Browsing "Television"

Immy K and his band of morons against Geo

Those who know me and have been reading my blog for sometime know that there is no love lost between Imran Khan and yours truly. I mock his supporters (because what else can one do with those who flaunt their stupidity), I lament the fact that some people in my family voted for his party and I mourn the collective short sightedness of my people who do not see how terrible it is to have a dim-witted man in position of power and influence.

Latest in the list of his stupidities is his self righteous fight against Geo Television Network. Before anyone get their panties in a twist, let me iterate that I am not a fan of Geo either (I have worked for the organization and know it inside out) but the witch hunt against Geo that is being spearheaded by Imran Khan and his band of morons (I refuse to call PTI a political party) at the behest of Pakistani Voldemort is rather vulgar and in incredibly bad taste.

Imran Khan accused Geo Network of three gross violations (according to him). First was telecasting a programme against Ahl-e-Bait (family of prophet) in the morning show (they aired a qawwali which is quite common at Shia weddings), one PTI parliamentarian moved a resolution against it in Punjab assembly because there is nothing more worthy of the attention of a legislator than something that was aired on a morning show targeting house wives. Second was running a campaign against Imran Khan. What Mr Khan considered a campaign against him was this tweet by The News staffer Umer Cheema about the pregnancy of a barely legal girl and a politician. It was exactly worded like this: “Pregnancy of a 21-year girl is causing sleepless nights to a leader. His political future in her hands…the most powerful lady these days” on April 29th. No politician was named in that tweet but apparently Imran Khan went to every Tv channel and said that Umer Cheema tweeted about him. The man doth protests too much, does he not? One wonders why? Umer Cheema did follow up with a couple of other teeli tweets. I bet Imran Khan was not too pleased to be called a senior citizen and I am only assuming that because Cheema again did not name anyone.

Mr Khan is also blaming Geo for getting foreign funding which is oversimplification of a contract between the channel, the government and a donor agency. Even a simpleton like Imran Khan should understand how the whole funding process works; after all, his government in KPK has taken a lot of foreign funding to run various projects in their province. No donor agency funds a private organization directly and one or more government departments are always involved.

As someone who was part of Geo when they ran the first Zara Sochiye Campaign (2006) and then worked as an independent consultant during the Education Emergency campaign (2011), I know exactly how Geo got funding for both of them. For the first Zara Sochiye Campaign (which I believe was brilliant) Geo was contacted by the government to pave the public opinion before it launched Women Protection Bill in the parliament. The fact that the said bill was passed and the number of women in Pakistani jails booked under Hudood ordinance came down drastically should be considered a success – both for the government and the channel that ran the campaign. The second Zara Sochiye campaign was paid for by DfID which Geo President Imran Aslam openly talks about in this BBC interview. It should also be noted that various government departments including Prime Minister’s Task Force for Education (it has been disbanded after the promulgation of 18th amendment and education becoming a provincial subject) facilitated the contract between DfID and Geo. The Task Force was actually housed inside the PM’s secretariat at that time so yes, the government was involved in everything. Many other TV channels that are now part of the witch hunt against Geo wanted to do that campaign. The Alif Ailan campaign which was a follow up to that earlier campaign ran on all TV channels was also foreign funded, but I don’t see anyone protesting against that. Why this duplicity?

If Mr. Khan is so adamant about running campaigns against foreign funding, he should first run it against Pakistan Army because the armed forces of Pakistan get the lion’s share of all foreign funding that comes to the country. Then it is the national and provincial governments including the one run by Khan sahab’s party. Private organizations and non profits are far down this chain and get very small amounts in comparison.

People who run Geo’s editorial staff are obviously not the sharpest people around, otherwise they would not have run that 8 hour long transmission against ISI following the attack on Hamid Mir, but the witch hunt that followed them after that is worst that those 8 hours of transmission. Forget about upholding the sanctity of free speech in Pakistan, we all know that it is but a sham, but it should be noted that Geo is not a two bit organization, it probably employs more people than there are card carrying members of PTI. Going after their livelihood because some people did not like what went on during those 8 hours of transmission in this manner is downright cruel. Geo was not the best employer in the industry but it definitely was one of the better and relatively more professional ones. In case Geo is closed down, the media industry is not big enough to absorb all those people. For their sake alone if for nothing else, I hope this witch hunt is called off and their livelihoods are not compromised.

Let’s wish that sanity prevails but my cynicism tells me that it would not be the case.

A case of exploding ovaries

Back in the day when tumblr was launched, I checked it out and decided that it was not for me. I mean it was neither here, nor there. If I wanted to blog, I had my blog, if I wanted to microblog, I had twitter, if I wanted to post cute videos of kittens, I had my youtube account and if I wanted the world to know that I had a crap day at work, I had my facebook page. After lurking around for another 45 minutes, I decided to give it a miss and never went back.

Until earlier this year, that is.  A friend was conducting research on audience influence on creative processes on serialized television drama through social media and wanted my help to sift through data, contact some of the more militant fans, interview them and see the patterns of influence. Boy was I in for a surprise or what! What started off as a favour to a friend for an academic research turned into a social experiment in … wait for it … Fangirling.

The fangirls do a lot of things, they ship, they have feels, they get into shipping wars and they gif. They gif scenes from their favourite TV shows and they gif their reactions to whatever is happening in the TV verse. Gone are the days when a picture was worth a thousand words. In this day and age, only a gif is worth a thousand words. A static picture is valued at a lot less.

No, this is not a disparaging post. I have all the admiration and respect for fangirls and will write a more elaborate piece about them, but if there is one thing that guaranteed a laugh out loud response – at least from this scribe – it was the gifs with explosion of body parts – ovaries to be precise.

Tumblr taught me that handsome men have the capacity to literally explode ovaries. The fangirls explode their ovaries over everything. Johnny Lee Miller’s Sherlock goes snarky in his upper crust British accent, the fangirls explode their ovaries. Gabriel Macht’s portrayal of smooth lawyer Harvey Specter and his crinkly eyed smiles are usually followed by ovaries explosions. Ian Somerhalder brings out his vampire fangs in The Vampire Diaries and there is a general ovary explosion across the globe. Stephen Amell shows off his impressive abs in a shirtless workout session on the superhero show Arrow and the fangirls explode ovaries, multiple time (is that even possible?). All the cute guys that Mindy Lahiri dated in The Mindy Project equals to exploded ovaries. Tom Mison’s 200 year old Ichabod Crane’s complains about inflated taxation on coffee and donuts are also followed by exploded ovaries. Imagine an explosion like that one, there will be so much blood and gut all over.

 

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Men might watch Arrow for action and DC lore, women totally watch it for Stephen Amell’s abs and their ovary explosion abilities

holy fuckGabriel Macht in Suits

 

ian 2Ian Somerhalder, ovary exploder par excellence

 

Miller sherlock
Johnny Lee Miller does not need to go shirtless, his accent is enough to explode ovaries

Yes gif sets of these guys are usually accompanied with gifs of exploding ovaries

ovaries 0

 

ovaries 2  ovaries 4

 

ovaries 5

 

and my personal favourite is

 explosion

Anyways, while thinking about the exploded ovaries and scanning the newspaper; I came across a news that said that UK will be selling pig’s semen to China in an exorbitant £45m export deal. I don’t even want to think how David Cameron worked out this deal but that is a debate for another post – if I ever get around to doing that.

Unlike UK, most other countries produce swines that are not of four legged variety and cannot increase their foreign exchange revenues by selling their reproductive juices, which lead to a discussion among the ladies at work about the two legged creatures whose sperm would sell for a fortune. If the explosion of ovaries on tumblr is any indication to go by then all the names mentioned above would make a load of money.

A totally unscientific survey based on half an hour of tumblr search, water cooler gossip at work, two hour long phone conversations with girlfriends and random conversation with women on subway who moved away after responding to my query – giving me looks that vary from “who left this one out’ to “she must be locked in a padded cell” – reveals that people whose baby makers would fetch top dollar are Jared Leto, David Beckham, Portuguese footballer with killer abs (I am assuming that lady was talking about Christiano Ronaldo), Matt Bomer, (gay man with ridiculous good looks, decent manners and a university degree was the top choice) Captain America, Thor and Iron man (I guess Marvel has done such a good job of branding its super heroes that people refer to the characters instead of actors Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr. Abhay Deol with his cute dimples was the only desi entry (but my unscientific sample had very few desi women and all the desi women have hots for super hero types).

When I pointed out the omissions such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney, I was told that they are too old (and promiscuous in case of Clooney) and while they might look good, for procreation purposes, the ladies might want to look for younger specimens who reportedly have healthier sperm – such objectification of men on the basis of age was quite refreshing if I may say so. The ladies who wanted to pay a high price for David Beckham’s baby makers were not shaken when it was pointed out that there is a very good chance that a David Beckham male offspring may inherit his squeaky voice. I guess there is no deterrence against the larger than life billboards of the man with washboard abs, killer tattoes and very little clothing – definitely a case of exploding ovaries.

 

Hopping over – from one channel to the other

During a journalism course that I was teaching to undergrad freshmen, they asked me which TV anchor I consider most respect worthy. I thought about it for a minute and named people like Iftikhar Ahmed & Hamid Mir of Geo. The students were probably intrigued and asked me why. My response was quite straightforward: for starters, they are proper journalists who have been practicing their craft throughout their professional careers and did not switch to television journalism from filmmaking, practicing medicine and selling used cars. Secondly, they have not jumped ship at any given opportunity and stayed with the same organization for most of their careers. It may not be as important in other professions but building a trust worthy brand is of utmost important for a TV anchor.

Why do TV anchors and presenters switch from one channel to another? Some say they do it because they want more editorial freedom, some say they move to bigger channels because they want their voice to get to more people but the sticking factor — though most would not admit to it — is a fatter paycheck.

There is one TV anchor who has probably broken all records by working in five different channels — Geo, ARY, Express, Dunya, Waqt TV and is now almost a done deal at a new one — in the last seven years (I wrote this piece way back in January, that guy is now with a brand new channel – the person who will guess the name will win a watercooler).behind-the-frontline-1360574117-5161

Generally, people who stick to a channel are respected more than those who hop from one channel to the other. Sticking to one channel also helps the anchor build a programme and a brand which is built upon both the anchor and the channel’s reputation. For instance, the audience knows that it is Hamid Mir who does Capital Talk but if you ask them about the programme that Dr. Shahid Masood is doing, they probably will not even know what channel he is on these days. There are other anchors, who have stayed with the same channel like Kashif Abbasi but he may not enjoy the same pull for other reasons.

A journalist associated with print media says she has stopped watching current affairs programmes because the anchors keep switching from one channel to the other and she finds it unnerving. She is not in a club of one; one of the regular complaints that people in the media industry have about these changes is that they are superficial and almost always about money. They never bring any noticeable change to the content of the programme; at times, they would even put up the same set and even the exact replica of their old programme. Such anchors enjoy the same respect among their audience as politicians switching loyalties before election time.

According to Munira Cheema, a media analyst based in London, politicians may change their political affiliations out of change in their ideologies or because of the clan pressure but anchors who lynch these politicians for switching sides do it for money alone.

Experts also say TV anchors should not even be called journalists because most did not cut it in their field. They were doctors, practicing advertising and were running businesses before the electronic media boom hit Pakistan and they seized that opportunity to build their personal clout. One even had the dubious honor of directing Meera in a Lollywood film. Now, they may have journalists working in their teams but most of us know that they are not journalists themselves and would probably move on to more lucrative opportunities. Nusrat Javeed who hosts Bolta Pakistan at Aaj news calls them showbiz personalities because calling them journalists would be factually incorrect.

There are anchors, who think that they are more important than their message and believe their viewers would remain loyal to them and simply switch with them to their new programme/channel. Perhaps, they could do with a reality check: most people who enjoyed success in one channel could not repeat it in other channels. Asma Shirazi’s programme enjoyed much higher ratings in Samaa but things have changed for her since she moved to Dawn News and her programme does not enjoy the same ratings as it did with Samaa although she did recently win an award for the best female anchor.

Talat Hussein was a name to be reckoned with when he was with Aaj News. Who can forget his back bending heroics in the newsroom when he tried to dodge the bullets — those who have seen AAJ Tv’s Karachi office would know that a bullet would have to ricochet around thirteen walls before it can reach the recording studio but I digress — and emerged a hero. He moved onto Dawn News and then to Express News but people still associate him with AAJ because of his award worthy performance on May 12, 2007 where he conducted a live transmission from underneath the desk.

Some even provide major comic relief with their constant hopping. Back in the day when I was working for Geo, a news reader who moved in from another channel asked his audience to continue watching AAJ News — his old channel — while he was reading news at Geo. He did not stay there for long and is now onto his fourth channel as a newscaster.

A former journalist and media enthusiast Zeenia Shaukat believes that the corporate set-up of our news organizations is hurting the news business. “Pakistan is following the global media regime where rather than presenting content to the audience; the media presents audience to advertisers. So it is natural for corporate media to make an effort to attract top presenters to make their content more competitive not for the audience but for the advertisers,” Zeenia Shaukat says.

Pakistan’s media channels function as corporates and ‘switching jobs’ of talent/human resource is a normal part of a corporate culture. What really needs to be debated is that if media should actually act like a corporate entity treating and promoting information as a “product” and if journalists should see their job as merely that of “producers of information”. This is important because information is a public good and not a product!

Seeing the work of the existing TV channels, it appears apart from their logos and graphic designing, there isn’t much difference amongst these channels in terms of the content being offered.

All current affairs shows, mostly led by well known anchors, follow the same line, present the same range of opinions, invite the same range of guests, and their take on issues is more or less similar.

Besides, there is heavy emphasis on presenting sound bytes and quotes that create a buzz so people are running after that instead of going after content that is informative and coherent.

As far as channel hopping is concerned, anchors do take the lead from politicians in the quest for plots and other financial gains; they are also changing loyalties like them and have it much better than the politicians as no-one calls them lota like the politicians. Let’s see for how long will it last.

Originally written for Monthly Pique. The image is also taken from the magazine.

The Turkish Invasion


I thought I was keeping abreast with what is happening in the entertainment world by downloading the latest episodes of Homeland and American Horror Story and listening to the Top 40s on the radio but I found out that I was wrong.

My bubble burst during a trip to Karachi in December where I realized that I have been practically living under a rock in Islamabad and had no idea that we were facing what is now called Turkish invasion. 

Nope, the Turks are not attacking us — they are one of the few countries who still tolerate us — it was the Turkish soap that everyone was watching, talking about and obsessing over. From my sister’s maid to my friend’s teenaged sister to my adult male cousin, Ishq-e-Mamnoon (or Aşk-ı Memnu as it is written in Turkish) was all the rage with everyone.

My sister’s maid wanted to know if the characters on the soap are Muslims and if they will burn in the eternal hell fire for drinking, wearing western clothes and for their permissive attitude towards pre- and extramarital sex.

My friend’s sister was obsessing over the hotness of the male lead and had his face on her desktop which was a vast improvement on her previous crush (Justin Beiber hogged the screen the last time I visited their house).  

My adult male cousin who markets television software for a TV channel was also talking about it. He sat me down and ran through the economics — like how the first channel bought the soap for just $900 per episode and how the copycats are forking $5,000 per episode after the first one turned out to be an off-the-chart hit.  

As if that was not all, I ended up witnessing a protest by Television Producers Association in front of Karachi Press Club against foreign content. 

Things went crazy during the telecast of the final episode and my timeline — both on facebook and twitter — was so full of Ishq-e-Mamnoon, I ended up googling Turkish soaps that are or will be aired in Pakistan and it turned out that most of them have the same actor. 

He is that guy.

Till now, my experience with Turkish television was limited to watching some of it on long bus rides from Istanbul to Izmir and then from Seljuk to Konya – that, too, without subtitles — during a visit to Turkey. My friend Sam and I made a guessing game of the dialogues and storyline. The one we watched was the Turkish version of Grey’s Anatomy and yes, Turkish doctors were way hotter than anyone on the American series, but I digress. 

When I came back from Turkey, no-one asked me much about the people — it was always about the places — but ever since Behlul (the male lead of Ishq-e-Mamnoon played by Turkish actor Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ) graced our television screens, every woman who is hooked onto Ishq-e-Mamnoonwants to know if Behlul was a fluke or do other Turkish men look like him.

It is not just the young ones; aunties who were in love with Ashar of Hamsafar just a few months ago have now forsaken their affections for him and have moved on to the taller and blonder Behlul.

If a man can capture the fantasy of an entire nation with a name as ridiculous sounding as Behlul — it rhymes with mehlool — then he should be commended for pulling it off. 

If you thought that it was only women who were watching it, you had it all wrong. This Turkish soap was just as popular among men and I have actually heard a few of them discussing the ladies of the cast with as much gusto as teenage girls reserve for boys of One Direction.

The Turkish beauties

When I asked a socialite why she is obsessed with Ishq-e-Mamnoon— I only caught part of the last episode and the dubbing was a major letdown — she retorted, “What’s not to like?”

When I asked her to elaborate, she went on, “There is a gorgeous man torn between what is right and who he loves, he is conflicted and in pain, what can be more engaging than that.”

I agreed with her, a distressed good looking man is television gold because every woman who watches him wants things to go right for him. “And if the male lead was not enough of a reason, I watched it for clothes and accessories,” she added.

I have been told that ladies with disposable income have planned shopping trips to Istanbul to buy baubles by the designers featured in this soap, many a fashion blogger from Pakistan have even listed the names of the designers that Pakistani buyers should look for when they are in Turkey.

A web designer who does not watch anything else on the local television but watches Ishq-e-Mamnoon thinks the reason the Turkish soap broke all ratings record is because it had fresh faces. “I have been watching the same actors doing the exact same sh*t since I was in diapers. Back then, they used to romance the ladies with their real hair, now they do it after getting follicle implants.”

Serious pontification and discussion with a friend who is pursuing a doctorate degree in England on Pakistani television content validated this claim. From Noman Aijaz to Faisal Qureshi, from Shahood Alvi to Aijaz Aslam, they have either been under the knife for follicle implants or sport a toupee. The only people who still have all their hair are Adnan Siddiqui and Humayun Saeed but they, too, have been at it since I was in grade school and that happened in last century — like literally.

The best bit that I heard was when a friend who is pursuing PhD in Canada (yes, I have very learned friends; they all either have doctorate degrees or are pursuing them, I am considered barely literate amongst my friends) was cornered by a Hijabi lady at a dinner.

She was asked about her plans of finding matrimonial bliss with a suitable partner and her prospects of landing one in Canada — she is over 30 and according to most married women with children in Pakistan, ovaries of every unmarried woman over the age of 30 are dying a lonely miserable death.

As the lady knew that Pakistani men would not want anyone over the age of thirty — unless she happens to be Mahnoor Baloch — she was persistent in her queries about the suitable men for her in the frozen land of Canada.

My friend who was a little perturbed by the inquisition tried to put a stop to it by telling her that there are no desi men where she lives and obviously, the Hijabi lady would not want her to end up with a gora

The aunty thought for a while and said that after watching the Turkish soap, she has realized that there are other kinds of Muslims out there and as long as my friend ends up with a Muslim — even if he happens to be a sharabi kababi Turkish or Algerian man — she is okay with it.

Who would’ve thought Turkish invasion would bring a change of heart and an overall acceptance for bad boys among ladies of Hijab. If airing just one soap has done this, imagine the hell that will break loose if they start airing two or four of them simultaneously!
This picture is added solely for the benefit of female readers and has absolutely nothing to do with the text



PS:This was written sometime last month, now there are three Turkish soaps that are being aired from three different channels. We don’t know if they are as popular as Ishq-e-Mamnoon or will impact the hijabi ladies as strongly as Behlul did. I did manage to catch the first episode of Manahil and Khalil and though the play was a bit of a meh, I found the tickers with text messages sent to the TV channel about the Turkish Hottie most hilarious. Azra from Lyari wanted Behlul’s phone number and Zareena from Khushab wanted to have dinner with him. The boys in Lyari and Khushab will have to up their game if they want to have a chance with either Azra or Zareena. 

Originally written for Monthly Pique, I like them Pique people, not only because they pay on time and well, they call me a major league blogger.

The misogynist narrative on Hum TV



The gender-based discourses on Pakistani television may not be very dynamic but the way they are discussed leaves one to ponder if those who are at the helm of the affairs have any idea about the impact of their careless deliberations on the subject.

Take the case in point of a television serial ‘Zindagi Gulzar Hai’ airing on Hum TV these days. Only last week, the male protagonist of the story picked a fight with his girlfriend about her clothing and a direct quote from the play said, “if you had seen her clothes, you would have known that she was a walking invitation for harassment”. In times like these, where there is global protest about women’s clothing and how it has no relevance to the sexual violence they face, here is a drama where a protagonist — who is extremely popular among women — is telling women that yes, their clothing invites men to harass them. In case anyone is wondering, the woman was wearing a sleeveless top with a shawl draped around her shoulders.

This was not the lone case of misogyny in that particular play. The protagonist also had issues with the mobility of his female family members. He wanted to impose a curfew for his sister and wanted his mother to seek the permission and approval of his father before she could leave the city on a work assignment. He said repeatedly that “he is a man and can go wherever he wants and whenever he wants and women cannot do the same”. While it may be a reality in our society, reinforcing such ideas in the guise of propriety and religiosity is shoddy and has consequences for the audience. What disappointed this scribe even more is the fact that both the writer and the producer were women and that the producer has a personal history of struggling for her rights.

Our television plays seem to glorify the role of women who are situated within the four walls of their homes, sacrifice their happiness for their families and do not complain if their husbands beat them or take second wives or are just really horrible to them. Those who are financially independent, situated outside their homes and interact with men who they are not related to are the bad ones. This does not only judge all women who choose to interact with others in the public sphere, but also presents a distorted version of reality to women who stay at home, that all those who do step out in the public sphere do so after compromising their morality.

Ours is a society that is used to either lecture or indoctrination. It is a society where powerful forces indulge in monologues and there is hardly any room for dialogue. We do not open up conversation on gender; we tell people what is appropriate through Islamic programmes, television dramas and literature and expect them to follow what is told.

It is about time we challenge the television narrative that focuses on taming female sexuality and identity, and glorifies the sacrificial women whose ideal sphere of activity is the private space and is critical of those who venture out in the public space and implies that they do it at the cost of compromising their morality and roles assigned by religion. In any case, the concept of a stay-at-home woman is a very urban middle class one and if half the population had stayed at home, the economy would have collapsed a long time back.

First published in Express Tribune

The Jerry Springer-ization of Pakistani talk shows


Reality TV is big business in the West and audiences tune in to watch traditional Reality TV (competition or game shows, voyeuristic shows, makeovers or self improvement shows, social experiment shows or shows on paranormal or supernatural phenomenon) in big numbers. Reality television stars like Kim Kardashian make more money by just tweeting about the events they have been to and products they use than most folks do by working forty hours a week after at least 4 years of college education (some of us are stupid enough to get a masters degree or two)
In Pakistan what has surpassed the traditional Reality TV and other forms of entertainment is the genre and sub genres of talk shows. On paper, an ideal talk show should have the right balance between spontaneity in and control over interactions of its participants, between realism and representation, the gendered dimensions of the programs and the role of the hosts and the quality of arguments on the shows. The reason a talk show should be cognizant of all these factors is because a talk show is fast emerging as a mediated space for public participation and debate. Not only that, it also provides an opportunity for the expression of voices that are otherwise excluded from the media. Whether it is through live audience sitting in the studio, telephone call ins, emails and opinions on the social media forums, audiences are participating in television content like never before.

A quick look at the talk shows produced in Pakistan reveals that most of them – news, current affairs or entertainment variety – tend to ignore the factors they should be mindful about and are turning into trash reality TV. Talk shows generally fall in the categories of public discussions, therapeutic and conflict talk shows. However, we in Pakistan have political talk shows where instead of keeping a balance between spontaneity and managing the control over program, a host actually encourages the conflict between the participants to garner more eye balls. Morning shows that specifically target female audience perpetuate misogynist stereotypes with impunity. There is hardly any significant representation of marginalized groups – most participants and hosts regularly use the line “Akhir ko hum sab Muslaman hain” (After all we are all Muslims) which not only negates the existence of the religious minorities in the country but also encourages homogeneity of the society as a desired goal. We have early and mid morning shows that telecast live exorcisms turning a talk show into Reality TV – of the worst variety.
Those of us old enough to remember The Jerry Springer Show from 1990s and 2000s recall it as the lowest form of Reality TV which seemed to count on the stupidity of it audience for high ratings. Unfortunately most of the Pakistani TV content in general and talk shows in particular are copying the formula of creating brash, in-your-face and emotionally excitable content. While Jerry Springer was flagrantly and self-consciously trash television, Pakistani talk shows still believe in their righteousness and suffer from an acute case of a sense of self aggrandizement.
As a country where other forums of public discourse are severely lacking, the important of public debate in the media assumes more significance. Unfortunately, commercialization and need for higher ratings has resulted not only in subliminally low brow television but it has also begun to represent public opinion rather than to provide public space for the emergence and creation of diverse public opinion. It is high time the creators and producers of talk shows become aware of their responsibility, it is not just television for ratings, it is shaping the public and private discourse on matters relating to politics, society, gender and rights of the marginalized. 
Originally written for The Express Tribune, this is the unedited version. 

Trash TV is just trash, even when the characters wear Prada

One of the advantages of growing older is that you are not generally ashamed about the questionable things you do; like eating nutella straight from the jar, reading Ansar Abbasi’s pearls of wisdom in Jang every week and watching trash tv like Gossip Girl. 
I just finished watching the season finale of the tv series and I am marveling at the fact that people who wrote and produced the show still have jobs. I mean one usually watches soap like crap with suspension of logic, such as resurrection of Daddy Bass from the dead (he was not really dead but was hiding in Bermuda Triangle or a tanning salon if his skin tone is any indication) or Mummy van der Woodson’s accessories  – or was it Bass or Humphery; I lost count and order of her multiple husbands – (She was wearing gigantic earrings while she was still in her gown/robe/not dressed in the morning and is lacing her coffee with something alcoholic) but to caricaturize the characters to the extent that they have done in this show – everyone has lied, schemed and cheated on their spouses and significant others at some point or the other – requires a suicidal level of crazy.
I always bemoan the fact that Pakistani television shows women as either helpless creatures, scheming bitches or victims; but with shows such as Gossip Girl, it looks like that American tv featuring the lives and exploits of rich and powerful of New York is just as lame and with characters with similar flaws. There are two leading female characters who have failed The Bechdel Test in every goddamned episode. If they are not talking about a guy they are dating or want to date then they are scheming with each other and against each other. One of them is a very smart Ivy league student, yet she gives into an abusive relationship time and again (we have seen her suitor being manipulative and violent in the past. He also had the dubious honour of trading her for a piece of real estate and cheating her with an underage girl. He also has an obsession with bow ties and colour purple, but I digress) and can only defines herself through her boyfriends. The other one is not so smart – yet she too ends up in the same Ivy league school (suspension of logic, I tell ya) and has a peculiar obsession with a guy who used to be her boyfriend – turned step sibling – turned best friend’s boy friend (yes, it is as incestuous as it sounds) and slips into her old bad ways of riding trains and hooking up with her drug dealer who looked suspiciously like a pop singer when the said boyfriend turned step sibling turned bestie’s boyfriend spurned her advances for the 537494th time.
What happened to women’s liberation and feminism? Are those ideas so last century that no one wants to portray female characters on TV who are smart, independent and do not define themselves through a man? I know it is asking a lot from the local television writers and producers who are still busy peddling stories about polygamist feudal lords, jahez ki lanat, baap ki izzat and saas bahu tamasha but if the first world’s emancipated women are subject to this crap then there is no hope.
Perhaps my younger snootier self was right in sticking to TV shows with people like Tina Fey
 PS: Watch this awesomesauce video on Blechdel Test if you are interested.
PPS: Tina Fey is like my most gigantic girl crush. 
PPPS: This post is kinda suicidal as I am publicly admitting to watching trash TV. I have a feeling that my sister is going to have a field day when she wakes up in the morning.

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