on my blog as well. Well, your post and mine both do end up differently.

I agree with you, TV and films these days are more "in-the-face" than they ever were. The so-called propagandists of "reality" do their best to make an impact because they know that is what sells. It is left to the individual viewer to retain what they like and weed out what they don't. If only all of us were as discerning as we should be!!! Most people I know agree that all the K-serials are something that would never happen in real life but they still watch it....its their means of entertainment, a make-believe world which they enjoy as much as I enjoy my make-believe worlds: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia or maybe even a Koi Mil Gaya.

Having said that, won't you think that all these big film makers / directors would have it in them to send out a positive message to their captive audience? Anyway, don't want to end up with a post in your blog. Btw, its glad to be landing up in the blog of another South Indian!!! Cheers!!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm may be it affects ppl...not very sure though. Look at the brighter side - For me atleast it gives a clear example how NOT to handle life ;) and ofcourse lot of free entertainment....c'mon yaar we dont get to physical fights much on roads these days. when u can see them in the cool comforts of your home on TV knowing fully well no one is going to get hurt physically, why not ?!!

Jokes apart, dont get to watch TV much. Ajji switches on afternoon soaps whenever she is home and by the time the title song is over ( easily 5 mins) she will be sleeping and promptly wakes up when its over!! Good, some old ppl get to sleep atleast!

Ahh, I thot i will make a serious comment but what to do, our soaps never allow me to!!

yep, there are some wonderful ones...clearly remember watching Mayamrugha during hostels days. Thank God, we didn't have afternoon class but pity the heroine didn't act in any more. She was pretty right?!!

Shruthi said...

Anitha: You are right, Anitha. It is much easier to make such kind of nonsense serials, and unfortunately they seem to sell well too. Good serials are very difficult to make, but thankfully, there are serials, like you say, like Muktha.
Yup, beauty contests -- Grrrr... it makes me angry even to think about it. It focuses entirely on the physical attractiveness, and naturally, the majority of the populace, being ordinary-looking, tends to get an inferiority complex.
Anyway... nice comments, thanks.

Shammi Right! Wearing western clothes does not make a woman modern! It is her attitude... but what do the serial-makers care? They just want to rake in the moolah :(

Emma: Thanks! :)

Shruthi said...

Sachin: Yes! Most of the people I know also treat K-serials like a make-believe story. But, Harry Potter, LOTR, Narnia - all these are very obviously fantasy. You know and I know that it is not possible! But K-serials have people like you and me, there is no strange fantastic stuff happening. So you never know when you start relating to it! LIke I wrote in my post, you and I might not be affected, but there are thousands who might get affected by it!!
And you are so right.. considering the immense popularity of these serials, it should not be too difficult for the story writers to insert a little message of positivity somewhere... but they don't :((
Also, thanks for all your comments, the ones on the older posts too!

Anon: :)) At a personal level, I find these serials comic too.. If i happen to watch it(which i try my best to avoid), I usually end up laughing :D. But my worry is about, as I said, the majority! :)
About Mayamruga's heroine, if you mean that Shrilakshmi character, sorry. Not only don't I think she is pretty, I also think she is quite dumb. If you ask my sister, she will describe delightedly, in great detail why I dislike that character :D. I did not watch Mayamruga just because I could not bear to see her face. And I am glad she doesn't act anymore :) [That was a major rant! :)]

Amodini said...

Totally agree with you - the K-serials and the movies that Ekta Kapoor produces are a huge dis-service to society. We celebrate Women's Day, but then regress way, way back with these soaps. What irritates me the most, is how women are (subtly) told to adjust to their husbands (and their families) even though the husband might be a cad of the first order ! Like you might be the CEO/President outside the home, but inside the home, you still remain at your wastrel husband's feet. Talk about anti-feminism (and anti-common-sense) !

amIda1 said...

hey! these soaps are mainly targetting woman! i dont know any man who actually sees this crap!

so , its what woman want! you many deny it , but woman do feel empthatic when they see that someone else is going through the same things they have!

Ekta Kapoor is a genuis!

this reminds me of Desperate housewives!

Rakesh Sharma said...

Hi Shruthi,

Take a break dear...as all of us would have done after watching 'Rang De Basanti'...not a single idiot in this country can be motivated by all this crap...people are happy in their own world and are quite happy to stay in their own personal cocoon...

Anything that defines K-Serials are nothing but 'Commercial Success' and no doubt they are raking in the moolah...

I wonder whether I&B ministry will force all these channels to provide a scroller apologising to us 'well-educated souls' & 'not bothered souls'..as they did few days ago for they screened 'vulgar songs' and advertised 'alcohol'...

You scratch my back and vice-versa...


adi said...

not only soaps, look at the advertisements. especially "soap" and cosmetic ones. i dont know why feminist are quite on these issues.
they convey same meaning, if you are black in colour you are not human.

Shruthi said...

Amodini: Beautifully put! Precisely, its always the woman who is shown to have to "adjust". Regression of the worst kind. :(

Amida: Yup, Ekta is a genius, and she discovered a gold mine! And I agree with you, women are the most addicted to these. But thats precisely the point. It arouses in them, feelings, which might not have necessarily existed previously!

Shruthi said...

Rakesh: Its that same "i cannot be affected by all this" kind of a relaxed attitude which is the easiest target for this subtle brainwashing, which I have talked about. You won't even know that you are being affected. Not talking about RDB, no. But the serials. Where you think that nothing is wrong, but everything is!

Adi: Absolutely. Some ads are extremely regressive. That would call for an entire discussion of its own!

nik of my time said...

Awesome post! If you think about it, these so-called 'Soaps' were introduced as indianised versions of crap fests like 'Bold and the Beautiful' etc. Then some bright nut came up with never ending scripts of mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, husbands-in-law etc and the rest, as they say is history.

Shruthi said...

Nik of my time: ROFL at husbands-in-law!! :D
crap fests indeed! And bright nut = Ekta Kapoor ;)

Swapna said...

I totally agree with everything you say. My mom watches these serials everyday and occationally, when I used to watch them with her, I used to get so mad at these people.

LAK said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog. You are so right about subtle brainwashing---not only the "uneducated, non-discerning" viewers, but even our children, who sit down with their moms and watch whatever she is watching. And how about the "Good" people in the serial, who are always getting a raw deal, because they haven't enough sense to talk about confidential things behind closed doors. There is always a Komolika evesdropping!

Nirwa said...


Don't even mention serials if you are anywhere near me.. Sometimes I wish I was a mad doctor on rampage.. I would go about killing Ekta and the likes and also all those who are responsible for such crap..



Shruthi said...

Swapna: Hmmm... its worse when you want to watch something else, but are forced to watch this ;)

Lak: Oh yes, children with impressionable minds... I won't even get into that! :O

Nirwa: Hee :) I love such reactions :D

sudhanshu said...

I'll never let my kids watch the soaps, I'm scared they'd turn out to be mean-backstabbing-sons-of-bitches too.

Swathi said...

i am still waiting to watch Rang De Basanti :((

n yeah those Saas-bahi serials r such a turn off - i run miles away even if i happen to hear that music somewhere in the vicinity...

PRIDERA said...

You got it right ... gone are the days of good old Doordarshan serails like Quiz Time, Nukkad etc.
If you are interested in recollecting all the good old serails , might want to read

Veena Shivanna said...

Very good write up. I totally agree the media(mass media) is unnecessarly hyping up the issues.Unfortunately all Mother in laws are shown bad, the heroins declared pregnant before wedding, Do a back stab, cheat & do back stabbing to your own ones.
There are some movies which are bringing out very sensitive issues & affecting the youngsters to do wrong things. Obviously when anything is so much glorified, people would try to follow it!! I don't know when will this end, but I feel somebody should bell the Cat. How nice if all the housewifes stop watching the K serials & there TRP ratings come down. Atleast the directors should be told that this is something which we don't want. Untill you do that, we keep getting such ones.

Where is serials like Udaan & the current ones. I can just say we are unfortunate & nothing more.

LoonFace said...

You love the word reiterate don't you?

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