Saturday, March 10, 2012

Vicious Vixens




In the telly world where husbands are straightforward, fathers kindhearted and brothers compassionate, disruption comes only from scheming conniving women of the household. Strangely, conspiracy is the fine art which the telly women seem to have perfected. And what’s more? The haranguing, scheming women get their jollies by spinning controversies and breaking relationships of their own children!

Have you noticed a strange contrast? While the big screen has nasty men (Kancha, Rauf Lala) as baddies, the small screen prefers vicious women: Women, who love to waggle their eyebrows, look daggers and smile coquettishly while planning crooked moves. Not the ones to give up, the kohl eyed breed is either aggressively demanding or mysteriously conniving. I once attempted to waggle my eyebrows and smile wickedly in front of the mirror. Couldn’t come close! No wonder, these quirky women get felicitated in far off exotic Macau.

The first half of the last decade was all about regressive women protagonists in Indian soaps. The second half was dominated by the feudal rustic sagas. Even though the bejeweled bahu has morphed into a normal, confident woman with a mind of her own, the impediments in soaps come from nasty women. Earlier it was the vicious daughter-in-law or the carefully coiffed mother-in-law, who played the vamp. However today, doctors, models and corporate bosses are cast in the role of spiteful women. Even though the garish makeup, faux- ethnic ensembles, and heavy trinkets are giving way to normal leading ladies, bitching, viciousness and manipulative character traits fail to fade away.

You disagree? Well, picture this.


“What else do we women have? Only the power of our tongue! If we don’t use our devious instincts, men will trample us,” says an actress in a daily soap revolving around doctors. The tone is supercilious, even contemptuous. And then the stone hearted lady goes on to conspire in most evil ways known to only her. Switch the channel and you have another malevolent matriarch in plotting to break her son’s marriage. She quietly peeps into her forty year old son’s bedroom and connives to stop the newlyweds from going all the way. Forget the fact that after six months and a stretched honeymoon, the tycoon son hasn’t consummated his marriage. So night after night, audiences wait with baited breath to watch if ‘The Ram Kapoor’ goes all the way…

I was naïve to believe that this flawed portrayal is a Hindi soap phenomenon. Only yesterday I happened to catch a glimpse of ‘Desperate Housewives’. And lo and behold, what does the woman on the screen do? ‘Gabrielle’ makes out with the young gardener even as her mother-in-law lands in coma. Later she goes on to advice her friend, “Go and manipulate men. That’s what we do best.”

Hello? Do we manipulate men? Not to the best of my knowledge. If you are a woman reader, you will second me on this one. I am not sure about the men. See, this is what the repeated character assassination does. It creates a myth!

I doubt if ‘You-sicko-go-burn-in-hell’ eyes, snide remarks, waspish smiles come naturally to women. Where are these vicious women in real life? Have you seen them? I haven’t. In reality, I have met wonderful kind women. Unlike the kohl eyed telly women who rock and roll with their eyes. That reminds me of my aunt who loves to gossip and revels in pulling others down. But I seriously doubt if she will ever conspire or plot to hurt anyone.

Are women more akin to the mythical character of Kaikaey from Ramayana? Complicated perhaps! But I doubt if women are a part of the bitching fest unleashed by the daily soaps.

67 comments:

  1. lol.. awesome observations... love the picture:)))

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  2. Blame Ekta Kapoor for creating such an lunatic image of newest member added to family.
    My cousin got newly married and I have started doubting my Bhabhi, "Hmm... What would be her next move?" There is no next move. Sigh!

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    1. See, the false portrayal creates myths....there are no next moves!

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  3. :-)

    Generalization and stereotyping, and that too based on the moronic soaps (or even on movies) can be really dangerous. For example, after growing up on daily doses of these characters portrayed on tv, a newly wed girl and her mother-in-law will be mutually suspicious of each other. :-)

    Maybe bad characters (as portrayed on tv) do exist in real life, or maybe they don't. But daily tv viewers can't do much but to get pulled into these myths to which they are exposed day in and day out.

    I guess the Doordarshan era before the cable tv scenario was much better and positively entertaining. No matter how much we curse DD. :-)

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    1. Hi Shobhit,

      Repeated portrayal of vindictive women creates a myth over the years.And you are right abt DD.

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  4. Every person in a Hindi soap is either a saint or devil incarnate. No character has shades of grey; you might as well make a comic book out of these serials.

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    1. True, but repeated character assassination has damaged the image of women.

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  5. Alka,

    Drama sells and makes bottom line pretty. Don't you wait for episode when such woman gets what is due to her? So you watch the serial waiting for that day and the TRP goes up.

    Take care

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    Replies
    1. True, but drama has too many evil women. Its disgusting to see vindictive vile women spewing venom.

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  6. Every indian soaps are targeted at a woman who is trying to ruin another woman's life! Gosh! Will they ever think of something new? Ekta has to take most of the blame..she kinda became a trendsetter for such soaps ..sadly :( And the worst part is even if we don't see the serial for 1 year, we can still catch up with these stories, because the story hardly moved! And too many extra characters! yuk!
    And Desperate Housewives sucks..

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    1. K serials and DH, both have evil vindictive women.... the false portrayal creates a myth.

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  7. From being the sati savitris in old movies and serials, women have got a 'makeover' as vixens. It is easy to portray characters in black and white and that is the reason for this. Plus, as Jack pointed out, people watch these serials even while bad-mouthing them and so they sell. When they try to portray women as normal, they go the whole hog to make them promiscuous,brash, or weepy willows who need another 'strong' character (woman) who teaches her the ropes....Stereotyping is the easiest way out for creatively challenged film and soap makers.

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    1. Zephyr, one day my son asked me, "Ma why are TV women conspiring, plotting and scheming?" And I realized that false portrayal is affecting the male psyche somewhere.

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  8. Thanks to the internet, reality, ordinary people and what they have to say have become far more interesting than soaps. I seriously doubt we'll end up believing that every other woman is jealous, out to get us and totally lacking in empathy for other women. Interesting topic.

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    1. True. Repeated character assassination has damaged the image of women.

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  9. Sati savitiris, conniving bitch, weepy daughter-in-law - are always a mix of fact spiked with fiction. Imagine soap characters like you and me! We"ll put the audience to sleep!

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    1. Bang on! Purba one day my son asked me, "Ma why are TV women always conspiring, plotting and scheming?" And I realized that false portrayal is affecting the male psyche somewhere.

      Delete
  10. its very simple actually. TEEVEE bossess know that women are their audiences and hence they like to keep it women centric. making sense is least of their concern. however i HAVE seen manipulative women but they are very few. stereotyping is a little risky all the time but well, when whole country is waiting for some man in the telly to get laid, well collective IQ of the country has to take a hit

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    1. Men and women are equally manipulative given a situation but to portray women as conniving and scheming always creates a myth.

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  11. Good observations on the psyche of the soap operas! Unfortunately, this is what masses want to watch day in and day out in the name of entertainment:)

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    1. Rahul, it appears as if women are always conniving and contemplating their next moves which is wrong!

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    2. This is the reason I do not watch them , Alka:)

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  12. Well, apparently if the characters were straight forward and not conniving and bitchy, then where will they get their drama from. Perhaps, their target audience -- women from aunty age to older women dig this stuff, so they naturally hem and haw their way through cruel women to the cash counters. And you are right, soaps every where are similar in their portrayal of women. I remember that I used to watch "The Bold and the Beautiful" a long time ago. And the women were the most conniving characters. I don't think that in any way they are a reflection on the real women of today who are struggling to keep their jobs going along with their homes in a nuclear where they hardly have any other women to conspire against them. The plots are bizarre. And because we patronize them, we are indirectly supporting this crap. These days I prefer to watch either comedy or crime thrillers.

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    1. True, but if the show is for women by the women, why portray women in a negative light? Rachna even comedy has become lewd and bawdy....it seems as if comedy is all about men dressed as women.

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    2. About your first point, I think on some level the women viewers do identify and dig these story lines -- to see evil, scheming women being won over by good women. They cannot be this successful otherwise. For the second point, I totally agree with you. Some comedy has become really bad with lewd gestures and words. If you watch serials like Seinfeld or That 70s show, they are pretty good.

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    3. True, foreign comedy shows are far better. My fav was Everybody Loves Raymond.

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  13. Yes, you are right, men have created a myth. i too haven'y any such conniving women. it don't these characters make the soaps interesting?;)

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    1. But instead of being interesting, such women are repulsing viewers like myself.

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  14. All these shows make me laugh coz I m yet to come across such a woman in real life! :D But I do enjoy watching Desperate Housewives. ;)

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  15. Agree with your observations. Maybe our society is cliched, for instance a woman who smokes has to be a vamp

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    1. Pesto, its not about smoking. Most women in the soaps are conniving, manipulating, plotting and scheming which offends me.

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  16. A powerful post right from the tangy title to the twitching close. Stereotyping is like calling every foreigner an Angrez. And, hey, it applies to all: male, female and those in between!

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    1. ha, ha...You know my son came and asked me, " Ma why do TV women always conspire, plot and scheme against their own children?" And I realized that false portrayal is casting a shadow on impressionable psyches somewhere.

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  17. Biggest trouble with soaps are their addictive nature. I know many well educated ladies and gentlemen who cannot miss their daily dosage of serials..

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    1. Well, not all women are like that. But a few women who bring in a lot of dowry and sit at home doing practically nothing (having servants for everything) are influenced by such thoughts as manipulating. Its about the idle mind.

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    2. I understand that some characters are exaggerated for drama but not all women are mean, vain and evil, is my point.

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  18. All I can say,we have a Queen named Ektaa Kapoor who can command any TRPs

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  19. Most of these soap operas are extremely difficult to digest. I constantly advise mom not to watch them. She sees the two (one about doctors and the Ram Kapoor one).

    Alka, though I dislike these soap operas and deride them for showing women in a bad light, I have personally met few such scheming women and I know that Ekta Kapoor is just showcasing what few such women do in real life. Truth is difficult to digest.

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    1. Its not that the soaps are bad, it is simply the misplaced portrayal of women....most women are not evil.

      Thanks for spending time here.

      Delete
  20. Forgot to mention that the T.V serials usually exaggerate such women's behaviour and end up showing them in very bad light. Little manipulation is ok, many people are like that in real life, but these serials go over the top.

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  21. this is why i stay away from tv during prime time serials!!

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    1. Its not that the soaps are bad, it is simply the misplaced portrayal of women....most women are not evil.They are warm, kind and forgiving.

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  22. hmmm but what do we know how women or men behave inside their own homes , behind closed doors ..

    we can only talk and say of those we know and that too of those we can see .. what these people do behind the doors is also hidden to us :)

    but I do beleive that stories that are told or shown have some sort of start from someincident .. as they say there is fire where the smoke is ...

    all that get shown does happen somewhere , in some part of the world.. maynot be at this level and maybe the tv serials are exaggerated but still there is something that is happening for true.

    BUT I totally agree that not everyone is bad , MAJORITY of people are good thats why the world is running if majority was bad things would be so different ...

    Bikram's

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    1. Absolutely agree with your last line. Bikram these days most soaps are creating a myth. It seems as if all women are evil.

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  23. I wud say, Ekta Kapoor s a smart business woman, she pioneered the art of belting out serials after serialz wid almost same storyline.
    I agree tht portyal of woman in these daily soaps leaves a negativ impact on the minds of viewers but ths s wht tht sells.
    We will not stop watching nd hence dey r not tired oh showing......

    It's fetching dem moneu :)

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    1. True Prasoon, and now Ekta has stumbled on another mantra to sell..soft porn.

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  24. Vicious Bitchy Vixens that's all we see on TV, open any series and all have one common string, a female antagonist who screws everyone around :P
    sometimes I think does such canny women really exist( may be they do) but not in the quantity they show on TV... one after another in a loop :P

    Awesome read !!

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    1. Watching soaps it appears as if all women are evil....
      Thanks for liking.

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  25. It's about time we script TV serials with role reversals!!!

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    1. i wonder if men will be able to arch their eyebrows as they bitch, plot, manipulate and connive...

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  26. Ma'm I had the pleasure of being taught by an extra-ordinary teacher of sorts who had a deep impact on the way I think. He told me, in the middle of many one to one interactions that we had, " I go with the assumption that people are basically good,even though most of them in course of time work hard to change that". I have always believed this is a great state of mind to aspire to have.

    So, my take would be the same as his ( and has been so over last few years ). People are basically good- men as well as women. I do,however, notice the stereotypes correctly pointed out by you and those are ,well, fine observations as always. But on a personal level, I have seen that females are not at all like what they portray in those soap operas. Infact, as far as Kaikeyi goes, there is the other side of story which says all she was caring for was Bharat's wellbeing. Not that bad a thing I guess,she was after all, his mother's well wisher.

    You are right. It is hightime stereotypes should be challenged. I do not know much of the little screen but I do know of movies. "Dor" was a fine movie and so was "Mrityudand". I guess, the problem is women themselves- They are not assertive enough. But again, that is not a given.

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    1. True, basically people are good, it is the circumstances, background and the upbringing which makes them react differently.

      You know Sri, at some level I feel embarrassed in front of my husband and son at the flawed portrayal of women in Indian soaps. It seems as if women are evil, mean and conniving, which is not true. perhaps they over dramatize to prove a point.
      As i said, the big screen is more honest in its portrayal of women compared to the small screen.

      Delete
    2. I totally second your take on Media. It shows us what people want to see and listen. And NOT what it should be ! My days with Times of India were an eye opener of sorts in this regard :)

      What is even more intriguing is the fact that even Women do not support other females in distress. I am not pin pointing to one particular thing but this is what I have observed generally. Conformity, as it turns out, is a dangerous drug :)

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    3. If you are reading this, I was unable to comment on your blog..I wrote a long comment but it wouldnt go.

      Your post is a heartfelt ode to your father. You must be a proud son.

      Delete
    4. Ohh.. Technology :) Beats me all the time Ma'm.

      Thanks a ton. He surely has been THE inspiration. Big shoes to fill. Thanks a lot Ma'm.

      Delete
  27. Maybe not all, but there are certain in the real life, who do bitch!
    I have been through the plotting bit, wherein I was 'betrayed' by a femal colleague.. but otherwise in general, we women tend to gossip-ALOT, but never like the ones on TV

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    1. True Sakshi, there are exceptions. Gossiping is not bad, but women are not evil, are they? The MIl in Bade ache lagte hain, or the SIL in Kuch to log kahenge...are evil women. Perhaps over dramatized.

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  28. The right title 'Vicious Vixens'....
    But I wonder whether such kind of women really exist?

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    1. A few maybe....but it is wrong to paint them all with the same paintbrush.

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  29. these are the enduring myths and stereotypes which were creating from the pre-modern india, where an approximation of these things used to happen, also something perpetuated by the male-dominated society. but of course, ekta kapoor and gang has skyrocketed these things to ridiculous heights. such kinds are extinct today.
    nice post :)

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  30. from the comments on top, i'm shocked ur son asked you this...i didnt know people watch these 'DUMB' serials and think it to be real. anyways, I don't watch TV other than news or singing reality shows but my mom has to watch the 'said' serials. When i asked her - don't u think this is stupid and can never happen in real life? she said, but its entertainment!
    i hope and pray that everybody watching thinks of it as pure entertainment and not to be taken seriously:)

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    1. Not all serials are 'stupid' but it is the false characterization of women....

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  31. Television soaps have gone mad-they overdo everything till they kill it. The 90's saw the torture of saas-bahus and now from a while I find serials of all possible regional languages with women clad in ghoonghats doing the rounds. There is seriously a lack of educated or light fun in them all...I have stopped watching them. And I think women who do, somehow end up in similar line of thoughts that these stupid dramas portray.

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