Societal Themes and Media Essay

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Societal Themes and Media

Several different themes, narratives and ideas of the society are taken up by the media and presented to the masses in many different ways. In some cases, the purpose behind this adaptation is pure entertainment, meanwhile in the other cases; the media tries to put forth a message for the population[footnoteRef:1]. Media has the potential to positively as well as negatively affect the thought process of the people pertaining to any story, theme or narrative[footnoteRef:2]. In this paper, the theme or concept of having a fair skin, as a key to all kinds of success, in the Indian subcontinent and South Asia shall be discussed in its relationship with the media. [1: Barthes and Lavers 1972] [2: Eco 1982]

The preference of fair skin in the subcontinent- An Overview

Color has always created issues in the society. When we talk about the West, we can see the trials and tribulations that the African-Americans went through, and are still going through in some parts of the world, because of their dark skin color. White skin color has always been considered to be a sign of superiority in the West. As we move towards the east, and particularly South Asia, the preference of white skin is seen yet again.

For as long as media has existed, be it the print, electronic or the social media, the theme of fair skin has always been projected in the societies of the sub-continent. Girls are judged on the basis of their skin color, and needless to say the one who is fairest skinned is considered to be the epitome of beauty, no matter how good or bad of a person she is from the inside. It is expected that this girl will have the most friends when she goes to school, she will get a good job on the basis of her looks, and she will also end up getting married to a prince charming. On the other hand, if a girl is born with a darker skin tone, she is thought to be doomed for this life at least. This concept crept into the society without many people realizing that it will form such strong footings in the minds of the people. The idea of a fair skin as the key to every kind of success has become so common that people no more consider it to be something bizarre. However, this is extremely wrong on every basis of human equality rights. No one, on the basis of the skin at least, should be preferred for a better job or a better position. Moreover, women want to bring fair skinned wives for their husbands, because fair skinned girls are considered to be beautiful by them. Even most of the males of the subcontinent society believe that the girl who is fair skinned is beautiful, and therefore they want a fair wife[footnoteRef:3]. [3: Stuart 2011]

Media has a crucial role to play when it comes to playing games with the minds and psyche of the people. One of the main reasons why fair skin is considered to be such big of a deal in societies of this part of the world is that this is how it has been shown in the media. Every other advertisement that is telecasted on a channel of the subcontinent is about a fairness cream. Millions of formulas have been introduced, and every large and small cosmetic company has gone out to produce fairness creams, while some also offer money back guarantee. It is not that the cosmetic companies should produce or advertise such products, but the way they are being advertised is what is causing the problem. These ads are quite cliche according to the content that is shown. It is mostly depicted that there is a dark skinned girl, who is a loner, no one likes her because of her skin color, and she does not get a good job, and is unable to find a match for herself. Then one day, one of her friends suggests one of these 'beauty creams' to her, after which she started winning at life because now has a fair skin. This only makes the girls feel, especially the teenage young girls that they will not be successful in life unless they use one of these creams, or unless they become fair for that matter.

Another aspect of this projection is also seen in the television shows and movies that are aired in the subcontinent. It is shown that girls who are fair skinned and skinny get better matches, and are generally able to do pretty well with almost everything. Through such shows, the message that gets across the masses is that fair skinned is something that is extremely essential for leading a successful life.

The issue of light skin among girls has always been there in the subcontinent, and it will be safe to say that it has ruined many lives in one or the other, however this issue has also started surfacing among the young males of the region, and that too because of media depiction. The cosmetic companies are also now producing products for men; yes fairness products for men. The idea of men being light skinned and more handsome is now creeping into the society. The same tricks are played with the minds of the males, as that of the females. Through the ads, and other television shows, it is shown how fair skinned men are likely to get better look wives than their dark skinned counterparts. Since the concept is new, it has yet not become as prevalent in the society as that of girls being fair skinned. However, it can be said that in the future, this will also become one of the big issues of the society.

The purpose of this paper is to explore how media has played its role in making the theme of fair skinned girls, and boys for that matter, as superior humans. We shall discuss how this concept has the potential to affect the psychology of the people of this region, and why it is about time to bring about some solid change in the thinking of the young generation.

The Power of Media

Media has great powers. The power of media can never be underestimated. Media has the power to control the minds of the people. This is one of the main reasons why it is extremely important for us to make sure that what is being shown through the media will not lead to the development of adverse emotions of any sort among the population. Media is the one channel through which the masses can be affected. Be it the social media, print or electronic media, people will always be affected to what is being shown in the television shows, movies, and advertisements. The standards that are set by the media is what becomes the standards of the people.

To explain the power of media to control the behaviors and attitudes of the people, we shall consider the example of smoking in this part of the paper. Needless to say, smoking was considered to be the American culture that was widely accepted at one point in time. Through movies and television, it was also glamorized. This glamorization led to many people taking up smoking. However, when the medical conditions associated with smoking start to worry the health professionals and the local population, mass media campaigns have been run over the past 30 years in order to educate the people about the hazards of smoking and in order to motivate them to give up this habit. This mass media campaign lasted for about more than 30 years, unless it produced substantial results. As of now, millions of Americans have given up smoking, their attitude towards cigarettes and tobacco has changed, and they realize that they can end up having severe medical conditions if they continue smoking. Smoking has also been made illegal in most public places of the country, thanks to the media campaign[footnoteRef:4]. [4: Hanna and Rohm et al. 2011, 265 -- 273]

Another example that can be considered here is the use of safety seatbelts while driving on the highway. This is another example of the power of media to affect the behaviors and attitudes of the people. Since Vince and Larry, the American public was introduced to the Crash Test Dummies in the year 1985. After that, the use of safety belts has increase from being 14% to 79%, and it is estimated that it resulted in about 85,000 lives being saved.

From Smokey Bear ("Only you can prevent forest fires") and pollution awareness ("Keep American Beautiful"), to drunk drinking and crime prevention, there are thousands of examples that demonstrate the power of media to influence the culture of a particular region or the society. Therefore, the culture of fair skinned girls being better than their dark skinned counterparts needs to be changed. Just like how this theme has become so prevalent…

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