The Banality of Television

28 Jan

              In today’s world that is battling with a prolific amount of stress which is generated either by work, education or from other stressors like a terrorist attack; television is a medium that enables global citizens to de-stress themselves but does it serve the purpose? Doesn’t in actuality it leads to the procuring of more stress, tension, anxiety or even worries into the life of the individual who is viewing the T.V? These are the questions that I’ll make an attempt to deliver an answer to.

           There is a wide variety of programmes belonging to varied genres being telecasted through the medium and here am going to critically analyse a few.

           Let’s begin with the evilest of all, ‘commercials’. They are the intruders into one’s colossal entertainment regime. The major purpose of which is to inculcate unnecessary desire for the products endorsed in minds of the audience.

            Such propaganda was initiated by Edward Bernays, who is considered to be the father of modern public relations. He was the nephew of Sigmund Freud and he wove his uncle’s ideas of the unconscious and psychological motivation of the mind with the medium of advertising.

Edward Bernays

Edward Bernays

           According to me, the phenomena can be compared to the selling conducted by a mobile ice-cream vendor. When one constantly hears the bell then there would be a naissance of a desire for purchasing the ice-cream and you eventually buy it. This is similar to what advertisement does; by multitude portrayals of it in television or any other form of media, they  try to produce an unconscious desire that prompts the individual to acquire the product.        

       It may not be wrong for all but in my opinion it is evil because for centuries enlightened thinkers like Gautama Buddha have been constantly talking about the importance of Vanquishing desires as that’s the major source of all miseries. I’m not suggesting that one should live a life of an ascetic but I’m solemnly requesting you not to fall for the illusions projected by the adverts by rationalizing over the cravings that you possess and to categorize it as whether required or unrequired.

          Another point of criticism with commercials, though constantly reiterated, is the objectification of women. It seems that these days only perverts watch television as most of the selling is done by women in tiny clothing. Recently, I saw an ad of a deodorant brand where the protagonist applies it and procures the attention of the fairer sex and they proceed to the bed. I got fairly exited that I bought a bottle and sprayed it all over me but when I was on the street not a single woman paid a heed to me. That was terribly depressing and I lost quite a few bucks over it but that is the kind of illusionary idea being propagated by advertisements and poor men fall for it.

          The presentation of women as naive beings who feel attracted to certain products that the masculine sect use and which define masculinity is very rude also extensively problematic as that is a reflection of the patriarchal, chauvinist society that we are living in.   Truly, sex sells and that is clearly exemplified by the pornography industry but I believe that sexual intercourse leads to a pious intimacy between a male and a female and thus, to use it in such a demeaning manner is extremely obnoxious.  

       Though advertisements feign reality, it may not always be the case. The medium can be used to disseminate revolutionary ideas or to propel the life of dying arts by providing it exposure.

       Another genre that I want to talk about is ‘soap opera’. Since I’m predominantly exposed to Indian television, I’ll talk from our perspective. Here, we are in awe of ‘sasus’ and ‘bahus’ (mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws). The fixation is so domineering that there is an over flow of stories which echo the relationship.

           The ‘bahu’ epitomizes goodness; is servile and subservient and to condense it, she is the reflection of the ideas of ‘how a woman should behave in a patriarchal society’. The ‘saas’ is symbolic to negativity, cruelty and naïveness because she is mostly misled. The idea of an evil ‘saas’ has become so prominent in our minds that we tend to idealize that all mother-in laws behave in a similar fashion.

        How can this scenario be complete without the presence of a vamp? She mostly is the wife of the second son and is jealous of the popularity of the ‘first daughter in law’. We can establish an analogy between her and the character of ‘Iago’ from Shakespeare’s Othello; similar to him, she is the one who fills the mother-in-law’s mind with poison and this in turn sours the relationship between the ‘saas’ and the ‘original bahu’.

       The interesting thing is that as much ever times the story is repeated in varied backgrounds, it still finds viewership but the depressing aspect is that producers don’t want to try out new things as they fear, what I presume to be, lack of ‘T.R.P’ ratings.

     T.V serials can be used to critique the society or the belief system but that rarely happens as in actuality, it is used to broadcast stereotypical ideas like that of college life or to reiterate religious stories (mostly Hindu) that are overtly exaggerated because God sells.

     The amount of plagiarism prevalent in the television industry is very intriguing. When we surf through channels and observe the programmes then we’d be able to build a connection with British and American television; by saying this I’m not proposing the superiority of the western television but trying to project the uncreative soul of the Indian one.   

         For example, ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ was adapted as ‘Kaun banega croepati’ with the host being Amitabh Bachan who in an empathizing gesture contributed to making people, who mostly hailed from poverty stricken families, cry and I believe that this what made the show successful because most of the Indians rejoice at others’ sadness; simply, we are sadists.

Kaun Banega Crorepati.

Kaun Banega Crorepati.

        What I can’t understand is that though these shows are tried to be kept in sync with the Indian culture, they very much retain the western flavour yet we indulge in the viewing of it and they also acquire tremendous success.       

       I’m sure that people around the globe do similar critique of their television industry and must have found out how banal most of their television shows are. The medium can also be used in a more productive manner to explore various cultures with the element of travelogues and culinary extravaganza also live telecasts of sports and other important events can be done and all this lead to the production of ‘global citizens’.

        To sum up, according to me, television dwells in the realm of banality as it is one of the social media that primarily is used for selling through adverts. Even sports have developed a visage of commercialism as a result of great viewership mainly through TV. Thus, I’d advise you to throw your television sets out of your homes; destroy them, and to initiate anti-television movements. Also, movies and shows with novelty in content  should be telecasted through the medium of the ‘internet’ that ought to be void of unnecessary interruptions or else, television should refrain from being a shop. 


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