“If the story is normalising such acts"
Television dramas can evoke strong emotions and empathy in viewers by featuring relatable characters and situations.
On the other hand, if this power is misused, it may result in the glorification of harmful behaviour, the normalisation of stereotypes and the distortion of society and culture.
This is also true in Indian and Pakistani dramas.
Some of the examples include normalising Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological condition in which victims gradually acquire affection towards their captors or abusers.
Dramas which show violence in relationships include Yeh Hai Mohabbatein, Gul-e-Rana, Doli Armaanon Ki, Dil-e-Veeran, Muqaddar and Bashar Momin.
This raises the question of why, in the 21st century, South Asian dramas continue down the same route rather than diverging in the direction of something better and more constructive that could advance society.
Samina Ahmad, a veteran actress in Pakistan‘s TV industry, said:
“Domestic violence, abuse and crimes against women do exist in our society and must be portrayed in dramas as well but what we show in the end is the essence of the story.
“If the story is normalising such acts without showing any consequences, then it’s reinforcing the act in society.
“Television has excessively become commercialised and there is a race going on to catch eyeballs.
“TRPs, followers and million views lead to businesses deciding the base of such drama due to which, in a society like ours, where the majority of people are less educated and suffering from the same social issues, they start to relate themselves with these stories, ultimately giving the views and ratings for such dramas.”
Samina Ahmad added that creative directors and producers should hold more accountability when making decisions regarding storylines.
She continued: “Dramas can bring a change in real life by showing how, as an individual, we can eliminate the ills of society rather than surrender to it.
“For this, we need to target the ones who hold the power as creators, producers and project heads.
“We need to start making some difficult decisions as creators.”
Experts are adamant that the media has a significant influence and that people frequently follow the patterns it creates, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Zulqernain Tahir, a senior journalist and associate professor at the Punjab Institute of Communication Sciences, said:
“Just like in conventional media, if fake news is continuously hammered then people start to buy that propaganda and fake news as reality.
“Same is the case with entertainment media; if negative content is consecutively being portrayed in dramas, then it will likely become a reality and a common thing for its audience.
“If entertainment media is free from the return of investment obsession, then it will truly serve the definition of performing arts.”
When it comes to pointing blame at someone for TV dramas glorifying violence, producers are typically first in the firing line.
However, Ali Imran, Content Head at ARY, shared his thoughts from the perspective of producing content for dramas. He said:
“I would never justify stories in which abuse, crime, or other issues are being glorified but we should also accept the fact that these stories are the real reflection of our society.”
Imran believes that shedding light on violence in relationships could bring positive change because people are now talking about the mistreatment and violence they may face.
He continued: “Sometimes, chaos also brings a new shade of hope, so by portraying regular stories we try to at least highlight what’s going on for society to become more aware and cautious.
“As of now, if we compare our society to how it was 10 years ago, we will observe that people have started questioning abuse, violence, and mistreatment of women in real life because these issues are being highlighted in dramas.
“But I do agree that when we are showing any such story, it should come with a disclaimer.”
Noman Yaser, of the University of Sargodha, said:
“Regulatory bodies all around the world play an important role but unfortunately, it’s not the same here due to multiple reasons.
“With cross-media ownerships being the biggest, we have conglomerates all around the media industry.
“Thus, there are fewer independent media, resulting in the lack of different viewpoints and vocalisation about various social issues, ultimately hijacking the good content in the race of profit making which needs to be changed.”
Former NCSW chair and advocate for women’s rights Khawar Mumtaz explained her viewpoint:
“We can only change when we decide what we want from our society, either we want it to remain as bad as it is by showing degradation, discouragement and crimes towards women as a normal practice or we want to pull out our society from all such evils by showing the consequences of all such acts and paving out a way forwards for women to cope with it bravely.”