A few weeks back, media had two issues in hand, one in the international section, wherein the mass was more interested to know whether Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is really involved in owning the offshore entities and did Amitabh really do it? Another in the regional man-made calamity, for which we were busy counting likes on our philanthropist post!
We did care. We do care. From Poonam Pandey’s gift for team India to Carol Gracias’s wardrobe malfunction, to Deepak Chopra’s quackery…we care. From Rakhi Sawant’s quintessential suggestion to stop suicide, to Sreesant’s IPL spot fixing and how can we forget our famous black buck poacher? Hrithik Roshan and Kangana Ranaut- ex-battle went wrong – and Lalit Modi’s suspension from BCCI – we care! The path on which Oprah started years back, we are following now – the media is simply capitalizing on the grandiosity and celebrity-driven idiocy.
From tabloids to mainstream newspaper publishing houses, they have painted a ‘larger than life’ image of celebrities. All these celebrities are a self-selected group of narcissists with flamboyant and lavish lifestyles, limitless media attention, exuberant paychecks and their constant need for more of it. A majority of their fans and wannabes are largely driven by the outcomes of their lives – that being fame and money.
Let’s get down and dirty…
Do you recall any anti-social behaviour in the timelines of our popular figures? Of course, you do! Not one but several such incidents when our “heroes” got into the dirt.
Take for example when Sanjay Dutt got arrested in April’93 under TADA and the Arms Act for his role in the Mumbai serial blasts. When Shiney Ahuja got arrested for being convicted in a rape case. Amitabh Bachchan alleged of being involved in Bofors scam. These are just a few. Most of them were never given a clean chit. And many-a-times several athletes and renowned sportspersons have confessed to the use of performance enhancing drugs and steroids. These people are constantly under the limelight and their need to maintain certain standards, from the professional to financial sphere, leads to self-harming pathways. Scams, drugs, and their greed for more…we know where it all leads them!
We cannot rebut the burden of stardom. The ‘hero-worshippers’ perceive idols in them. We feel they owe us constantly, since we are praising and feeding their success. Did you too feel betrayed and disillusioned while reading April 3rd’s headlines; Big B as one of the prominent faces from our country on the Panama Papers leak?
We can find out how most of them hit rock bottom, made confessions of their mental illness, drug abuse- these all being part of ‘existential guilt’. They start feeling how they didn’t deserve all that flamboyant lifestyle and that they were ‘mere celebrities’.
But wait, there’s more….
How does media use our vulnerabilities and weakness for the “glamourous life”?
It is a known fact that the white-collar and the blue-collar workers are often the ones to keep up with trends and being ‘fashionable’. They prefer soaps and television to books and journals. They are constantly trying to prove a point and spending extensively on trends and “popular culture” in order to climb the social ladder. This is strata of people that becomes the target audience for the above mentioned media content- giving them a glimpse of their most desired lifestyle through celebrities.
As mentioned earlier, media capitalises on the popular figures, the strategy being very simple and upfront- TRP (Television Rating Points). Defaming celebrities and capitalising on their fame has always been the track record to raise TRP. The reason can be substantiated with another exemplary evidence – A pro-social message that tags along with the fate of a loved character on The Game of Thrones, has a greater chance to make the trip into the mind’s inner space and set behavioural change into motion than does an uninspired Public Service Announcement or a Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan ad.
And what else sells? Remember AirIndigo’s ad. – “Sleep with your wife on the same day!” These subliminal messages which have subtle sexual implications, persuade us to buy products. We aren’t eager to listen to confessional anecdotes of a failed marriage from Padma Lakshmi but not the thousand other women moving out of their broken marriages, living in this somewhere, lost in the crowd and maybe struggling a lot harder to raise her kids. We are eager to know how Deepika Padukone fought her depression, but we hardly know about the ‘Semi-colon’ tattoo movement by depression survivors. We are selling off headlines about Pratyusha Banerjee’s suicide in every probable media house, but we aren’t bothered about the million others who die by suicide every year.
We know how media has been playing a role in general conditioning of mass psychology for a long time. Media in more simpler terms is the trend-setter for any social class.. Conditioning is linked with ‘conscience’ development and ‘God fearing’ culture. Media sets a bar for what is moral and immoral. While a middle-class non-tax payer is consistently shamed, a multibillionaire business man gets away with a billion dollar scam and from the country’s legal barriers? Hook-ups weren’t part of popular culture until media started to capitalise on it. Media has such immense control on our thought process that it can almost be compared to a situation where a man will happily expose his throat to someone standing with a razor-blade in a barber’s shop.
Media conditions us through its clichéd, looped babble on what is “virtue”. People are more concerned about the homeless, crime and its victims along with other social problems. We want to live in a more humane society. It has been found that crime rates have increased significantly after World War II as general ‘permissiveness’ , which is correlated to the effect of conditioning, has increased. It has been found that an overall conditioning with greater laissez-faire treatment during the developmental phase resulted in higher number of criminals and delinquent children.
So where do we stop? With our popular figures not following a ‘not-so-popular’ path and with media selling its content based on sex and backtracking celebrity lifestyle and constantly promoting the ‘high-life’; who is influencing whom? How do we validate that all these fragmented posts, calibrated photographs, manipulated over-layered photographs of massive chaos by media aren’t made to feed their own need for ‘grandiosity’? How do we analyse that these easy-to-shoot two minute clippings lead by powerful media houses are not part of a detailed corporate plan to raise their shares?
Media’s role has changed from spreading news to being the creators of news. We create news that sells. We are all driven by money and fame. Your ‘Gods’ are mere professionals doing a job. On a broader level, be it media, celebrities or audience, we are all human- trying desperately to reach that less than one percent of social elite or rather the ‘have-it-alls’!
It’s time to stop following and start thinking!