By Shivangi Singh:
Dear Makers of ‘Life Sahi Hai’,
I am writing this letter to describe what I went through while watching the two episodes of your latest, so-called “new age” YouTube series based on the lives of four educated, independent, employed young men living in what seems to be a metro city. Ideally, I should not have had any expectations from the makers of as sexist a movie as ‘Pyaar Ka Punchnama’, but my heart still leaped at the chance of watching a web series created by the same people out of sheer curiosity and with the foolish hope that maybe they were capable of gaining the respect of women viewers as well by at least trying to dish out something less misogynistic. Needless to say, my hopes were crushed and how!
By now, I am sure you would have rolled your eyes, labelled me as a “feminist” and mentally taken a note of ignoring the whole letter. Pay heed, for I am much more than just a feminist. I am your regular Indian girl who has faced rampant sexism and misogyny right from the moment I was born and just like most other Indian girls, I too have fought tooth-and-nail on a daily basis against the shackles of patriarchy that bind our very existence. It is, hence, highly discouraging and even depressing for someone like me, to watch such sheer and blatant objectification of women in what the makers think is ‘humor’ meant for the boys in a ‘comedy show’.
Watching your YouTube series has raised many crucial and pressing questions in my mind. Being bombarded with misogynistic cuss words with sexual innuendos at the rate of three per dialogue was a pretty harsh one to survive. I am sure you felt that it makes the series more “realistic and relate-able” but in my 24 years of life, I have never come across a person who uses as many cuss words in a single sentence. To me, an experienced YouTube viewer, it seemed as if you were trying too hard to make your web series appear ‘cool’ by overusing lingo people resort to in dire circumstances only. I can choose to look beyond the cuss words but what I absolutely will not stand for is the choice you are making by presenting women as objects to be lusted after.
I wonder why the first shots of all the women characters in the show so far (which are: the maid, the boss and the girlfriend) have been their breasts, butt and legs, precisely in that order? Why is it that every time a female character utters any dialogue in your series, you choose to focus the camera on her body instead of her face? What do you have to say about the highly skewed screen time ratio of the women’s breasts, butt and legs combined to that of their faces? Why is it that you do not even care to name your female characters and instead choose to refer them to as “The Maid” and “The Boss”? Why have you failed to develop a strong female character in your web series or are you trying to tell us that men exist in a society where women appear only to provide sexual gratification to men? Why are there almost no dialogues given to your female characters? Most importantly, why is it that a web series promising wholesome entertainment to men focuses only on certain body parts of women, using them as sex objects, selling vulgar and cheap content under the label of ‘hip and cool’, strongly and shamelessly promoting misogyny and sexism and getting away with it? Is this really what all men are like? Is this what they truly like to watch? Is this the kind of comedy that truly makes them laugh? Is lusting after the maid and staring at her breasts all the time really as relate-able for men in India as is showcased by your web series? Is controlling your uninvited and unwelcome sexual advances towards a woman who works for you really as difficult for men as your show portrays? Is sex really the only solution to “cool down” your female boss? Is this how well-educated, earning young members of our society truly behave? If so, I apologize for getting swayed under the influence of #NotAllMen.
“With great freedom comes great responsibility” and you need to understand this. Media is a mirror of the society. It also shapes what is acceptable and sets the norms. Scientific research suggests that the influence of media on human behavior is very strong. Being a film maker, it is your greatest responsibility and duty to ensure good content in your films, which does not promote an environment that harms the society or isolates and harasses a gender. You may have the convenience of not having Pahlaj Nihalani on your back shouting for cuts or a censor board suggesting your series be banned for vulgarity (even though films like ‘Grand Masti’ proudly strut about on the silver screen) but that does not give you the license to promote sexual harassment by glorifying it in various ways. Patriarchy breeds rape culture and what you are showing in your web series influences the youth. Sexism and misogyny are both directly linked to sexual harassment. Through your YouTube series, you are indirectly but very strongly promoting rape culture by strengthening and re-enforcing the sickening patriarchy in our society.
Through this letter, I do not aim to guilt-trip you but merely critique what went horribly wrong with the first two episodes that made my stomach turn! Trust me, I am not exaggerating when I say that watching such gruesome misogyny on YouTube which is supposed to be a progressive media platform, made me sick and wondering whether this is truly how men in my society are, paved the way for worrisome, sleepless nights – as would happen with any individual (regardless of their gender), who cares even a little about the society they live in and the impact sexist shows like yours are creating on it.
I hope you move on to a better brand of humor and find something other than your female character’s breasts to focus on when trying to create a comic situations. More than anything else, I wish you were empathetic enough to realize the pain and struggle associated with being objectified. As a suggestion from one film lover to another, I would highly recommend that you watch this brilliant, eye-opening YouTube series by YRF called ‘Man’s World’. May be this series will inspire you to become a little sensitive towards the gender you so blatantly project as sex objects for the visual gratification of your male audience.
Here’s hoping you receive my message and stop with the morbid sexism, misogyny and objectification in your YouTube series.
A traumatized viewer