Portrayal of Women in Indian TV Serials

Influence of Television on Society

The impact of television can be felt in several spheres of life such as our food habits, the way we dress and other basic routine chores. 

With the economic boom and liberalization in the 90s and early 2000s, India witnessed a considerable growth in household incomes which in turn made accessories like television affordable for a vast majority.

There is also enough scientific evidence to establish that your viewing habits have the ability to shape your thinking, cognitive ability and even political preferences. The quality and type of shows that you watch has the power to influence your line of thinking and opinions on a wide range of issues.

It is surprising to even think of the level of influence that one small screen exercises over our lives but as the saying goes, you are what you see or one may call it the ‘visual diet’ in a more psychological language. 

Therefore, it is necessary to carefully analyze the type of content that is latching on to our span of attention and interpretation.

The Regular Indian Serial Explained

With the onset of the new millennium, the phenomenal success of daily soaps revolving around family dramas championed by the pioneer herself, Ms Ekta Kapoor was visible in the public eye. Some examples of the same are 'Kasauti Zindagi Kay', 'Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi' and 'Kasamh se' to name a few.

They mainly targeted a certain, very specific, economically privileged and powerful section of the society where the primary source of familial income was amassed by means of business activities carried out by men. 

The females of the show were shown to be married off to the aforementioned rich, upper class households.

The physical appearance of these women was more or less just a combination heavy and larger-than-life jewelry along with designer sarees. 

With respect to the personality traits, the females belonged to two extreme ends - either a woman that epitomizes all kinds of virtues that define an ‘ideal bahu’ in the Indian society or a vilified vamp that plots heinous tricks.

The ‘good’ women, no matter how educated or qualified they were, had to remain confined within the boundaries of their home. 

Their only job was to fulfill their sacred responsibilities towards their in laws and family, be it nurturing and taking care of their children or religiously sacrificing for the happiness of their husband.

How Such a Portrayal Promotes a Regressive Mentality

The kind of image these serials bring to the forefront is one where men have absolutely no role to play at home and it is only up to the women to work towards keeping their family together. 

Also, it is the woman’s duty to bear with and also become the human embodiment of a rehabilitation center for her husband even if he is toxic by nature.

Young girls watching these shows unintentionally cultivate a savior complex and by virtue of this they are forced to believe that any kind of ill treatment meted out to them in a relationship is normal and the burden of making their partner a good and decent human being solely lies on them and therefore, they put up with multiple types of abuses.

These serials have also given rise to the mentality that the biggest threat to women is none other than women and men were only made to love them. 

The idea of subservient women has been commercialized to such an extent by Indian television that their image as submissive housewives has only been reaffirmed.

In such serials women are more capable of reviving and coming back to life after dying a grand total of 4 times than they are of getting a life. 

There is always that one bad woman in the house who is the beacon of hate. This vilification is equally problematic because it stereotypes women as nothing but scheming vamps.

Its High Time That This Trend Undergoes a Change

A cursory glance at Indian television serials would still show the typical, weeping daughter-in-law, angry mother-in-law, and women dedicating themselves to household chores decked from top to bottom in bling and ethnic outfits and jewelry. This needs to change immediately.

A gentle reminder that television, to some degree is a representation of the society and showcases precisely what it demands would be useful in this context. So, it is imperative that we acknowledge the persisting patriarchal and prejudiced mindset and work towards bringing it to a gradual end.

TV series are mostly built upon stereotypical images of women or, if by any chance they happen to look different and promising in the beginning, ultimately resort to stereotyping them in subtle ways. 

The nature and content of TV shows must be altered so that instead of promoting such patriarchal values, they call them out.

Indian shows should use their platform to demonstrate more women who have dreams apart from finding love, women who sit in board rooms making policies and all in all strong independent women capable of sustaining themselves instead of the usual damsel in distress and normalize the idea that women deserve to be treated as equals and live for their own happiness.

And last but not the least, women who support and uplift each other rather than constantly planning and plotting against one another should be the norm in Hindi soap operas because after all, that’s the normal outlook of females and a true depiction of how women appreciate their fellow ladies.

Written by - Isha Singh

Edited by - Sandhya R