Bollywood’s Obsession of Displaying Gender Violence as ‘Normal’ Needs to Stop
Bollywood films gravitate towards gender violence. This is an established fact.
In reality, we know and see this as an unacceptable and dangerous crime. However, our society is more forgiving when some cinematic lighting and sound effects are added to the crime. Once the credits roll, we don’t realize the impact the movie or scene or song has left on impressionable minds.
Stalking, eve-teasing, forcing a woman into saying yes, and rape; these are some of the crimes generalized through films. Not just Bollywood, even South Indian films are expertly doing this. A love story becomes gut-wrenching when the woman keeps saying no and pays the price by either being raped or killed.
If all of this sounds overdramatic to you, clearly you haven’t been paying attention.
Women are called “bitches” or “sluts” from a very young age and are blamed/shamed for toying with an apparently innocent young man’s emotions. “Soup Boys” is a term that is gaining fandom from its drunken following of men who believe in the movement associated with the song, “Why this Kolaveri Di?” In the video, you see a girl who rejects a man and ruins his life. This video—like many other’s in pop culture—blames the woman, because obviously, it has to be her fault.
Bollywood movies also normalize stalking and other forms of aggressive behavior towards females. These actions have been condoned since the early years of Bollywood cinema. In the 1960s, actors such as Shammi Kapoor “would flirt and dance in front of the heroine, who initially rejected him but was won over when she found out his real worth.” So, not only is stalking the only form of wooing a girl, but women are also seen to be gold diggers.
Similarly, a few years later in the 1990s, “Darr,” a hit blockbuster for Yash Chopra, showed Shah Rukh Khan’s character obsessed with a young woman played by Juhi Chawla. He “resorts to cutting her name into his chest with a knife, plasters his walls with her face and talks about her to his dead mother.” Many guys saw this as devotion because love is all consuming, right? No. this should be seen for what it is, psychotic behavior. These aren’t notions of a healthy relationship by any means.
People often reference “Devdas,” a movie (and classic novel) that represents the epitome of love. Taking a second look at this movie, does it really represent love? The movie is centered on a raging, aggressive alcoholic who is incapable of having a successful relationship. Why does society accept this as an adequate representation of what true love looks like?
Even today, Bollywood movies such as “Happy Ending” are seen as progressive, while still implying concepts such as, “good” girls don’t like sex and therefore men have to “push” for it. This is an extremely dangerous misconception because not only does it infringe upon ideals of empowerment that are associated with sex but it validates the need for men to “push” for it. In a society that clearly has a lot of social issues in regards to sex, there is no room for feeding into the rape culture that is seen to be escalating.
Mainstream Bollywood is still having a hard time believing a normal, good girl can’t be spontaneous in bed like a normal good girl. It’s a dangerous message to send out because it seems to suggest that when girls say no they mean yes. Sexuality should have no bearing on personality traits.
It is ridiculous that movies place the sexual “onus” on a man, whose duty it seems to be is to win a deeply reluctant female. It is absurd that the underlying concept still hasn’t changed in decades. If a female is reluctant, then the answer should be understood as a clearly definite “no.” There should be no culture that views a female as an object who must be pursued until she is forced into a situation where she succumbs into a “yes.” Her voice, her opinion, and her decision should have validity on their own merit.
It is still evident that many industries including the entertainment industry are dominated by men, starting from directors to the actors. It appears to still be a man’s world.
Hollywood movies are guilty of this dangerous male pursuit as well. When “50 Shades of Grey” made its premiere on the big screen, many questioned how probable this was in real life. Was it only appropriate because the leading male was rich, so society says “then it’s okay”? Would it be okay if the average Joe-Shmoe was following you around, demanding, controlling, aggressive and then adamant about his sexual fetishes?
If you would not be okay with it in real life, then you should not be okay with watching it either. We do not want a society that is desensitized to violence against women. We want people to have the strength to speak up against this type of behavior and not accept it as romantic. There is nothing romantic about dangerous aggressive behavior that does not count a woman’s voice.
This post was originally published to India.com and republished with permission.