How Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah managed to make a "popat" out of us all
India is country which has a wide variety of cultures, religions and beliefs. Despite all the differences, one thing that unites us all is our common experience of sitting in front of the TV after a long day of school or work, exactly at 8:30pm while eating dinner. "Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah" a show which is loved by the entire nation and even after 12 years, it's still one of the most talked about shows. It won't be an exaggeration if I said watching Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah is almost like a tradition in Indian household. The immense amount of joy and comfort we felt growing up while watching this show is indescribable.
One of the biggest praises Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah has gotten is how "relatable" the show is to the everyday struggles of real people. "Relatable". It's true, everything that happens in this show is relatable, why else would Daya Ben be so loved by everyone? She's the ideal wife, mother & daughter-in-law who cooks & cleans without making a simple complaint. Her husband, Jethalal, calls her dobi, non-sense, "bewakoof aurat" & Daya tolerates it all. I see why she is so idolised in our society. Our society which praises women when they make sacrifices and live for her family, but if a woman puts herself as her first priority, she is labelled "bossy" "spoiled" and so much more. Let's take a look at other characters of TMKOC. Sonu, the only girl in Tapu Sena, she is mature & smart member of the team. All the boys do such mischievous things but she always knows better, because women are always supposed to be the smart ones and be the bigger person in the room right?
The Gokuldham Society has people from Punjab, Chennai, Gujarat & many other states, but have you ever noticed the harmful stereotypes it pushes? Sodhi, a Punjabi Man, is a mechanic who has a very short temper, he wants to drink alcohol everyday and do bhangra. Jethala, a gujarati man who has a shop which he calls "bijness". Iyyer, a tamilian who is a very brainy scientist & loves idli sambar. Daya, a gujarati, who wants to do garba all the time. And obviously, the token muslim character, Abdul, who has a general store right outside the society. He is close with every Gokuldham society member but does not live in the society though, he works & live OUTSIDE the society.
These are just the basics of how TMKOC team has managed to support these stereotypes. Everytime Iyyer comes on screen, the sound "ayi ayi yo" comes on & "balle balle" when Sodhi comes. And obviously, the constant jokes of how Iyyer isn't good enough for Babita, which are based on colorism.
Throughout the show's history, time-to-time it has promoted racial, region & gender based stereotypes. Stereotyping refers to a fixed and overgeneralized belief about a particular group of people based on their gender, race or religion. People might say things like, “I don’t stereotype anyone based on their appearance,”......the truth is that everyone does it. Our brain creates mental shortcuts as a way to help us rapidly respond to situations based on past experiences, thus leading to stereotypes, and these shortcuts are generalizations and are never accurate representation of an individual or group. Bad representation is equivalent to no representation. These portrayals that are constantly reinforced in television, advertisement or any other form of media, it shapes public views & attitudes towards those communities. And stereotypes eventually leads to discrimination.
We are currently living in 2021. These discriminatory behaviour should've never existed in the first place but yet here we are, still living in it. The biggest privilege our generation has is the constant access to knowledge. We are the generation that is meant to bring change in our society and the first step is to acknowledge these harmful stereotypes and their potential damage. One should be open to having conversations regarding racial and gender discrimination, educate oneself & monitor the thoughts and behaviour so as to create a safe environment for every person, irrespective of their gender, religion or race.