5 times Besharam strengthened stereotypes instead of breaking them

From undermining working women to glorifying alpha males, Besharam has done it all.
Published 25 Oct, 2016 01:37am

How many times have you seen a model and instantly thought, “Oh, maybe she didn’t find anything better to do with her life?” Or how many times have you wished for your knight in shining armour to come rescue you from the miseries of life? Many a times times, we’re sure. Have you never declared that your strict single teacher is forever disgruntled because she couldn’t convince a man to take her hand in marriage? We might think of ourselves as liberal, independent people who don’t judge people, but deep down, we’re part of this highly judgmental patriarchal society and have internalized stereotyping, discrimination, and misogyny.

So if Besharam makes ‘model’ sound like a derogatory term or treat marriage as the ultimate goal of life, then we should probably look around us instead of criticizing the television show which only reflects our society’s reality.

Then again, there’s only so much that the audience can digest (especially if the drama serial is facing an identity crises). Besharam was supposed to highlight the classist attitude of our society and its negative repercussions (at least that’s what we gathered from the promos), but all it has achieved to do is glorify misogyny, marriage, and alpha males.

Farooq Rind – the director of the show – and Sarwat Nazir – the writer – hoped to break stereotypes with Besharam and showed that a ‘model’ is not a bad person. And how did they do that? By turning her into a stay-at-home wife who loves to cook and clean for her husband. Okay so how does this help break the stereotype?

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There is nothing wrong in being a house wife, but why are we being fed the concept that ‘cooking and cleaning for your husband’ is synonymous to ‘respectable woman’? Why can’t ours shows portray independent working as ‘respectable’? Also why rich modern girls must always be shown as selfish beings?

In Besharam, Saba Qamar’s character – Michelle - transforms from a rude, outspoken, confident person into this meek, forgiving being as soon as she shifts from her house in Defence to a middle class neighbourhood after getting married (on national television) to an alpha male (Haider).

As per the writer, the person (Haider), who was emotionally unstable enough to marry on a live current affairs show, is the ultimate hero because he was able to ‘tame’ the wild thing that is Mishi – the model. It will take us a while to digest this startling revelation.

These are a few of the multiple disturbing things that Besharam is slowly feeding into our minds. It is pertinent to look at five times when Farooq Rind’s show actually did more bad than good because it is one of the most highly rated shows these days which means our audience is gobbling up all the misogyny and stereotyping without even questioning it!

Turning a model into a housewife

If Besharam wished to actually break the stereotype that models are OTT bimbos then they should’ve let Mishi continue modelling. It was highly disconcerting to hear Saba Qamar deliver dialogues like, “Lekin ab tou meine modelling bhi chor di hai”; as if this is the cure to all their miseries. Michelle AKA Mishi should’ve stuck to her career and proved that she is as respectable and sane as any other woman around her.

Read: Five reasons why we're looking forward to 'Besharam'

One might die of Bachelor-itis

Hamna – Mishi’s sister in law – loses her fiancé because her brother (Haider) decides to marry a ‘model’. Sigh. That’s not it, she continues to live a disgruntled bachelor life because her Bhabhi was once a model and also Hamna cannot seem to get over her weakling of a fiancé because bachpan ki mangni!

One of the biggest issues in Besharam is ‘Hamna ki shaadi’ and yes, marriage is considered one of the most important institutions in our society, but it is about time our drama serials downplayed marriage and focused more on showing intelligent women who are not sitting idly in their home waiting to get married. Hamna needs to get a life! She needs friends and a career and it is really upsetting that Sarwat Nazir didn’t give her any!

Jeans equals to ‘Haww haye’

Moreover, all Mishi needs to do to get rid of Hamna’s probable suitors is wear a pair of jeans and light a cigarette oh-so-casually in front of them. Well, smoking – especially by women – is considered a taboo in Pakistan (and since it’s injurious for health we’d like it to remain that way), but we’re confused what the makers were trying to show.

Did they try to give out a message that don’t judge a book by its cover? But every book (woman) should, and does, have a choice to decide what kind of cover (clothes) she wishes to adorn. I apologise for the weird analogy, but wearing western clothes should not be equivalent to ‘asking for trouble’ or rejection in this case.

We do give credit to the makers for letting Mishi wear her pyjamas and tees (because it would’ve been quite unnatural to suddenly see her go all eastern) except for that one scene where her off-shoulder top was used as a weapon to ward off unwanted probable in-laws.

Read: HIP Talk: "I'm unafraid," says Zahid Ahmed

Respect is only for the middle class

According to Besharam, if you are a woman and happen to be rich then you must be a brazen one - who loves to be in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Case in point is the character played by Atiqa Odho; she goes from having multiple affairs with rich men to living a lonely life in her mansion, all because she belongs to the upper class and has nothing better to do like make chai!

Meanwhile, the middle class family is too good to be true. In a recent turn of events, they even turned down an offer of a furnished house because “one should only accept what they have worked for” and Haider clearly hasn’t worked hard enough to be awarded a fully furnished house by his boss (Asfand). Who does that? No one turns down incentives unless it is a matter of life and death!

Politics is a complete ‘no no’

Well, yes it is. We are yet to see a sane political leader in Pakistan, but why must Besharam gather all these stereotypes and bombard us with them every Tuesday?

Again, the drama serial started on the note that Haider is a different man. He’s the man who cares for his community and would do anything to give them their rightful place in society. But as soon as he actually enters politics, he marries a woman on live television, dreams of spoiling his family rotten in a mansion, and in the coming episode he will go ahead and take credit for excavating his wife (Mishi) out of the dark world of modeling and transforming her into a so-called respectable woman (read housewife). In short, Haider – who was once a ray of hope for everyone around him – has morphed into a typical politician who’ll do anything (for example, disrespect his wife) to increase his vote bank.

Our question to Farooq Rind, Sarwat Nazir, and the producers of Besharam is, that if you actually had to strengthen these stereotypes – such as models are bad women, politics can turn you evil, rich people are mean, and marriage is of utmost importance – then why go through the trouble of making a drama serial? We, as a society, believe all these things to be true. Give us a story which breaks these stereotypes and encourages us to broaden our horizons instead of further restricting them.