That Framework is so 1980s

October 16, 2008

One last TV/ pop-sociology post, and then I’m done with the topic for a long, long time.

So lala-yuppie-hippie is one framework of classification which separates different shows on TV. But then there are shows which are 100% hippie. And then they sub-classify their characters using some different framework. For example Mind Your Language and it’s Indian ripoff Zabaan Sambhal Ke differentiated characters using national/ regional stereotypes.

These days my cousin and aunt fight over the remote. This is because my aunt wants to watch the aforementioned Radha ki Betiyaan yada yada while my cousin wants to watch Miley Jab Hum Tum, which is  Both are on at the same time. What follows is an attempt to use words to describe the unspeakable horror of Miley Jab Hum Tum.

The unspeakable horror arises because the six main characters (three guys and three girls, of course) are built around stereotypes. This in itself is not a bad thing, but:

  1. There is zilch character development beyond the stereotypes
  2. The stereotypes are incredibly old and boring.

There are two different stereotype frameworks which have been used. The characters are students in college and are doing the incredibly hippie course Media Studies. (Must… resist… temptation… to sidetrack into the fascinating recursion of characters on television studying about television.)

So the three male leads have been stereotyped into playboy-nerd-dweeb.Playboy-nerd-dweeb was of course a wonderfully fresh and useful classification back in a) the 1960s b) America, when Archie Comics was at its peak. Considering that this classification doesn’t really exist in India, and that even in America teen demographics have split into goths, emos, geeks, and suchlike, why is it being used on Indian television?

The framework stereotypes used for the female leads are as stale, but at least the framework used here is Indian and not quite as old. The female leads have been split into rich bitch, behenji-turned-mod, and behenji. The rich bitch spends all her time trying to humiliate the behenji and behenji-turned-mod, who are sisters from Morena. (By the way, the Wikipedia entry on Morena is a hilarious rant on Tomar victimhood and the wickedness of Jats. In case it’s brought to a Neutral POV by the time you’re reading this, here’s the permalink to the current revision).

But yeah. So the entire premise of the serial is that people from small towns are uncool, people who’re interested in studies can’t dance, people who dance aren’t interested in studies, and that being an idiot is funny. This could of course have worked back in the 1980s, but the stereotypes are so old by now that there’s nothing left to do with them. Naturally, this makes the serial excellent junk/ comfort food for the brain.

Right, people, that closes my pontifications about TV, pseudosociological classifcations, and the like. We now return to our regular arbit fundaes.

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Bombay to Bangkok

January 20, 2008

I saw the 2130 show at Rex on Friday night because I didn’t want to endure the traffic on the way home. It turned out to be well worth it.

The hero of the movie is a cook who is on the run from a gangsta-rapper mafioso. He gives him the slip by impersonating a urologist in a medical relief camp in Thailand. He then falls in love with a Prostitute with a Heart of Gold who tells him to keep his morality off her body. Such joy. Oh, and the sidekick is a sardar called Rash.

While I am delighted that the fabulosity of urologist-based humour is being recognised by mainstream storytellers, I am also miffed at losing the first-mover advantage. A month ago, Kodhi and me had decided that it was essential to have a urologist as a recurring character in our sitcom when we got down to making it. Now we’ve been pipped to the post by Nagesh Kukunoor.

The really worrying bit is that fundaes cascade in Indian entertainment. One guy uses a funda, and two months later it pops up in five different movies and TV serials. The most painful example has to be when J-First started calling The Consultant Formerly Known As Gandyman Jignesh. For a year nothing happened. Then Jigneshes started popping up everywhere. There was a Jignesh in Guru. There was a Jignesh in Honeymoon Travels. And while Jignesh did get established as the archetypal Gujew name, J-First lost its exclusive ownership of the Jignesh concept. I fear a similar thing may happen to urologist jokes.

That aside, the movie is to be commended for faithfully sticking to the standard romantic comedy framework. The lead pair makes out after being imperiled, they fight at the eighty-percent point of the movie, and they make up at the climax. The only minor deviation is that the moment of truth and not the make up happens at an airport terminal, but that is okay.

What is saddening is that the movie failed to make use of all possible Thai stereotypes. It brought in massage parlour workers, Buddhist monks, laughing Buddha statues, tuk tuks, and fried locusts, but mysteriously left out ladyboys. Tragic. It came so close to perfection.

The best part of the movie, though, came after actually watching it. An IMDb search for Lena Christensen eventually led to the Wiki page for SARS Wars. Now this is a movie that I have to watch:

Thailand’s leading health official, Public Health Minister Ratsuda, declares Thailand free of the SARS virus and that Thailand’s superior technology and medical research will prevent the disease from occurring in the kingdom.

However, far away in Africa, there has been an outbreak of a mutant Type 4 strain of the SARS virus, which causes sufferers to turn into bloodthirsty zombies when they die. A hornet carrying the virus from Africa is hit by an airliner and lands in Thailand. It flies into the open window of a farang driving a Volvo and stings the man on the back of his neck. The man becomes patient zero in the outbreak of SARS 4. He returns to his apartment building and infects others in his building. Among the zombified creatures is a giant Burmese python named Albert.

Meanwhile, Catholic schoolgirl Liu is kidnapped by a gang led by a transvestite named Yai, who dressed as a sexy woman in a bikini and used a furry as a distraction. Liu’s father, an influential businessman, does not wish to involve the police, so he turns to his old friend Master Thep. Thep, injured from his last outing, assigns his stop student swordsman, Khun Krabii, to rescue Liu.

I love foreign cinema.