Pakistani dramas- a topic that overtakes any political, social or religious issue in a conversation and can easily become the main subject of interest in a room full of people or a typical desi gathering. Be it anxiously waiting all week for your favourite 8pm soaps or binging them on Youtube day in and day out, Pakistanis have done it all. So to say the least, Pakistani dramas have become a national and cultural obsession for locals, and arguably many foreigners!
But what goes around in these shows is usually something that minutely conveys a progressive message to our viewers. From blindly glorifying problematic and misogynistic characters to designing shallow and repressive storylines, our show creators have oftentimes failed to come up with fresh and original content for the pakistani audience. And due to such content repeatedly being thrown at our screens, our viewers have eventually become complacent and accepting of such shows, enabling ideas like misogyny and repression of women to become the norm.
The themes that our shows revolve around copy themselves off each other and are presented to us as brand new, unique content in the shape of a new show, with a stellar new cast and directing crew. But what we fail to understand is the fact that every single show that is being created in the industry today, reveals its inadequacies to us as we deeply study its female characters and their storylines.
For example, according to our show creators, not getting enough marriage proposals is the biggest and the most painful dilemma that an unmarried, single woman is forced to face in Pakistan. Because of course, being unmarried and not yet seeked by a well off family makes you a subject of scrutiny in a desi household. It makes you an easy target for aunties to attack with their sweet-and-salty dialogue. And though this isn’t entirely or even slightly different from reality, the fact that such a notion is still incessantly romanticised in our tv shows, proves that we’re normalising and encouraging similar behaviour to progress without a hurdle, in our daily lives. Not only is this a constant reminder for desi families to keep this inherently toxic culture alive and well, it also forces young, unmarried females in our country to think of themselves as the helpless damsels in distress just like the characters in their favourite shows. And that’s exactly where the problem itself begins: when a woman victimises herself simply because of the fact that she’s not being approached for marriage at the right time by the right person, it allows us to stay in this cycle of toxicity and follow toxic role models. It makes women undoubtedly think of themselves as financial liabilities that need to be wed off because there’s honestly nothing better for them to do.
Similarly, there is absolutely no significance of education or a woman’s will to further her studies in a pakistani drama. Education apparently is just a trap set for women, to derail them from their actual purpose in life i.e to get married and tend to the needs of their family for the rest of eternity.
Moreover, contrary to popular belief, we’re actually not extracting such stories and plots from real life anymore. In fact these shows are now feeding us with misogyny and hate like never before; we’re
romanticising harassment and obsession in the name of “love stories” and creating this abusive perception of love for people to see and later recreate. We now seek validation in stuff like stalking, staring and ogling women on streets because apparently our drama industry condones such oppression. In a country where sexual/physical assault cases are rarely if ever reported, we bring to our screens shows that paint women as cunning, spiteful and malevolent liars who falsely accuse men of physical assault and harassment whenever they want. Such stories are now like a cherry on top for both, the creators and the now complacently watching viewers.
Furthermore, themes like constant saas bahu feuds and devrani jethani rivalries prove that a toxic family environment is a concept very well known to Pakistanis and again, reinforces the normality of such behaviour in our own lives. Ideas like not being able to have a son makes you a poor wife and way less of a woman and inevitably keep us linked to the patriarchal roots of our culture, portraying an extremely wrong image of marriage and companionship. How the longevity of a marriage automatically makes it “successful.” How a cheating husband and a fraying married life is an inevitable consequence of a woman’s incapabilities and faults. How women are also always the conniving homewreckers and men are just impressionable targets to manipulate into infidelity. And how an unfaithful husband can always easily slide past the picture with no guilt or shame hanging around his neck questioning him.
Thus for all such reasons, before we blindly follow these shows, allowing such ideas to sink deep into our brains and turn into even more repressive thoughts, let us point out these flaws as devoted viewers of Pakistani shows. Of course not all dramas have similar misogynistic plotlines and new, progressive shows are beginning to emerge in the industry which is incredibly relieving to see. However, this in no way makes other frequently watched shows with skyrocketed ratings and equally damaging storylines less toxic. So let us think more about such stories before we watch more of them!