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ISLAMABAD, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 15th Mar, 2023 ) :Drama, whether on stage or on television, has the power to captivate the audience and convey an important message.
By portraying relatable characters and situations, they can make the audience feel deep emotions and empathize with the story. On the contrary, if this power is used in a negative way, it can lead to perpetuating stereotypes, normalizing negative behavior and distorting society and culture. So it is with Pakistani dramas too.
From ‘Chup Raho’ to Gul e Rana’, ‘Kaisa Hai Naseeban’ to ‘Dil e Veeran’ and ‘Muqadar’ to ‘Bashar Momin’ are stark examples of not only whitewashing crimes against women but also normalizing Stockholm Syndrome; a psychological condition in which people develop positive feelings toward their abductors or abusers over time.
The question that arises here is why in the 21st century our dramas are still following the same path rather than changing direction to something better and positive that can help improve the society.
Samina Ahmed, a veteran actress and a legend in Pakistan’s acting industry, told APP, “Domestic violence, abuse and crimes against women exist in our society and must be shown in plays as well but what outcome we show in the end is the crux of the story.” If the story is normalizing such an act without showing any consequences, it is actually reinforcing the act in society.” “Television has become excessively commercialized and there is a race for eyeballs. TRPS, followers and millions of views led companies to decide the basis of such drama because in a society like ours, where the majority of people are less educated. And suffering from the same social problems, they start relating to these stories and end up giving opinions and ratings for such dramas,” she added.
Media scholars and experts are of the opinion that the media has a very strong influence and people tend to follow the direction the media creates, maybe consciously or unconsciously.
“Just like in traditional media if you keep hammering on fake news then people start buying propaganda and fake news as reality. It’s the same with entertainment media, if negative content is consistently shown in dramas then it probably becomes a reality and a common thing for the audience,” said Zulqernain Tahir, Senior Journalist and Visiting Faculty at Punjab University School of Communication Studies.
“It is a well-established theory that whatever is shown in the media, people experience it as real and get emotionally attached to the actors and stories, and eventually many try to enact the scenarios seen in dramas, and that’s why dramas can create lasting effects,” added Associate Professor Abdul Rehman Qaisar of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Sargodha.
Meanwhile, a content manager at a private media channel, Ali Imran shared, “I would never condone stories glorifying abuse, crime or any other issue but we should also accept the fact that these stories are also a true reflection of our society. Sometimes chaos also brings a new tinge of hope, so by showing regular stories we at least try to highlight what’s really going on so that society becomes more aware and cautious. As it is now, if we compare our society from 10 years back, people have started questioning the abuse and violence or mistreatment of women in real life because such issues are highlighted in dramas.
But I agree that when we are showing any such story, we should also put a commentary on it for the audience to make them aware of the good and bad sides.” “We all want the industry to have a positive and better direction. and we have done this effort many times. If the audience is not supportive, then creators cannot put their entire channel at risk with failed attempts. Despite getting the true essence of the drama that intertwines themes of gender equality and social inclusion while highlighting the social stigma that affects women and other marginalized groups, some took the tweet out of context and it affected the real cause of the drama, causing others channels and creators to hesitate to follow the same,” he added.
“Dramas can bring about change in reality by showing how we as an individual, family or citizen can eliminate the ills of society rather than succumbing to it. To do this we need to target those in power as creators, producers and project managers. We we have to start making hard choices as authors,” said Samina.
“If entertainment media is free from the return of investment compulsion then it will truly serve the definition of performing arts,” added Zulqernain Tahir.
“Regulatory agencies around the world play an important role but unfortunately it is not the same here for many reasons, where media ownership is the largest. We have conglomerates throughout the media industry where there are fewer independent media, resulting in a lack of different perspectives and voice on various social issues, ultimately robbing the good stuff in the race for profit making that needs to be changed,” said Noman Yaser, Assistant Professor / Head of Department of Communication and Media Studies, University of Sargodha (UoS).
“We absolutely cannot stop the plays or the telling of the story but what we can do is choose media literacy. There should be a media literacy program to create awareness about media content and how it can be improved. When the audience becomes aware that they will purely rejecting bad content which will shape the media industry to create good content,” said UoS lecturer Abdul Rehman Qaisar.
Women represent half of the population of Pakistan and their issues and solutions need to be addressed properly but get rid of such material that justifies crimes against women.
Although according to Imran, “Our society is degenerated and filled with chaos where religious belief is a common practice. So, in such a society things should change from the grassroots but then critics argue how will we justify the role of content here.?” Activist and former chairperson of NCSW Khawar Mumtaz said: “We can only change when we decide what we want from our society, either we want it to remain as bad as it is by showing humiliation, cowardice and crime against women as normal work. or we want to pull our society away from all such evils by showing the consequences of all such acts and make a way forward for women to face it with courage.” An idea well portrayed through performing arts can change an entire life. If we say that drama is already portraying the bad things that are happening in society, then we just need to end the practice of glorifying the criminal. One good example can save many Raima from Muqaddar and some Rudaba from Bashar Momin. All it takes is a decision to do what is right.