For the most part, the media is tasked with showcasing reality in a positive light or providing real depictions of matters we all face. But when it comes to Pakistani content, it is an undeniable fact that the industry and its writers take it too far. Given the current situation of the industry and issues brought upon our celebrities, let’s take domestic abuse for starters. With over-the-top depictions of events that are both fabricated for the sake of ratings and blatant attempts to shock viewers with nonessential scenes of violence, the local content scope seems to work without a sensitivity meter in sight.
Earlier this week, we saw a renowned actor’s wife come forward with allegations of infidelity, emotional abuse, and domestic violence at the hands of her husband. If Feroze Khan’s picture popped into your head, you can picture where this is going. To many, it did not come off as a surprise that an actor who is known for repeatedly playing problematic, violent, and misogynistic characters onscreen could turn out to be the same in real life as well. Don’t see the connection? Let us probe further.
The Pakistani entertainment industry is known for the normalization and glorification of domestic abuse onscreen and for having close to no portrayals of healthy, loving relationships between couples. Whenever a film or drama serial has tried showcasing relationships that show even a tad bit of affection, a ban from PEMRA is waiting right around the corner. As a result of this, our viewership is heavily influenced by the content that is constantly fed to them on a regular basis – most of which consists of alpha male characters, abusive partners, the romanticization of harassment, damsels in distress, and unrealistic consequences. When it has been shown enough times, it becomes the new normal.
Amongst other actors, Feroze Khan is widely known for playing such characters, to the point where the actor has mastered the art of it. Think of his characters in drama serials like Chup Raho, Gul-e-Rana, Khaani, Ishqiya, Khuda Aur Muhabbat, and Aye Musht-e-Khaak and you’ll definitely notice a pattern. While the subject of his personal relationship is now a court matter, one can’t help but point fingers at the industry for promoting and perpetuating problematic behavior through its content, and at the actors who sustain this by repeatedly taking up questionable roles.
Apart from some sensible viewers, some celebrities have also started pointing out the lack of diversity when it comes to content in Pakistan. Urwa Hocane recently talked about being offered scripts that have the same old misogynistic tropes, and how harmful of a precedent they set for our younger generation. Having said that, it is critical to mention that such topics can be explored in a sensitive manner with content warnings, so the content does not end up further traumatising and influencing the viewers.