6 Bollywood Characters You Didn’t Know Were Feminist | FeminismInIndia

My first post for Feminism in India is up here and it’s about two of my favorite topics – badass women and Bollywood! Read the full story here: ‘6 Bollywood Characters You Didn’t Know Were Feminist

============================================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Advertisements

Lust Stories: Wham, Bam And A Thankless Ma’am

This weekend saw the Netflix Originals premier of ‘Lust Stories‘ – a format repeat from the 2013 anthology ‘Bombay Talkies’, with the same four directors, each contributing one story. Let me pause a minute to CRINGE at that name so you can understand why I was expecting something along on the lines of the sleazy Hate Story franchise. Happily, it wasn’t all that bad. None of the stories are titled so I’ll refer to each one by its respective director.

Anurag Kashyap‘s tale was a moody character sketch of a woman just like most of his films. I disliked her then I related to her and finally I accepted her – echoing my experience of every Kashyap film I’ve seen. This story assumed female lust and agency as a fact. If we embrace those, then this is the most nuanced depiction of a woman and her desires since the arthouse period of Rekha, Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi films. The introspection-by-4th-wall-breaking was really annoying but it added a certain relatable flavour to the central character, making her a human being with her irritating quirks, rather than an ephemeral nymph/predatory cougar. She is both and she’s more. I had a ‘Shabd‘ flashback but given that Kashyap took forward the sexual politics of the situation and gave it a woman’s voice, I think this movie stands as the best of the Lust Stories.

Zoya Akhtar‘s story was a lot like her tale in Bombay Talkies – a simplistic, privileged view of middle class India that still charmed because it stopped short of preaching. Just short. This story was less about female lust and rather labored the point of women being sex objects for men. It didn’t say anything we haven’t heard before and served as a neat filler sandwiched between two intense (and good) stories. I do want to clap for Bhumi Pednekar’s performance in this film. I counted exactly one dialogue by her in the whole story(“Saale nange”). All the rest is lingering gazes, a trembling hand, a stuck breath and it is everything that is good in this film.

Dibakar Banerjee‘s film was my favorite in the lot because of the character nuance. The story explored male vulnerability and fragility with sensitivity. But female lust was the subtext of this movie rather than its central point. This is a story about male emotions rising around and (partly) manipulated by the female object. The Wikipedia page of the film only describes Lust Stories as being about lust. But given that the promos only feature the female characters, one is led to assume that they are about female lust – wherein this one doesn’t fulfill the brief. Manisha Koirala as this seniormost actor (even if a faded one) in this entire anthology rocked even her straitjacketed part, moving from a Waheedaesque Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna nymph to a throwback to her Akele Hum Akele Tum sorrowful self. The one lovemaking scene in this film pans on her smiling indulgently and sorrowfully as her lover grinds (with tears) above her. It captured the entire essence in a story that should have been about her, rather than the men that she happens to.

Karan Johar‘s story was the big disappointment. No surprises there since his story in ‘Bombay Talkies’ was the weakest too. What a mercy that time, his plotline arrived at the end. It felt too much like a discarded script for a Hollywood movie, hastily cobbled into Indian context. Mile high club fantasies and casual usage of dildos in college libraries? Nope, not smalltown/lower middle class India at all. Even the comic relief was borrowed from The Ugly Truth (not exactly a great reference point on female empowerment or for that matter, female lust). I got the sense that this part was the ‘moral of the story’ bit where the audience is meant to be informed of the fact that female libidos exist, masturbation is okay and that Indian males are clueless about this fact. Okay, thank you.

All in all, I think ‘Lust Stories’ was a nice enough watch. It was adequately sensitive without once becoming sleazy. All four stories remained in the realm of believable (though the realm had to be very elastic in some cases). And yes, India needs more stories like these. We’re a country of a billion people who gave the world Kamasutra but are terrified of the thought of orgasms or masturbation, especially on-screen.

================================================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

If You Won’t Let Us Laugh, Someday We’ll Make You Cry

I watched ‘Veere di Wedding’ today. Don’t worry, this is not a review. The film is getting enough of hatred on social media to inspire enough curiosity in you to watch it. There is uproar over the swearing, the drinking, the raucous laughter, the sex talk. Everyone and their grandmother is horrified.

I’ll give away no spoilers and just say, I loved every minute of the film. And now I’m cueing up ‘Gone Girl’ on streaming as a nighttime watch. Me, who shudders at the thought of Bollywood horror films and basic slashers — I enjoyed the story of the sociopath and I will gladly watch it again. At night. You know why?

Because it gives me a sense of vindication, of justice even. I won’t talk about ‘Veere di Wedding’. Let’s talk about ‘Gone Girl’ instead. Why did so many women LOVE it? Because every single one of us has identified with the feeling of doing so much, being so much and still being edited and worse — invisible.

What does that mean? It means we don’t exist the way men exist — as people. We exist like a 24 x 7 customer service operation that must seamlessly and boundlessly cater to the male gaze, the male need, the male ego, the male everything. We don’t even get paid for it, let alone acknowledged. And any sign of our own humanity comes with severe, very severe consequences. What consequences, you say? Slut-shaming, body-shaming, single-shaming, rape culture, violence against women, silencing of women, mansplaining, manspreading. To name just a FEW.

I could not see a single reason any reasonable human being would dislike ‘Veere di Wedding’. It was funny, it was frothy, it was glossy and it was entertaining. It made a few digs at the expense of men’s glaring flaws but you didn’t REALLY believe that we never talk about you, did you? Wait, you did? Then why is the Bechdel test even needed? Literally that if two women can have even one conversation on screen that is not about a man, it passes. So few films do. So clearly we’re expected to yap about men only all the time. Did you think we wouldn’t complain or joke about you? HA!

Curiouser still, didn’t you all really enjoy ‘Hangover’? How about ‘Pyaar ka Punchnama’, that gut-sucking punch to every woman on the planet? That looooooooong diatribe against the entire female race that all of you liked so much, it’s practically a viral poem on Youtube now. ‘Veere di Wedding’ didn’t have even a third of all that. The ‘motherlover’ line? What, now we’re not supposed to tell the truth? You do worship your darling momma, don’t you and wish every other woman was more like her? It’s called The Oedipal complex and all she was doing was stating that. I guess we should leave personsplaining to the men.

But never mind all that. Clearly you can’t handle women’s laughter. But want to know what happens when you suppress her natural positive instincts? ‘Gone Girl’ is what happens. It’s when this woman wakes up one day and realises that this life is shit and it really is so much better without you. She runs everything of course, without credit and with all the harassment and silencing. Why does she need to carry your sorry-ass as well?

Sure, call her a sociopath like Amy. After all, what was Amy but someone who loved Nick very, very much? Yes, that is wrong. You certainly don’t deserve it.

================================================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Madonna’s ‘Bad Girl’ – Feminist Or Not?

If you didn’t grow up in the 90s, you may not have seen this video.

Indeed, you may never have experienced the phenomenon that was Madonna. Madonna was such an important reference in pop culture at the time, not necessarily because she was that talented but because of how she represented boundary-breaking of the time. Of course, she’d be a feminist icon of a sort.

I want to run this video/song through the feminist lens. I’m skipping her bigger hits like Erotica, Like A Virgin and others in favour of this one primarily because I lived through the lifetime of this song. MTV had just come to India, when this song came on air. The glossy frames, the shocking sexuality, the unusual sounds — these marked the 90s when I was growing up, discovering who I wanted to be, what I believed in and who I was going to become. I saw this song sneak into the ‘New Releases’ and then creep up the charts to hit Number 1 on the Billboard Top 20. I knew the lyrics by heart (not from an internet site because they didn’t exist in those days) but because it was played so often.

Let’s start with the title ‘Bad Girl’. You don’t see that term get used very often these days, especially to denote what it did at that time. The video and the song lyrics are a perfect illustration of what was considered a Bad Girl.

Bad girl, drunk by six
Kissing someone else’s lips
Smoked too many cigarettes today
I’m not happy when I act this way

Alcohol, sex and cigarettes — the unholy trifecta that made a woman ‘bad’. You can see this attitude in India’s reactions to ‘modern women’ today, well represented by the backlash faced by Vogue’s ‘My Choice’ video starring Deepika Padukone.

At the time, it felt like the song was trying to reclaim personhood for a girl who did these things, with pride. At least, that’s what you’d expect from the woman who told us, “Express Yourself” with the following lyrics:

Long stem roses are the way to your heart but
He needs to start with your head
Satin sheets are very romantic
What happens when you’re not in bed
You deserve the best in life
So if the time isn’t right then move on
Second best is never enough
You’ll do much better baby on your own

Don’t go for second best baby
Put your love to the test you know, you know you’ve got to
Make him express how he feels and maybe
Then you’ll know your love is real

Express yourself

But ‘Bad Girl’ showed that same girl seemingly in regret over those choices. In the video, she goes from man to man, waking up and walking through the day with a gnawing sense of emptiness and lights a cigarette, swigs some booze ending in,

“I’m not happy when I act this way.”

I never fell into addictions the way popular culture did and still predicts women like these will meet their end in. But those addictions represent a certain hollowness under the victory. And that definitely resonates.

Let’s go back to the video. Even as a teenager, I was creeped out by the strange dude watching her without her knowledge. I assumed he was a stalker (though we didn’t know the word at that time since in Bollywood, that just meant The Hero). He watched her at work, he watched her cry, he watched her drink too much, have sex with strangers, do the walk of shame, wash her panties. It seemed like he disapproved. And then after she died, she joined him on his rooftop perch. As they watched her dead body being taken away, he passed her a cigarette, which she looked to him for approval and then took. The End.

That really, really confused me. Was Madonna trying to say that she was giving up her independent thinking and succumbing to the system (patriarchy, I know that now)? Did the Man conquer her, quite literally to death while also rubbing her subversions (alcohol, cigarettes and sex) in her face?

Years later, I read that the man was supposed to be her guardian angel. Ah. That made the eerie hovering in the air, the weird dancing without music, the hanging out outside her window and watching her have sex make more sense.

It’s very possible that the story was about encountering the isolation that happens to a woman who goes against societal norms and her succumbing to it. As a woman who is struggling in a life just like that, I don’t judge this at all. There is no shame in succumbing to a system that is horribly biased against us. Any woman that has failed after trying to subvert the system, is actually dying with honour, after putting up a good fight. That’s feminist.

Watching the video in 2018 made me think the point would have been made a lot better by showing a woman as her guardian angel. Yes, that would have been dangerously close to cliche — the fairy godmother trope. But the guardian angel protects and guides. What would the guardian angel of such an independent, strong human being do to provide value? They would empathize rather than judge.

The one thing any strong woman flying solo needs and lacks is just that. It’s not money or fame or material wealth — she earns it all without needing to pander to men. It’s not self-esteem — she’s learning to manage that too. It’s not motivation, not protection — she’s self sufficient. What she lacks, what we all miss is empathy. As subversive women, the world (even those who claim they are not outright against us) withold empathy. “But you are a strong woman!” they say deeming the need for empathy to be weakness.

I know I don’t absolutely need a boyfriend or husband. I can go without sex, possibly even for the rest of my life. I have taken a stand completely alone more than once so I know I don’t need the numbers. But the crucial difference between a happy life and a well-appointed one is this — empathy from the world. I have none of it. And that is what I would expect a guardian angel, if they existed, to provide.

The man in the video shows not an iota of empathy. He embodies disapproval and judgement. The only touch of softness in his demeanor comes seconds before he knows she’s going to be killed — as he kisses her and then looks at her. With pity, not empathy. Such a male thing. I think a woman would have translated that nuance a lot better. And the whole video would have looked very different.

So that’s that — my feminist analysis of Madonna’s ‘Bad Girl’. If you liked this, drop me a comment and I’ll do more. Well, I’ll do more anyway. But if you have a specific music video or story or film or any other pop culture reference you’d like to see me put through the feminist filter, comment letting me know and I’ll give you a shoutout when I do.

==============================================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Lowest Priority Box

Last week, I drew a line and said,

“I’m done. No more. Goodbye.”

I have lived through the dreadfulness of limbo, the sheer callousness of men who will not spend a minute reflecting on their feelings. And you know what? It is just not that important any more. 2017 wrecked such a heavy toll on me that I gave up (the last time I did this was in 2000). In my resigned surrender, something happened. I gave up the faith that the world of men has anything good for me.

I have not stopped feeling. But this feeling, this unresolved mess sits in an Odds & Ends box that is lowest priority in my life. Like most women, I have always prioritised the romantic relationship over everything else – my health, my career, my dreams, my ambitions, my family and friendships. I am done.

The person I’ve drawn that line for has made feeble attempts to get me to revoke it. Too little, too late – do men really not understand that this can become a thing? No, I guess they don’t. How could they, when their entire lives are taken up by their immediate demands? There is no room for anybody else or situational realities.

I say this with no hatred and all the resignation in the world. There is no point prioritising anything over a relationship with a man. That’s too big a gamble and guess what? The house of patriarchy always wins. I’m declaring a truce with male commitment-phobia, fuccboiness, mama’s boy syndrome, Madonna/Whore complexes and all other things male. I can’t eliminate you from this world. I can’t even keep you from entering my life. But I can relegate you to the lowest priority in my universe. Stay in the outhouse with your shit.

I cannot wait to stop wanting altogether. Maybe menopause will bring a pause in men too.

========================================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Stance Podcast: Ep. 17: SXonomics, Modern Mumbai, A Ballet Collaboration with Zakir Hussain, Playwright Natasha Gordon

 

Last month, SXonomics met the Stance Podcast team. Stance Podcast is an independent arts, culture and current affairs podcast exploring diverse, global perspectives. Presented as a transatlantic conversation between broadcasters, Chrystal Genesis in London and Heta Fell in San Francisco, Stance aims to inform, entertain and inspire action.

We met Chrystal and her team on their Mumbai trip, to talk about collaborative performance, sex and gender activism and Mumbai. We are featured alongside our friend Praful Baweja and the podcast also includes stalwarts like Zakir Hussain.

This podcast helped me recontextualise the ideas I and we have been putting out in writing and in performance, within the global framework of important conversations around sex and art. This is tremendously validating and helps move past the misogynist attacks, the microaggressions and everyday hatred that comes my way.

Listen to SXonomics on the Stance podcast ep.17:

//html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/6539723/height/90/theme/custom/autoplay/no/autonext/no/thumbnail/yes/preload/no/no_addthis/no/direction/backward/render-playlist/no/custom-color/000000/

SXonomics is a feminist content producer and a collaboration between Ramya Pandyan and Ishmeet Nagpal. SXonomics is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and SoundCloud. Drop us a note at SXnomics [at] Gmail [dot] com to chat about feminism, patriarchy, LGBTQIA issues, sex and love positivity!

=======================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

SXonomics On The Reproductive Justice Happy Hour Podcast

SXonomics was featured on The Reproductive Justice Happy Hour podcast. Just like SXonomics, TRJHH is also a collaboration between two women, this time cross-continental. The podcast takes on feminist issues as they pertain to desi audiences, in India and the diaspora.

I’d already had a chance to talk to Surabhi a few months earlier and it was a real pleasure. When you live in a world where most people tell you that you are wrong for existing, where your ideas are shouted down and deemed ‘manhater’ (whatever that is, since it is not a real word), conversations like this one come as tremendous relief. It’s a lot like being an allergy sufferer in Mumbai. I don’t even realise how much I struggle to breathe until I visit a place that is cleaner and less polluted. Similarly, these rare conversations make me realise what an effort it is, even to exist in my world. And I am still one of the privileged with an education and living in a city. It’s an uphill task, this fight and I often consider giving up.

But just when I do, a conversation like this comes along. Surabhi got us talking about how SXonomics came to be, our creative process and the work we’ve been doing. But she also got us thinking about female solidarity, about what makes collaborations really work. The last such conversation I had that really grew me, was also related to SXonomics and was with Damini, the first person to interview us and take our story out to the world. Damini pointed out that even our combination-performance weaving music, poetry, comedy and drama together was a feminist statement of a sort.

So I guess I’m having an interesting year, all things considered – a lot of grit but also many, many adventures and unexpected treasures. To listen to SXonomics on The Reproductive Justice Happy Hour, click here: https://soundcloud.com/rjhappyhour/opinionated-women-in-the-house-say-hello-to-sxonomics

“All human interactions are transactional in nature. They may not be currency-based but they are transactions of power, of respect.”

SXonomics is a feminist content producer and a collaboration between Ramya Pandyan and Ishmeet Nagpal. SXonomics is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and SoundCloud. Drop us a note at SXnomics [at] Gmail [dot] com to chat about feminism, patriarchy, LGBTQIA issues, sex and love positivity!

=======================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram

The Menstrual Cup As A Gauge For Wellbeing

The menstrual cup adventures and misadventures continue. It was to be expected. The menstrual system is a complex ones full of intricate levers and pulleys and hormones and what-not. All things considered, it really is an engineering marvel that works pretty much like clockwork for at least 30 years, adapts for pregnancy and sex life. And most of all, given all the different things that go through it, it is a self-cleaning system (a feat I imagine is virtually impossible in the world of machines). So yes, I appreciate my vagina and all things attached to it. The menstrual cup journey has certainly given me a newfound respect for this system that my body comes equipped with.

This has been my menstrual cup timeline so far:

  • July 2015: Started with a firm, medium sized, stemmed SilkyCup. It took me awhile to learn insertion and get comfortable with the cup. But leaks were still happening.
  • June 2016: Switched to a soft, medium sized, non-stemmed SheCup. I thought the leaks may be happening because the previous cup wasn’t unfurling properly. This cup was easier to put in. But it turned inside me a couple of times and once, fell into the toilet bowl when I was trying to get it out. It also leaked.
  • March 2017: Moved to large sized, stemmed WOW Freedom and ALX Care. WOW Freedom is a soft cup while ALX Care is a firm cup. I wanted to see if sizing up would prevent the leaks and after the turnover (turncoat?) cup, I felt safer having a stem. I’ve been using these alternately and have had good experiences with both. No more leaks, no difficulty putting in or removing and the cramps have reduced too.
  • March 2018: Experienced pain for the first time with the WOW Freedom. I was anticipating my period and had a day full of travel so I popped the cup in. I felt like my insides were being sucked in together and this goes beyond unpleasant when you have to endure it for 6 hours through a performance and a panel discussion. I tried it again the next day when I had a less busy day and the same pain persisted. I switched to my old medium sized SilkyCup (my first one). No pain but the leaks began again.
  • April 2018: Went through the whole period with WOW Freedom again. This time though, I inserted the cup while lying flat on my back, the way I used to in the early days. There was no pain throughout the period but there were some minor leaks.

I haven’t had any major physical changes in the past year. I’ve worked out sporadically. My exercise routine has changed from the gym trainer-led machines workout to my own combination of body weight exercises, yoga and cardio. I don’t ache as much, sleep better and eat better, at least when I am working out. As with most other things, I realise I know my body best and I’m best equipped to figure out what it needs.

I’ve lived with allergies, practically my whole life. Food allergies, respiratory allergies, skin allergies — I’ve seen them all. But I’ve learnt to live with them and not just with medication. I know high stress times spark off my attacks. In line with that, it seems logical that my period health would also reflect my internal wellbeing (or lack of it).

The year I spent with an abusive boyfriend, I also had the most painful periods I’ve ever had, which carried on for year after we had parted ways. I’ve always had high pain tolerance but this was excruciating enough for me to faint once. The next time I dealt with problematic periods was 2010–2012, right on schedule alongside another abusive, violent relationship. This time it was weakness, extreme sleepiness, nausea and pain. And the month we broke up, a delayed period as well (which gave him the opportunity to say, “It’s not my problem.”). I think it’s safe to assume my menstrual cycle is a good gauge of how healthy I actually am internally, regardless of what I look like on the outside.

I have been dealing with a lot of heavy emotional issues in recent times. The odd thing is, my period flow hasn’t been heavier or even delayed. But the symptoms vary and perhaps it has impacted my pain tolerance or maybe even my internal measurements. So now I know this happens. This system is a living, thriving being and it mirrors how I feel outside. The menstrual cup is but a tool. It has made it easier for me to understand the variations in my period (not just flow and schedule, which is what most people notice).

This month, I’m glad to say, the period was on schedule, no unforeseen aches, no crippling pain, no unexpected symptoms. I have to figure out how to get through these with zero leaks now. Maybe it’s time to invest in a small sized cup as well for tighter times.

========================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Why Men Need To Get Quiet

Yes, that’s what I said. Yes, all men. Yes, as an entire gender.

Notice how much male-generated noise there is in the world? In politics, in art, in the media, in popular culture, in coffeeshops and bars and drawing rooms and boardrooms and bedrooms. There are more men in the world and they are saying much more. Ergo, they generate more verbal clutter. This is not a gendering accusation. It’s simple statistics.

I ran a small experiment. I looked up the term ‘Silence’ on Pixabay. All the images of people that came up on the first page were of women doing the finger-to-lips gesture. Others were of serene landscapes and peaceful places. Even some animals. But no men. Silence is not an attribute to be associated with men.

On the other hand, when I tried looking up ‘Speak’ on the same site, I found images of frogs, monkeys and men. This was the first picture that had a woman in it. Notice the number of men and their body language in it.

*The first picture featuring a woman in a search for ‘Speak’ on Pixabay

The dating scene, the art beat, the corporate world — these are all rife with men making verbal jumps without caution. Mansplaining, manspreading, constant needless aggression — just what makes an entire gender keep at this, despite all evidence of it only being damaging behaviour? I think it’s because men are constantly being pushed to be the opposite of quiet. The trick is to keep talking, they seem to be told. Let the verbal diarrhoea run, regardless of sense, propriety, reason or consideration. Keep speaking because if you don’t, you will will cease to exist. Doesn’t that explain why trolls and meninists bash on with statements that mean nothing at all? Or why men uniformly descend to aggression, even threats, when they reach a verbal stop? Because when they run out of words, they think their existence is running out unless they keep well, running. Even if they run all over the other person.

Consider this. Women are constantly being pushed to quietness. Silencing by bullying, by harassment, by ridicule, by social convention. Speak softly, speak of small things, speak little or better yet, not at all. In fact, quietness is prized as a virtue in a woman. Do not be a speaker, a thinker, an individual. Be a puzzle, a prize, an object.

If female, be seen, not heard.

By stark contrast, men are NEVER told to be quiet. If a man is quiet, it must be in a hyper-glorified character like Silent Brooder. Or Cryptic Wise Man. Or Damaged (subtext: sexy) Bad Boy. If he cannot pull these off, he can always plead shyness (“Aww, that’s sweet”) or social anxiety (“Here, let me take care of you”). Like being male and being quiet are not simultaneously possible or healthy and efforts must be made to change this situation immediately. His very silence must be turned into a story that screams loud enough to catch the world’s attention.

If male, be HEARD, even if you don’t have anything to say.

That’s a tall order for a gender that science believes is not as good at communication or social skills. Silence may be a female prison but maybe it is also a female prerogative. Some of us rage on about allowing women a voice. The other side of it is to get men to shut up and to let them shut up. We need to teach our men that their existence is not built of words only and that their value goes beyond what comes out of their mouths. 

The one picture I found featuring a man in a search for ‘Silence’ on Pixabay

So please, men, just BE QUIET. Shhh.

===============================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Breaking Up With The RomCom

I have been a fan of romcoms since it became possible for me to choose what to watch. I rejoiced when the Romedy Now channel showed up on my set. A 24 x 7 channel dedicated to funny, hopeful stories, YAY! But of course. The romcom is the fairytale of our times. And it is with a heavy heart that I concede that this so-called ‘modern’ fairytale is just as oppressive and problematic as the Snow White/Rapunzel/Dainty Princess-Prince Charming narrative I was fed as a child.

I find myself wincing during rewatches of films that I loved the first time I saw them. How could I not have spotted that stalker-masquerading-as-hero character? How did I think this entitled mansplainer was an ideal man? What on earth did I find funny about that misogynist tirade?

220px-Hitch_poster

Topping the list is HITCH, a film that I loved for this sassy dialogue and the utterly droolworthy Will Smith. Not to mention its nonchalant diversity (both lead characters being people of colour without the film making a BIG deal out of it). In hindsight though, isn’t it a story of a pick-up artist actually helping other males prey on women using every manipulative technique he can think of? Oh of course, it’s charming Will who ‘actually likes women’. And yes of course, it’s because his heart was broken when he was younger. Notice how that is ALWAYS used to excuse away men’s misogyny on screen? Right down to our desi misogyny frontrunner — PYAR KA PUNCHNAMA.

There’s WHEN HARRY MET SALLY checking off all the boxes on toxic masculinity and utterly horrible relationship models. “A man and a woman cannot be friends because the sex always gets in the way”?

That was being challenged by Bollywood in the 1980s and by (of all people) Salman Khan. Who lost. Not to mention being copied scene-for-scene in the noughties. Down to excusing the male Im-a-screwup-so-love-me storyline. Boo.

Shall we think about female characters? After all, romcoms did follow the chicklit trend of the 90s/00s with women as protagonists. A hot topic was to address ‘her real problems’. Let’s look at how that turned out. We have 27 DRESSES and BRIDGET JONES DIARY to thank for telling us that being single means we are antiseptic martyr/prudes or alcoholic hot messes. Just until the right man comes our way, of course. And even if he’s a stodgy, dull, boring ‘Good Boy’, he kisses like a dream. Ugh, thanks for setting us back on all the sexual empowerment Sex And The City did (the TV show, not the movies but more on that later).

Oh and thanks, MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING for showing women can be ruthless bitches when it comes to not getting what they want. Feminism definitely is about letting us get off the pedestal of being picture perfect. I just wish Julia Roberts’ character hadn’t ended up being shown as the villain. Reverse the genders and the story of a guy who will do anything at all to land the person of his dreams (including lying, seducing an already attached person, gaslighting their significant other)— does that sound like a villain? No, it sounds like Shah Rukh Khan.

Then there’s HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS, an absolutely appalling story even at its time, about two nasty people setting traps for each other. A side character neatly sums up the story in her line, “Sounds needlessly vicious.” A man making a play for a woman to get her to fall for him, so that he can land a client account. A woman torturing a guy with ridiculous behaviour (Apparently this is what women do wrong. Uh no, this is what someone who never learnt how to be a human being does.) so she can write a magazine article about it. What is either funny or romantic about this story? And let’s put that through the gender filter. The story assumes that they’ve each done equal bad to the other. Is that so? Does seducing a person under false pretences compare with interrupting their boys’ night out? Can I get a Hell, #MeToo here?

I won’t bother talking about the Sex And The City movies because I’ve already done so when they each came out. And now here’s a rather disappointing analysis of why romcoms may not be that popular anymore. It’s time for new fairytales. Hey Classic RomCom, you and I are done.

===============================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

%d bloggers like this: