Sexism in Movies – Why do I care?

I have been planning to start this blog for ages, but time constraints have been holding me back a bit. Recently though, I have been quite religiously commenting on Baradwaj Rangan‘s (excellent) blog, mostly on Ranjhanaa, and my objection against glorification of stalking in the film. So just to be clear, I won’t be flogging that dead horse anymore, but I think I would like to (at least attempt to) put all my perspectives in a single blog post.

I am a passionate movie buff, to state the obvious. Movies are my obsession. I try and watch movies, time permitting – or else at least follow and keep track of reviews. Recently, in the light of Ranjhanaa and the blatant glorification of stalking, there have been a lot of interesting comments and polarized views on the topic.

The first question people ask is “why take it seriously?” – it’s after all a movie, right? Well that is where I would beg to differ. Movies influence people and our culture in general. I’m not implying that movies cause sexism, but it could play an important role in perpetrating it. This is especially problematic with movies, which are supposed to be emotionally connect with the audience or the masala movies, where hero ends up directly promoting sexism. One example I can think of is the slut shaming in the movie Vel, that I had alluded to briefly  in BR’s blog. The hero lectures the heroine and her friend about how women are exposing their bodies that only their husbands are supposed to see (and to make it more ridiculous, the women he was referring to weren’t exposing anything in the first place). This is worrying, especially since a majority of our population and fans who almost dedicate their lives watching and promoting their movies, would lap it up quite seriously.

Then there’s the second kind of films – which is otherwise quite well made, but still ends up glorifying misogyny. Raanjhanaa is of course one of the recent examples – but since that topic has been discussed to death, another film I felt such disconnect with due to such problematic elements was Cocktail. This was a more subtle case of the conservative ‘bhartiya nari’ winning the guy over rather than the “loose” girl (who attempts to transform herself into an obedient Indian bahu with learning to cook, pray and the whole deal) – although I will give them some credit for showing female bonding between the two lead pairs. This article by Rajashree Sen reflects my thoughts on the movie well.


Pyaar Ka Punchnaama: Women ain’t nothin’ but bitches and hoes

Then there are these eerily misogynistic set of films – like that abomination of a film called “Pyaar Ka Punchnaama”. Which again, was lapped up by the audience, and recommended to me personally by a lot of my (male) friends. I wouldn’t bother get into dissecting that one here.

That said, there are movies which attempt to show these from an independent perspective, which doesn’t end up glorifying sexism or abuse and intentionally portray the characters in gray shades. Those are not to be confused with the above films.

This is exactly why I think these movies should be dissected from an ethical point of view. It is worrying how sexist views are still part of mainstream cinema to varying degrees and still eludes most of the critics. This ranges from demonizing women’s sexuality to suggesting corrective physical violence against women who voice any kind of dissent. It’s ridiculous how the slightest bit of innocuous comment that might offend the religious sentiments is scrutinized, but oh no, we’re never supposed to discuss sexism, something that actually is so appallingly rampant in our society. Then we are back to “it’s just a film” mode.

That’s enough of my rant for now. More later.