The world of soap opera: From her perspective
The drama has always been a part of my life.
I’ve been a very dramatic person, at least a dramatic writer that much I can say!
My mom believes I really do have a good career in theatrics, so does my teachers and friends for I’ve always been well appreciated for my voice-acting and oration skills.
But the drama that I am talking about today isn’t about theaters or operas on stage, it’s more on the soap operas that we see on telly.
I’ve always been addicted to TV. Growing up in a nuclear family, I enjoyed watching different plot lines being played out in movies or soap operas for they helped me daydream better and maybe even create fan-fiction out of those stories. Maybe that’s how I started building up castles on air and wanted to take up story-telling as a serious passion of mine that I hope to build a career upon.
Growing up as every other teenager, I was enthralled by the world of soap operas on TV. I watched them on all languages, my regional language (Tamil), Hindi and maybe even a few English soap operas. Seeing these regional, Indian soap operas, I noticed a common theme, a too-good-to-be female protagonist, arrogant, rich, male protagonist who falls for this beautiful lady(who is way too beautiful inside-out), a really mean set of in-laws. Somehow, these patterns continued and I was falling out of love each day, as to increase TRP(Television Rating Point)
The plotlines are quite the same everywhere. They’re these Mills&Boon styles of romance storylines that we can never get tired of! Club it in with some traditional prejudice or expectations of women to be superwomen that can be the ‘best’ in all sphere was inspiring and scary at times. Often times, my rebellious teen self that believed that my destiny was far beyond domestication and marriage, was unintentionally forced to believe by this depiction that maybe marriage was the end game of it all. I used to ask myself why really am I finding it difficult to tame myself and follow rules. Or why am I too timid at times, and can’t stand up for myself like those female protagonists could do for themselves? Those lengthy dialogues about parampara(culture) or khandan(your dynasty or family legacy) often left me wondering why couldn’t I see myself there?
Somehow, these patterns of self-doubt, criticism and even shame of being too addictive to these soap operas even when I wanted to leave continued to happen and simultaneously, I was falling out of love with these soap operas each day. The reason being that the directors and writers so as to increase TRP(Television Rating Point), often brought in a horribly executed twist and turns like changing the original pairs, making the hero the villain and may other illogical situations. The story never followed the original plotline and it often left me agitated.
Also, it was during the time when I had taken the biggest and best decision of my life to follow my dreams and with my parents support to join English Literature as my undergraduate major. I would proudly say this that literature has made me a good critic and observer of art. I could no longer see things nonchalantly and I started to see patterns perspectives and things deeper than what was visible to the naked eye. The soap operas that just seemed a fancy place to experiment with the different plotline now became a place where I see how media potrays women and culture through their work. I was now seeing sense as how we all were being brainwashed to be a certain way and how our fears and insecruities of rejections were being used to play around and make us feel the need to become that next “perfect” bahu (daughter-in-law), beti (daughter), behan (sister), ma (mother), dadi (Grandmother) and saas (mother-in-law).
Each of this role expected a certain sense of behavior and if you fail to exhibit it you’d fail the name of your khandan. Lost in the burden and maze of responsibilities women often found themselves caged by the high standard image set by the women. The world of women, even men at times was like a cat on the wall. A woman is judged by the tone of her skin, swell of her hip and strength of her voice. While a man is judged when tears swell in his eyes, passion blinds his love for career and body sways to the music of life. These images are as stereotyped as those soap operas itself! They may not be true in all cases and I’d be the happiest if they were never true at all.
A few years later, in the first year of my college, I accidently found the magic world of Korean and other Asian counterparts like Japanese, Chinese and Thai drama, when one of my classmates suggested that I see a Korean film Seducing Mr. Perfect. It was the perfect cheesy rom-com movie of my style and me, once again fell prey to those addictive movies and drama where I could get a glimpse of a foreign land and its natives without even having to pay a penny or move my butt anywhere. It was too enticing, as it was all the same like my reading or writing hours where I can travel to anywhere in the world, without actually moving out of a room.
I lost myself to the glitter and glamor of life as shown by these dramas. I was star struck by the magnificent build and personality of Lee Min Ho Oppa, I enjoyed swaying to the dance moves by Takumi Saito, engrossed by the powerful and relatable acting skills of Ryoko Shinhara and lost to the magic of Aaron Yan’s double-trouble action roles. I was close to losing myself to the prejudices and societal standards of a foreign land, like when I saw Geum Gan-Di in Boys over Flowers, I thought to myself how cool, happy and bubbly Koreans are! Maybe, I should become like that too. I was once again about to become into yet another stereotype set by a foreign country, but that’s where I learned more about individuality, diversity, and culture.
Slowly, as I grew more attached to these dramas, I once again saw a pattern hidden in these dramas too. Their media was tricking their viewers to confirm to their societal stereotypes. Encouraging images of perfect skin tone, lathered with about 19 skin creams and treatments in the face of the actors be it men or women, skinny women who never seemed to put on weight despite stuffing their mouth with food and well-built men who worked out in gym, inherited money and emotional baggage from parents and over-conscious about their looks.
Was it even giving or showing positive life or lifestyle?
The horror of reality is far away from this glitter and glamor of Hallyu world. Behind every over-achieving kid, be it Kim Yuna, the world-class skater or Ye-bin, the internet sensational kid who stole the hearts of netizens through her innocence and childish charms, there are hidden stories of students considering suicide as an option to escape pressure build in school and homes to excel in studies. There are stories of kids as young as 13, pestering parents to buy makeup or even ask for a plastic surgery so that they look as pretty as their Hallyu stars. There are stories of women lathering creams and face mask sheets in the hope of turning fair and suddenly bagging that “perfect” guy with hot looks and money. Stories of men feeling like a failure for they’re neither as good looking as the Hallyu stars nor as successful in their careers as they’re expected.
You get to hear horrifying stories of North Korean defectors, the ‘feminist’ in China encouraging their women to marry before the age of 25, after which they’d become ‘dried fish’ or the exceptional standards of expectation men have on women and likewise thanks to the Weeaboo and Hallyu effect.
Then, you grow up to understand that boundaries on a map, the difference in skin tone, race, culture, and history of existence as fancy and distant they might sound are just theories put on paper. In reality, we all as whole as people trying to find our individuality in a world that unconsciously influences us to follow it’s rules, societal standards, and system. At the end of the day, we all are human being striving to live our lives they way we dream to be, without even realizing that our dreams have long been corrupted by a system of commercialization. The dream
The dream to be famous, be heard and accepted is just a glimpse of horizon reaching out to which we lose our self, our identity and originality. Perspective can be a very strange thing, it’s like seeing the world from different angles, something even through a colored glass mirror of prejudice. The soap operas, variety shows, and telly’s that we so happily consume as a medium of entertainment, does it really entertain us or is it just another medium to instruct subconsciously to become yet another Harry and Dickenson? Is it challenging our originality to be plain, old, boring Jane and asking us to turn into pale, tan, blondes that all look the same?
If we were to look the same why did God or the creator even create us differently? We could have been yet another Wall-E and Eve? Just another machine created to fulfill man’s curiosity. It’s somewhat a challenge in this Era of Social Media to pick up our self-esteem and stand up for our quirkiness and unique personality. But, maybe a few more dose of soap operas, books and another medium of art, I find myself, my personality and embrace it as it goes.
What about you?
When do you plan on sharpening your perspectives and seeing the danger of this monotone world of extreme black and whites?
Aren’t we all just another shade of gray, with different level of goodness and evilness hidden with us?
My addiction to Asian dramas seems to have made me think about. What has been your story when it comes to Asian drama addiction? Do let us know in the comment box below.
P.S.: Mom thinks I should one day use all these random surfing and understanding of human cultures and perspectives (especially the Asian roots) into some kind of research paper or book publication(maybe on diversity or effects of media on the masses). Well, mom, I’ve taken a small baby step here. Do let me in the comment box below if I should take up on this ambitious challenge. Do you think I can do it?
A huge shoutout to fellow writers, thinkers, and aesthetes who love seeing the world from different perspectives and glass mirrors. Let’s keep perceiving the world as much as we could.
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