OPINION

The Media's Message - Is Anyone Listening

January 19, 2007
Anouradha Bakshi

I have been holding back my 'pen' for the last few days for fear of being branded the proverbial carper. But doing so longer would be going against my own grain.

For the past few days or more we have been subjected to a string of national news headlines about celebrities ranging from a marriage announcement to a racial debate. The later seems to fall a little flat as the persona in action chose to be part of a reality show known for getting people to put their worst foot forward in public, not to forget that the said actress was paid a huge amount to be part of that show!

Talk shows, parliamentary debates, burnt effigies, political mileage, the reaction cocktail is heady. It is a well known fact that the media plays up what pays and increases TRP ratings. What it means is that an issue like the Shilpa story is one that titillates us and hence sells.

So let us ask ourselves why such a story sells: is it the star gazer in us that is stimulated, or the atavist colonial past that we have not shed. For it is quite obvious that those burning effigies in the remotest part of our land are probably not aware of the Big Brother show. Or was it a too good to let go story that served many unscrupulous masters.

Many questions come to mind. Is such a public outcry a reflection of our society and if so, then are we only sensitive to what happens to stars? Strange that we should be so angry at remarks made on a voyeuristic show when we ourselves live in a fractured society and indulge in divisive remarks on caste, creed and social origin? We have been sadly reminded of his reality in the recent past with the Nithari case where even the lawmakers played the game with impunity.

Sadly even our social conscience seems to follow the pattern and is louder when the cause to defend is glamorous. Come to think about it, what will all this hue and cry lead to: probably more popularity for the show and the lady, till someone comes up with another show and another star.

Racism exists and often it is something that is fuelled by vested interest in search of causes to espouse, and as long as we react in such a violent way, more such causes will be unearthed and nurtured. Here again the ball is in our court and the responsibility ours, but looks like no one is listening.

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#1
P.Anupallavi
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January 19, 2007
02:58 PM

Spot on !

#2
temporal
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January 19, 2007
03:39 PM

anu:

will echo # 1

#3
Quest Girl
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January 20, 2007
01:10 AM

Great post! Definitely not "carping" :) "Strange that we should be so angry at remarks made on a voyeuristic show when we ourselves live in a fractured society and indulge in divisive remarks on caste, creed and social origin? " Couldn't agree more...It's basic human nature to see faults in others but ignore our own. It takes self-knowledge to recognise our own follies and see matters in perspective.

#4
DesiGirl
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January 20, 2007
07:28 AM

Can I also echo #1 and #2? So succintly put that you have left me speechless (and a good thing that is too!)

#5
Alamgir Hussain
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January 20, 2007
09:37 AM

Shilpa is no underage kid. She is a property of her own. The poeple of India should understand this simple fact. She is one of 6+ billion people of the mother earth and has full right to choose what likes or does. It is too unfortunate that a well-regarded secular democratic country's intellectuals would go such berserk after something they don't have any right to. Of course, that's in the civilized sense of it.

#6
Atlantean
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January 21, 2007
07:44 AM

You make good points. The outcry over the Shilpa issue indeed was an overreaction on our part. Burning effigies was as stupid and cheap as the remarks that were made against Shilpa on that show.

You asked:

So let us ask ourselves why such a story sells: is it the star gazer in us that is stimulated, or the atavist colonial past that we have not shed.

I'd go for the former. We like to be titillated and we absolutely love to be seen on TV. We also have too much time on our hands. That's why those cheap Balaji Telefilms serials are big business, that's why our news channels are becoming "news-cum-entertainment" channels with more and more time dedicated to movies, music, modelling, dressing ,cooking and what not!, and that's why protesters tend to get more expressive and violent when TV cameras are around.

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