A while back, I was watching a morning-show when one of the guests on the show compared two very famous morning show hosts to Oprah Winfrey and called them the Oprah Winfreys of Pakistan.
The next minute, I was cleaning the tea I had spilled on the table. As much as I wish with all my heart that, that statement was true but unfortunately those two morning show hosts are not even an close of what Oprah Winfrey is all about.
For starters, Oprah Winfrey show does not have ‘Wedding Weeks’. Yes, weddings are an integral part of our culture, we are a nation which loves festivals and celebrations and marriage is a beautiful bond but that being said it does not mean that being unmarried is a disease or a taboo. Morning shows have an anti-dote for this ‘disease’ too, just by the way. The ‘matchmaking aunties’ are frequent guests on these shows to conduct ‘workshops’ on how a girl should carry herself and the tray when the potential in laws come to scrutinize her
Pakistani morning shows are on a mission to get the entire nation married before the world ends. It is about time they start to do shows on contraceptives as well before the population of Pakistan has doubled due to the weddings arranged by these shows. Or wait, they cannot really dare to do a show on contraceptives because that would upset us and PEMRA. But why don’t we ever raise a voice against the extravagance showcased on these shows and why does not PEMRA ever object to the crime shows which air forced confessions of alleged criminals? For how long will we continue to pick and choose to condemn or disregard the evils?
The shows portray their tactics of generating maximum revenue as a service to humanity. I have never been able to understand what joy does the couple from an under-privileged household get from watching people from the entertainment industry dance around in expensive couture. By doing all this, the morning shows are just demarcating the line between the rich and poor and making it more obvious than before. Showing the majority of Pakistanis who belong to middle, lower-middle and low classes, almost about everything they cannot afford just creates resentment.
An all-time favorite segment of these shows is about supernatural creatures and spirits and black magic. The morning show hosts ooh and aah every time a different ‘Aalim‘ tries to exorcise someone by sprinkling water on them, cutting lemons, lighting candles etc. It is actually painful to watch this and frustrating at the same time to witness different ‘Babas‘ torture people when in fact all they usually need is a good psychiatrist and therapy!
These shows have also really abused the concept of ‘Oprahfication’, that is, if that is what they try to imitate. While Oprah coined this term to describe public confession as a therapy and talked about various issues in her life, in our morning shows it is the other way around. The morning show hosts never talk about their failures, shortcomings, mistakes and life experiences but they invite people and cash on their misery by shedding a tear or two at their heart-breaking stories. While it has its advantages, we are still not ready for it. Inviting people to confess their secrets and discuss their personal and intimate issues on live television without a psychologist or psychiatrist being present is not only harmful but can have long term effects on the lives of these people as we are a part of an extremely judgmental society .
The morning show hosts are usually very active about speaking against domestic violence and gender-issues. But those issues set aside, what do they have to say about how they let themselves and other females on the morning shows be used as eye-candy? It’s not really hard to get why majority of the morning show hosts are females. A single female host carries the weight of dozen of labels and sponsors. Clothes, shows, make up, accessories and the list goes on. The more, the merrier.
These hosts constantly endorse the view that it is of utmost importance to fit in the society and for that you have to look a certain way. Whereas Oprah showed the world how a black woman with a voluptuous body can look so elegant, beautiful and charismatic only if she believes in herself. Almost every day at least one morning show has a make-up competition, which is fine but what is not okay is when the beauticians apply a foundation ten shades lighter to the model’s skin tone in order to make her look fair. This is very rare though, because most of the models chosen are fair-skinned anyway. What message are they conveying by this?
The most disappointing thing about these shows is the guests who are invited. There are few guests, couples to be specific who are permanent guests. They come, they dance, and they laugh out loud, go on and on about their recent vacation in Dubai or Thailand, gossip about other celebrities, display a lot of public affection and leave. From the guests lists of these shows it almost looks like as if half of the Pakistani nation is a part of the show business and the other half is trying desperately to be a part of it.
How often do we see Pakistanis who have excelled in other fields as guests on these shows? The shows endorse lawn brands but never speak up against the low wages the factory workers are paid. We are told about who wore who at the red carpet but we are never told who won the Booker or the Pulitzer price. Dramas and movies are reviewed and recommended but books are never talked about. Fashion designers, models, actors and singers are treated as if they are gods and goddesses with magical powers but scientists, economists, thinkers, social and human rights activists are never mentioned. Achievements of Dr. Abdu’s Salam, Prof. Atta-or-Raman, Mahbub-ul-Haq, etc. are never recognized and appreciated. They portray the Pakistani woman as a materialistic human being who has no business other than wearing designer clothes, expensive make up and brewing up facial masks in order to look at least ten years younger than her age. Why cannot the average Pakistani woman be portrayed as somebody who wants to fly a plane, be an astronaut, mountain climber or a F1 racer?
The media tries to get away with all this by using the excuse that it is broadcasting what people like to watch. But that is not a legitimate excuse. Yes, people have grown accustomed to watching trash because it’s the only thing that is aired these days. However that does not mean that we Pakistanis love to watch Turkish couples somersault around on our television screens. We are a nation who loved and appreciated 50-50, Angan Terha, Dhoop Kinaray, Loose Talk. We have been shown great things, so I do not know why the media thinks that all we deserve are dubbed foreign dramas and cheesy morning shows.