Sunday, January 7, 2007

Sliding (Conflicting?) Standards?

PakManzil presents a lot of videos and music-related information and I visited it today to see what was new. They have a clip from a Pakistani drama and an accompanying note essentially bemoaning the slide in "decency" in those dramas. It turns out that the clip shows a couple and the man embraces the woman from behind and kisses her neck. This seems to be what is generating the shock (it should be awe instead, (-: ) . Viewers' comments seemed to deprecate this behavior as well.

Interestingly, the same site also has clip of a dance performance by girls at what appears to be a school show. The descriptor for that clip seems to be rather appreciative as are many of the comments left about it.

After watching both clips I am not clear as to why the behavior in the drama is viewed so distressingly while the dancing seems to be more acceptable. Is physical contact between a man and a woman considered more lewd than provocative movements by dancers? Is that because the dancers are all of one gender (or, as a separate case, all female), or that no deliberate touching is involved? Does the age of the protagonists make a difference (adolescent girls vs. an adult man and woman)? Or is it the age of the commentators (mostly young adults, I suspect)? Or are adults in Pakistan expected to behave in a sexless fashion in their normal lives (the dramas are closer to daily life than are Lollywood movies)? Or could it be that for Pakistanis watching a drama in the company of their families and seeing people like themselves touch each other in a loving fashion is so disconsonant with usually observed behavior in Pakistani society, that the viewing becomes profoundly uncomfortable? Would Indians react the same way? Which Indians? How is it that both Pakistanis and Indians watch Bollywood movies, frequently with all family members sitting together, and no one seems to become uncomfortable?

You can watch the video clips at the links below and then please enlighten me as to why these clips drew the reactions that they did. Thanks.

Kissing drama clip:

Dancing girls clip:


koonj said...

I confess I'm a prude. I was raised during the Gen. Zia days and I was shocked, I tell you, shocked at the kissing scene. It wasn't just the kissing, man, there was a whole lot else going on there. But that's me.

Mata Hari said...

Excuse me while I cool down a bit....

Well, I certainly agree with Koonj that there's "a whole lot else going on" in the kissing scene. Indeed, the world is full of women waiting for just a few such kisses - especially followed by that wonderful twirl!

I suspect this scene has incited protest because it's so startlingly genuine - at once subtle and very steamy. For all of its seeming tameness, it's actually far more stirring and captivating than many of the more "brazen" sexual evocations on American prime time. Would that U.S. directors cared to conjure such authentic depictions of human intimacy!

As for the dancing girls: THIS is the sort of thing that tends to raise my eyebrows - whether it appears on a school stage in Karachi or at the halftime show during an American football game.

Of course I see the "art" and the humor of it all (though for heaven's sake, can't these kids hold on to a single dance theme for more than 10 seconds?), but I wonder if these women realize precisely what sort of leap their performance represents. It's not a flight from repression to freedom so much as a plummet from one sort of objectification to another. There's little to celebrate in that.

Women suffer indignities of varying severity in every country, and in the west they're too often snagged by the commodification of sexuality. In the USA, many young women know, the way to get noticed is to "shake your booty." Apparently the news has reached Pakistan as well.