Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Of Mary Poppins and Cynicism


When I was watching Mary Poppins for the first time, I couldn’t help but think about how sexist and elitist parts of it were: the way the man of the house treated his wife, the women who worked in his house as domestic helps, his children and those who served or worked for him.

And I found myself wondering if working or studying stuff like gender and society, masculinities of violence, peace and conflict studies, empathy training and such else woke the cynic in me. If not the cynic, it has at least made me look for these signs in anything I read, see or hear.

Does that make me much of a cynic? The prototype of Oscar Wilde’s ideal “who needs a cynic who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing?”.

I must admit it alarmed me for a moment – I began to wonder if I was losing my grip on looking at entertainment for what it is without giving it a complete analysis in my mind – sometimes verbally if suitable company would ferment the debate than to shut me up. But the fact is, I haven’t lost my grip, even if I say so myself. For starters, I am conscious of the fact that most movies, literature and entertainment outlets are heavily reflective of undercurrents that prevail in social settings of every kind. In some instances, they are undoubtedly exaggerated or drawn with more vivid imagination than what may prevail in reality. Admittedly, there are elements in entertainment and media that perpetrate certain undercurrents themselves – things like body image by relying on photograph enhancing tools to engineer bodies.

But the fact is, seeing these movies, reading these books and witnessing these streams of entertainment shouldn’t be a passive exercise. If we’re watching a patriarch or a matriarch boss about in his house, we should be sensible enough to see that it’s wrong. No one has the right to command another on account of gender. If we’re watching an elitist run over – or even steam roll – his underlings, it is a flagrant wrong that many of us are guilty of, too. We need to use these points of display of our society as looking glasses, as means that will help us look within to see the flaws that are gaping inside of us.

Maybe this is a cynical take on things, or maybe it comes across as that. But in a world where it’s “okay” to rape a girl when she is drugged and post photos of it on Facebook to where Steubenvillesare painfully and uncontrollably commonplace, where husbands can rape their wives and abscond, to where everyday sexism continues to take place, entertainment shouldn’t be taken so lightly. Especially when it borders on every chink in the armour of the global society.

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