Never ever has the ‘beep’ been in such extensive use in Indian television as it is today. This is courtesy the numerous ‘reality shows’ on TV today, which are just a blatant copy of successful shows abroad. The boom in the number of reality shows which some years back were restricted to music and dance competitions have now forayed into fields such as searching partners for marriage, to checking fidelity of a partner, to getting split from the partner. And in all these finds a noteworthy place, the beep. The beep sound cuts the volume off the vulgar words mouthed, which are unpalatable and unaccepted in an Indian family.
The blurring of line between morality and immorality is occurring at an ever increasing pace. It would be so unthinkable today to imagine that words of the song ‘sexy sexy sexy mujhe log bole’ were changed by a court order some years back to ‘baby baby baby mujhe log bole’! Though laughing over it at the moment would be the most probable reaction, a more concerning theme is the shift in the cultural ethos of the nation, that has occurred. The MTV generation is growing up being fed on shows where boys and girls are in skimpiest of clothes, has skimpiest of regards for the language used, and what appears to have skimpiest of morals. And these boys and girls are the topic of classroom discussions, social networking site forum discussions, they are followed, their fifteen minutes of fame envied, and they sometimes elevated to the status of role models. And the beep is just what makes it all so spicy.
The beep interestingly, has various forms and shapes. Sometimes the lip movement is seen making people able to figure out the expletive for themselves, raising unhealthy curiosity in children and a smirk or despise in the faces of who knows it all. A further angle raises the difficulty level, by adding blocking of the lip movements. The spectator is expected to fill in the blank. It also sometime happens that spoken words are interspersed within beeps and not the other way round. Interesting to note would be the role of print media in this. Role of beep is slightly different here. When a former prime minister used expletives for a present chief minister, a responsible daily reported it without mentioning the words, but a wide selling daily mentioned the words with asterisks. Which of these were actually following journalistic ethos?
As a counter argument validating or terming harmless the increasing dip in morality of such shows interlaced with beeps, many would term them as progressive, broadening of thinking, widening of horizon, maturing as society, rise in tolerance and many such sociological or psychological theories. But somewhere it is misconstrued. Progression should mean doing something in whichever small or large capacity to aid in the growth of individual and nation, broadening of thinking should mean to grow secular, widening of horizon should mean expanding once reach over diversified fields, maturing as society should mean being able to take every section of the society together in an upwardly mobile path, rise in tolerance should mean increased acceptance of every component of society. Does a show which brings together bunch of girls to compete, conspire, abuse, seduce and cat fight to win some guy in the end as prize serve any of the above mentioned causes?
Entertainment. Many would say it is just entertainment. Harmless one at that. One that would just give you a few moments of laughter, fun and frolic. It would be agreeable that we as humans are entertained by other humans, their actions and inactions included. With reality shows we are subject to an extreme form of pleasure derived from the enjoyment and tribulations of someone who is not faking it (at least they claim to be so). Yes we are entertained by three girls vying to marry who have been famous for all the wrong reasons, we are entertained by their preparedness until the last moment, brought in by vivid visual details on national television, yes we are entertained. But does anyone think of their plight? Do we place our daughters at those places? Or are we deriving a sadistic pleasure with not actually being there? Is the MTV generation and further growing to be prosti-tots (term borrowed from the TIME magazine) watching their celebrities in drunken brawls, in compromising positions, all in the name of entertainment?
This might take us to the debate of freedom of speech and expression. That it is discretion of the audience and spectator to imbibe and inculcate what they need for themselves, to choose from the wide range of content available. But is it justifiable on the other hand to target audiences who are barely ready to decide for them, who are at a crucial juncture of growing up, who do not have or lack the right environment to be regulated?
The use of expletives (an exclamation or oath, especially one that is profane, vulgar, or obscene) used for someone is after all an expression aimed to degrade, and thus is not taken with good flavor in the societal norms. Thus Joe Biden comes under scrutiny when he uses a expletive in conversation with Obama, even though it wasn’t directed to be derogatory. The beep doesn’t exist in real life, but what exists is what lies within the beep. A disturbing moment was when a school principal, known for being the best teacher, holding high morals, wrote in the annual magazine of the school raising concern for the rise in use of foul language by children, and very young ones on that.
A serious introspection is required at all levels beginning from parents at home, teachers at school, media barons, content regulators and all the target audience who are subject to various shows on television beginning from spiced up news to family drama to reality shows. Are the kinds of shows delivered to us worth their salt? Are we starting to look at things with the prism of what reality shows target at? Is our youth on the right path? Are we developing trust issues after watching a whole lot of people on TV to be cheating on? Are the beep shows making sitting together of a family over dinner making it uncomfortable? Are our children growing watching the right kind of shows on television? Well the answer for all the questions, today, could well be another beep.