Recently I heard very interesting talk on TED which was shared by one of my Facebook friend, the talk was by Colin Stokes and it was titled, how movies teach manhood ? I loved the talk for so many reasons one of them was the way he explained in very simple terms how opinions and thinking of kids (both boys and girls) are shaped by watching these movies. Most of these movies (including many classics like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc.) project women as some helpless characters who can't even fight even simple injustice done to them and are always waiting for prince charming to rescue them. In all these stories finally prince charming comes, performs all heroic acts and rescues poor princess of story and gets his reward...then both live together happily ever after. Nice and simple story line, few things change here and there, names of characters may change but the central story line is same (even today) in most of children movies or even love stories, women is projected as a 'trophy'..something man has to win by rescuing her from trouble...most of female characters cannot come out of difficulties on their own, they always need to rescue.
The beauty of all these movies is that they are so well made that we don't see anything wrong in them, they are classics...I agree that they are just for the purpose of entertainment and one should look for anything else in them, but is it as simple as this? Directly or indirectly don't these movies shape our thinking also? Do these movies teach wrong concept of manhood and womanhood to us and our kids? I think they do, and this is the message Colin Stokes want to give us from his talk. Honestly I never thought about this issue (impact of these type of movies on our thinking) but after listening to the talk I thought about this and found how correct he is about his assessment. I love many of these movies, watched them again and again, read most of these stories in my childhood. My kids also love many of them and when I look back I clearly see that many of these movies consciously or unconsciously shape our thinking. They have capacity to stereotype particular gender or class in our society, boys start looking at girls as their 'victory trophies', something which they have to win, claim..and girls start dreaming about some prince charming who can rescue them. I know that all this sounds little too exaggerated and over the top but there is an element of truth in this TED talk, I highly recommend it.
Another example of this which I see today is many taunts and poor jokes purposely targeted towards gay people in many Hindi movies, these jokes are many times totally unnecessary and are in bad taste but it seems no one is bothered about these things, it seems people don't find anything wrong in poking fun at gays for no reason, targeting that community and making them object of ridicule. Superficially it looks very harmless and just for entertainment which should not be taken too seriously but any comment on any other serious or sensitive issue is not taken in same spirit. Couple of jokes here and there are fine but when only particular gender or group is targeted continuously and consistently then definitely there is some problem and we need to address it. Movies are very strong medium they affect many people and also in some way they also reflect our society's mindset.
Movie making is a business after all and they sell what people want to buy, lot of money is at stake and they need to make profit, lot of profit, we can not expect that industry to reform the society but at least we can play our part and try to nullify any negative effect produced by some of these movies, after all we all know that some things are not that harmless as they look. Already we can see the effect of these type of stories and movies on our own mind and our society. I am not telling to discard all these movies or to dump these stories, we need to tell them with clear 'disclaimer' that these are product of pure fiction and they don't have any relationship with real life, we also need to tell some stories with powerful female characters so that our kids won't get some stereotyped one sided impression about their gender, it's not only our responsibility but need of our society also. Let's try to redefine manhood and womanhood, let's give these terms some balanced meaning.
Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.
(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)