Features Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 05:30
By Sowmya Rajendran The person who controls the remote control at home is usually the person who has the biggest say in the family. And this person in most modern Indian homes happens to be under three feet tall and is keen on watching episode after episode of the mind-numbing Chhota Bheem. One can forgive the unimaginative storylines and the tacky animation (if it keeps your child engaged for the length of an episode, stop complaining and read a book) but there are some things about Chhota Bheem that one wishes its creators would reconsider.  It’s bad enough that the villain is called Kalia (Amar Chitra Katha seems to have made it impossible for any of us to dream of a fair-skinned evil person) and Chutki has to walk around with two pink blotches on her face to emphasize her fair and lovely skin. But it doesn’t stop there. The stereotyping extends to gender roles and what each person is expected to do because of their gender. What’s more, the folks who came up with this are unapologetic about it. Take a look at the official page of Chhota Bheem and the descriptions of the characters: Chhota Bheem: Bheem a nine-year-old boy, who is a brave, strong, intelligent, adventurous and fun loving (sic). Bheem loves food especially ladoos and bananas. He becomes stronger than his usual self when he eats his favorites, ladoos. Even though only a kid, Bheem is stronger than most men. Bheem is always there to help the poor and the needy. Chutki: Chutki is a seven-year-old girl, who is simple, graceful and intelligent. She is Bheem’s closest friend and loves to accompany Bheem in his adventures and to help Bheem in good deeds that he does. Chutki loves playing with the boys but is also very feminine and keeps herself busy with all sorts of arts and household chores. She has very soft spot for Bheem (sic) and therefore, is always luring him to her with delicacies….Everybody loves his little girl for her generous, sweet and happy nature. I haven’t met a seven-year-old girl who adores wiping the table, have you? Or is busy trying to find her way to a boy’s heart through his stomach, for that matter.  There is nothing wrong with doing household chores but to say someone is ‘feminine’ for doing it is to promote a despicable stereotype. People of all genders need to do household work to lead a reasonably healthy and hygienic life, not to stay ‘feminine’. Chutki and the other female character who appears frequently in the series, Princess Indumati, are supposed to be rivals for Bheem’s attention. Indumati isn’t evil (come on, she’s fair-skinned too!) and she’s usually quite friendly with Chutki. But both of them engage in a war of words when it comes to which of them Bheem should favour! May I remind you once again that both girls are seven years old? Apparently, it’s never too early to begin a ‘cat’ fight and compete over who wins the hero’s heart.  Chhota Bheem also employs a strange, stilted language which is made worse by the explicit violence in it. Characters exchange threats and describe how they plan on hurting each other frequently in adult fashion though the entire series is built on a very moralistic premise. ‘How dare you laugh at me?’ ‘I will teach you a lesson’ ‘Let me destroy all of you’ 'These are dumb and daft children' 'Stupid and foolish kids' are just some of the usual dialogues mouthed by kids and others in the show.  When Bheem and his friends travel and have adventures elsewhere, language becomes a tool through which the ‘strangeness’ of the new place is expressed. For instance, in an adventure that takes place in Kerala, the local people are shown saying ‘Ayayo’ at the drop of a hat. What next, lungi dance?  Speaking of stereotypes, Chutki does participate in adventures with Bheem but she’s usually the first to give up when there is anything physically strenuous happening. What a wonderful message to send out to our little girls (and boys)! Gender stereotyping happens frequently in children’s books and TV series. For example, Anne of The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton is a Chutki-type who is ‘feminine’ and does the cooking right in the middle of an adventure. Georgiana, from the same series, has to pretend to be a boy in order to do the ‘cool’ things that boys do. But isn’t it high time that we moved on from such stereotypes? Is it too much for a parent of a three-year-old girl to ask that the next time Bheem wants ladoos, he goes into the kitchen and makes a batch himself?  Tweet Follow @thenewsminute Read- They fell in love in 1932... and are still going strong 

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