Almost every television channel features a morning show. It seems that Pakistani women have more to choose from in terms of fashion, cooking and gossip now. Perhaps this is what makes an exciting difference in their lives.
Bright colors, a dash of glitter and raucous laughter – no matter what channel you are on, it is the same scene everywhere. Actresses, models and other media personalities, both old and new, gather together on one of the innumerable morning shows that grace our television screens to celebrate the umpteenth wedding ceremony of a fellow celebrity (whose nuptials were probably also celebrated on a similar morning show telecast on an entirely different television channel the previous week).
The sequence of events follows the usual trend; a mayun, followed by a lavish mehndi, followed by an equally extravagant nikah/ rukhsati function, with each of the gushing bride’s ‘friends’ and ‘relatives’ decked up with enough layers of make-up to open their very own cosmetics store, not to mention designer dresses encrusted with various jewels that probably end up weighing more than the sofa on which the bride and groom are seated on!
Such is the quality of entertainment (read: torture) that we are treated to via our television screens every day. If it is not in the form of some forgotten celebrity renewing her marriage vows. It can be shown as either a row between two sections of one family, with the host acting as the referee or an exercise dedicated entirely towards inviting members of the paranormal and ultimately giving them free rein to create as much havoc as they possibly can, from knocking over studio lights to possessing supposed ‘random’ members of audience, all for the purpose of evoking wellrehearsed shrieks from the decked up host.
Who in the world watches these shows, you ask. Specifically, housewives - women who spend the majority of their day cleaning up the house and looking after the children. Since the only highlight of their day is when they get the opportunity to put up their feet in front of the idiot box after packing the kids and husband off to school and office, respectively, many Pakistani housewives have become somewhat addicted to this genre of television programs, with most of them adulating over who wore what, their conversations accompanied with the occasional ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ all in an attempt to underscore one’s sentiments regarding what was shown during that particular episode.
Perhaps this is what can explain a recent survey conducted by the national TV ratings provider, MediaLogic, in which ratings for some of today’s leading morning shows on television were revealed. According to the
survey, Good Morning Pakistan, hosted by actress Nida Yasir, bagged first place with a TRP of 0.6. This was followed by Jago Pakistan Jago, hosted by yet another actress, Sanam Jung and Utho Geo Pakistan, with Bushra Ansari (who is also an - you guessed it - actress), each holding a TRP of 0.5. The list rounded off with The Morning Show hosted by Sanam Baloch, with a TRP of 0.3 and finally, Subah ki Kahani hosted by Madiha Naqvi with a TRP of just 0.2.
Though some may find these results ludicrous, almost laughable, they also present another, rather grim, side to the quality of television programs today. According to Maria Sartaj in her article for Dawn, titled, “How Pakistani Morning Shows are Keeping Women ‘Where They Belong’”, the content of the morning shows has somewhat restricted women’s role in society to that of a home- maker. With segments revolving around the correct use of cosmetics to the various kinds of cookery that can be done with a certain group of ingredients (both of which are heavily sponsored), the female audience’s thinking is being confined to elements that exist within the four walls of the house.
“The topics are limited and, even if a few programmes have tried to tread off the beaten path, they’ve all had to resort to doing their ‘dulhan week’ for the sake of ratings,” writes Maria. She further explains how demand for such programming has been deliberately created in an attempt to limit any effort that could have been spent in devising original and innovative content. “Offer a handful of options repeatedly and the audience will soon become addicted to the one which is the least worse.”
For those of us who have had the privilege to view morning shows from other countries, the inane antics currently underway on our local channels seems almost alien in comparison. Though also mostly directed towards women, these shows refrain from insulting one’s intelligence; rather, they aim to enhance it by bringing to the forefront a variety of interesting topics branching over a range of subjects. From gun control to psychological disorders to effective parenting to efficient living, this brand of morning shows seems to be designed to stimulate intellect rather than repress it.
If any of our television gurus were to introduce such concepts and adapt it as per the Pakistani audience’s tastes, we would be treated to shows that are of much better quality than the ones that are being shown right now. As a developing country that is plagued with a variety of social, economic and political ills, it has become imperative to em- power each and every individual in a manner that they are able to take the reins and steer society towards growth and prosperity. This includes women, many of whom are already showing great potential as valuable contributors to society, whether it is in the role of a housewife, a doctor or a business-woman. The only way to do so is for the media to set an example and to help broaden the minds of its viewers so that they may become independent thinkers in their own right.
When the time for this to happen is anybody’s guess. Until then, it seems that we have no choice but to be treated to endless charades of mehndi dances coupled with make-up tutorials.