Target: Family

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Hafsa Ahsan speaks out on what television dramas and soaps directly aim at

The last couple of years have witnessed a sudden spurt in the number of private channels, which broadcast a wide range of content for a diverse audience. There are drama serials, soaps, sitcoms, talk shows, satires and what not. Of these, drama serials and soaps are not only the staple diet of an average media consumer – they are also the main constituent of prime time transmission, when the entire family is watching television.

However, these drama serials and soaps have undergone a huge metamorphosis. Following are some of their fallouts, which are a direct attack on the family system.

Conflict Resolution – A Distant Dream

The stories, which once focused on conflict resolution within the family, have now begun to thrive on breeding conflict and propagating new and innovative methods of creating discord between the most sacred of relationships.

This trend has set in, because most private channels telecast soap operas rather than drama serials. Soaps have to have at least a hundred episodes. The only means of stretching the soap opera to infinite proportions is never to solve any conflict – in fact, the key is to keep the members of a family in a constant state of war with each other.

Conspiracies Abound

Domestic politics has taken a completely new dimension with the drama serials on air. Previously, characters of daughter-in-law, mother-in-law and sister-in-law merely shouted at each other or complained vocally to their friends about what they had to go through. Today, these same characters go ten steps further – plotting to get each other killed, they hire professional assassins and feel no shame in pushing their pregnant female relatives down a staircase. One wonders, what sort of message is going out to the vulnerable audience?

Dating Culture

A direct assault to the family system is the portrayal of a dating culture. The difference between Mehrum and non-Mehrum relatives was never there in the first place, but now things have worsened as couples are portrayed hanging out in popular hangouts, sometimes encouraged by their own parents. It may be mentioned here that there are times, when the story is such that an air of sympathy is created for the ‘poor couple’ which ‘cannot date because of the undue pressure of the parents.’

A soap on a private channel showed three girls were shown so desperate to get married that they kept going on dates with one guy after another and then rejecting them for the silliest reasons possible.

Hurdles to Marriage 

Where there are absolutely no obstacles in ‘going out and having a good time’, there are an infinite number of hurdles in getting married – again related to the need of the drama serial to extend itself to hundred plus episodes. If two people get married and start a peaceful life, where’s the drama? So, to create ‘drama’ and ‘action’, evil relatives cause problems, friends of the bride-to-be try to steal away her husband-to-be for themselves, and at times, the couple is married off to other people and then must sneak out to meet each other.

Sanctity of Relationships Gone Downhill

There are certain relationships the sanctity of which we take for granted. The mother-daughter relationship is one example. Father-son relationship is another. Unfortunately, certain drama serials and soaps have directly attacked these very relationships. A while back, a drama serial depicted a mother and daughter as eager to marry the same man. If that wasn’t enough, another serial showed a father marrying the girl his son was interested in. Such portrayals violate the strong bond of trust within these relationships. Unfortunately, our playwrights see this as some staple way to increase viewership.

Wrong Islamic Concepts

The Islamic method of giving a divorce may be familiar to some, but for many it is still vague. Drama serials and soaps could have played some role here, but since the story has to be fast, who is going to wait for the prescribed period and give three divorces over that period of time? The worse case scenario is when they regret their hastiness and conclude that since no one was around when they said it, they can continue living as a husband and a wife.

In the light of all the above examples, one can see how drama serials and soaps directly attack the family system. There is a dire need for playwrights to research and write on concepts, which are relevant and constructive to the society. The challenge is to show how despite all troubles, families survive and cope.

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