On this Women’s Day, the entertainment industry may promise to do away with outdated character stereotypes.

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(Photo: Pooja Bhatt, Alia Bhatt, Karan Johar

Around the time of Women’s Day, there are a tonne of articles, memes, and social media posts declaring what women need, desire, and most importantly, how they ought to be treated. Businesses and brands go into overdrive with promotions and deals that entice ladies to treat themselves to a little shopping therapy.

Nevertheless, if you look at movies, television, and even OTT entertainment, it appears that not much has truly changed. Unquestionably, progress has been achieved, but in honour of International Women’s Day, the entertainment industry might promise to do away with outdated character stereotypes by the year 2023.

A female actor playing the love interest or unimportant sidekick to a male actor simply never goes out of style. Stars come and go. Aside from Gangubai Kathiawadi, most of the successful films last year such as RRR, Kantara, Brahmastra and KGF 2 were male-dominated storylines with female characters suffering at the periphery of the story. Women performers, some of them A-list celebrities like Alia Bhatt, took on roles that were dreadfully underwritten or irrelevant to the story of the movie. Women need to quit showing up in men’s and men’s lives on screen as cameos. It is urgent to put an end to the sidekick syndrome.

Matrimonial martyr

When the daily soap became a great craze, I was 15 years old. The names Tulsi, Parvati, and Prerna became well-known, and suhaag, sindoor, and sorrow were frequently associated with the programming on Indian television. Sadly, the daily soap’s protagonist only ends up becoming a matrimonial martyr, despite the fact that she at least expressed professional objectives in the premiere ads. Shape-shifting naagins and poisonous mothers-in-law still stalk small screens, gleefully watching as the bahu drowns in a swirl of tears, clutching her mangaltura like a life raft, even two decades after they first rose to fame. Could 2023 be the year when women on television stop basing their lives around the husbands they have? Marital martyrs are now 20 years too old.

Successful cautionary tale

Audiences had high hopes that things will turn out differently this time when OTT services first emerged.

The edgy girl

She has piercings, coloured hair, tattoos, a troubled past, and she may still be hiding in the closet. None of these traits are incorrect or deserving of criticism; the issue arises when they are combined to create a brand-new stereotype. A female character’s beauty and the severity of her kohl are often employed in various OTT shows to hint to her sexual orientation or to suggest that she is facing ghosts from her past.

Unsettlingly, within the course of a few months in early 2020, three different Netflix shows—Guilty, She, and What the Love—all featured child sexual abuse as a background story. Though the physical and psychological abuse of women is an issue that needs to be addressed, and we could always do with more representation in content, neither of these issues should be undermined by turning them into convenient backstory devices or tropes to make the character ‘interesting’, ‘edgy’ or ‘modern’.
Women’s Day

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