Pitiable stereotyping of anything that does not ascribe to the ‘Fair and Lovely’ standards has now thankfully been targeted by a newly-launched social media campaign “Stop Media Violence”.
Going by its Facebook page that was launched on 28 December and is steadily garnering supporters, the brains behind this socially relevant online movement believe that racial insults featuring on television or the big screen are inherently tied up with the casteist mentality prevalent in Indian society.
An episode of Komady Circus aired on Mazhavil Manorama had come in for huge criticism after a dark-skinned woman on the heavier side was roped in to contribute the ‘comic’ element to the comedy reality show.
That English was heard coming from the mouth of such a woman was apparently considered downright funny by the show-makers. Isn’t it a given that such low life -by default- is slotted among the illiterate lot, they seemed to be asking.
This is not the first time that Malayalam television shows or cinema has poked fun at anything that does not fit into the accepted standards of physical beauty, prescribed by increasingly parochial societal norms.
In last year’s Malayalam blockbuster Action Hero Biju, the eponymous hero played by current heartthrob Nivin Pauly is shown berating an accused as to how he could even fall in love with a woman who is seemingly downright ugly.
Ugly….only because she happens to be dark and podgy?
In yet another Malayalam super-hit movie Amar Akbar Antony, one of the characters is heard mouthing a dialogue that hardly raised a few eyebrows: “Her looks tell us that she comes from the ‘poramboke’ (waste-land)!” Only outcastes from the lowest strata of society set up residence in such neglected areas, is purportedly the message here.
The campaign that was started by the ‘Dalit Online Movement’ has garnered widespread acceptance among the netizens. Speaking to The News Minute, Pradeep KV -one of the organizers- says that this was a hot topic of discussion in their meetings over the last several months:
“It is not just in movies or on TV shows, you get to hear such racial/casteist slurs in everyday talk. People think that it is okay to make such comments for fun. They do not realise that these reflect an ominous underlying reality of the times.”
The group plans to extend the scope of its campaign on social media. “We want to take this to the street. Our intention is to spread as much awareness as possible both among the media and the public…tell them that what they do is NOT fair. We want to leave an indelible mark with this protest,” he adds.
Pradeep believes that this is also applicable to gender minorities, who have to bear the brunt of their sexual orientation. Responding to criticism from a section of people who ask why they cannot view this as mere humour, and not try to read deeper meanings into it, he reiterates: “But it is not at all funny for those who are the objects of such vilification. People may not be aware, but such so-called ‘humorous’ tagging actually hurts.”
Binesh Kolichal -a Dalit activist and student- who expressed his solidarity with the campaign on Facebook too agrees that dark skin is invariably met with scorn in the entertainment sector:
The fact that the makers are able to elicit laughs from the audience when this happens is what -he feels- needs to be first dealt with. “Until such a mentality persists among the masses, this practice of insulting the dark-skinned will continue.”