Toxicity trivialised

September 4, 2022

Regurgitated storylines and one-dimensional characters continue to dominate TV screens in Pakistan

Toxicity trivialised


iolence against women and children is on the rise. Print, electronic and social media are full of stories about the increasing levels of aggression in society on a daily basis. This begs the question, is social media responsible for highlighting social evils in society that would previously go unnoticed? Or is it creating more awareness and urging individuals to take action?

Much of the electronic media, meanwhile, is not playing a positive role in this regard. Many plays on television promote and reinforce misogynistic mind-sets. There are mothers-in-law hatching conspiracies and making life miserable for their daughters-in-law. The dialogue is cliché-ridden and the characters portrayed are extremely one-dimensional. Some plays also glorify increasingly materialistic tendencies, showing women characters that are plotting to get rid of their daughters-in-law and marrying off their sons to some rich girls who live in palatial bungalows and can boast of huge bank balances.

Rather than disseminating a positive image of women, these plays promote a regressive mind-set where women are always portrayed as being at an inherent disadvantage due to their gender. A large number of women often find reprieve on Facebook groups as that is the only place where they can rant about their toxic mothers-in-law and how their spouses are unduly influenced by them. Is it the influence of the media or is the media only reflecting what is happening in society? Is this what garners TRPs and do most women thrive on the kind of rubbish being churned out in the form of television serials, especially those aired before prime time?

Plays like Woh Pagal Si, Antul Hayat, Guddu and Mushkil are on air every single day. They are reported to be very popular and enjoy nationwide viewership. Sometimes, double episodes are aired. Many of these revolve around women hatching conspiracies, eavesdropping shamelessly and spewing profanities. In a particular scene, a mother-in-law in Guddu physically assaults her daughter-in-law. The scene is quite shocking and makes one wonder how the censors approve scenes depicting physical violence. How can a normal individual hate another so intensely for no apparent reason or for a reason that appears to defy logic? The stepmother in Woh Pagal Si is similarly hell bent on destroying the father-daughter relationship because she dislikes her step-daughter. Her diamond necklace goes missing and the receipt for it is discovered in her step-daughter’s room. This was obviously intended to defame her.

This calls into question the integrity and prowess of female actors as well, and how they often agree to portray such lacklustre characters with little self-esteem and refuse to take no for an answer, rather than portraying strong characters.

The mother-in-law in Antul Hayat is a character straight out of hell. She loses no opportunity to demean and criticise her daughter-in-law, having opposed her son’s marriage to her. Such stereotypical characters quickly lose their charm because they are downright monotonous and extremely predictable. A lot of people apparently enjoy watching stereotypical and clichéd characters, painted in black and white. Mothers-in-law are depicted as monsters and the daughters-in-law as shy, retiring creatures, expected to endure everything that comes their way because they exercised their right to marry of their own free will.

Most of the men in these plays are painted as spineless and cowardly. Many are willing to believe anything they are told. Also, it appears that the female characters in these television serials have no qualms about running after married men and are willing to go to any lengths to get what they want. This calls into question the integrity and prowess of some female actors as well. How is it that they agree to portray such lacklustre characters with little self-esteem and refuse to take no for an answer, rather than insist on portraying strong characters? Nearly every play portrays daughters as a burden and sons as a blessing. In Habs, the mother repeatedly bemoans her status as a widow and her three daughters. She rambles on about how it is a great misfortune not to have a son. It is high time that we start celebrating our women, treating them as individuals in their own right and not consider them the children of a lesser God. This mind-set has to change and the media can play a role in this.

We really need to improve the quality and standard of the plays being churned out by these channels and air plays that show the positive attributes of women and highlight their strengths. They should be celebrated as individuals, thereby repudiating the misogynistic mind-set in the society. The media has a huge influence on the general public. It is their ethical and moral responsibility to portray the so-called weaker gender in a more positive light. We are capable of producing far better television serials than many currently on air. Let us not insult the viewers’ intelligence. A plethora of television channels after all are available at the click of a button.

The writer is an educationist. She can be reached at

Toxicity trivialised