Role of Pakistani Drama Industry in Promoting Toxic Narratives - Zainab Waseem

Today, media plays a pivotal role in building the perceptions surrounding societal norms and values. Its representation of toxic stereotypes has led to an amalgamation of toxic norms in our society. A majority of TV viewers in our country are fans of desi Pakistani drama serials, which have often been known to glamorize the toxic traits of our society and are now being called out on it. But the important question that often remains unaddressed is that 'why the glamour of an elitist class and lifestyle is stereotyped as liberating from culture, religion, and societal norms?


Let me present a typical drama scene for you. Your main character lives in a poor house in Hyderabad. She wakes up early every morning to help her parents and siblings and then has to catch a bus to Karachi to get to her job on time. On the other hand, we have our second character who wakes up in her house in Clifton, goes out for a morning jog, comes home to her parents reading newspapers on the breakfast table, while she plans on starting her day.


How did you, as a viewer, imagine the attire of both these characters?


In my mind, the former character was wearing modest shalwar kameez and had her head covered as she boarded the bus, while the latter was wearing her yoga pants and a hoodie, her hair tied in a sweaty ponytail as she took the earphones out from her ears.


Our media has created stereotypes to portray different classes of our society in a specific way, something which is most obvious when two different classes are shown in comparison. The elite is portrayed as a group distant from culture and religion. Traditional boundaries of culture, norms and religious values do not seem to hold sway in their lives. The middle class is shown to be ‘stuck’ under the burden of upholding these values. Both of these concepts, I would like to argue, are inaccurately represented, are far from reality, and tend to portray our culture, norms, and values as regressive and something to be ‘ashamed’ about. In our dramas, the idea that is sold ahead is that the elite lifestyle is something more ‘westernized, liberal, and modern’, unapproachable for the masses. This representation is away from reality where cultural and religious values are upheld by elite households, and western modern values are likewise followed by middle-class households.


We come across people who belong to various spectrums of religion and culture irrespective of their cla