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26 April 2008

Cheers Versus Jeers

Both sides in the debate are perverts betraying mid-life crisis
[Click on the headline to read an exposition on mid-life crisis]

There are a whole lot of things that look odd in the prevailing debate over what apparently is a non-issue: Should ‘cheerleaders’ be banned from prancing — or, is it dancing? — during the matches of the Indian Premier League? Blaming a certain minister from the Congress party in the Maharashtra Government or a certain politician from the opposition in the state, the BJP, would shift the focus away from the greater malaise that the authorities in this country suffer from. If not for raising such controversies, how many of us would know that some Mehtre and some Gadkari existed in this world numbed by an overdose of events whose importance in public perception varies in degrees as distinct as fingerprints of individuals? How many Indians outside West Bengal have heard of Subhash Chakraborty, Kshiti Goswami, Nandgopal Bhattacharya and Pratim Chatterjee?

Politicians and bureaucrats would do well to note how the people joke about them: When the national broadcaster, Doordarshan, first showed and then discontinued showing films with ‘adult’ content in the late nights in the late 1980s following frowns of some moral policemen in the government, people used to quip that the person who first demanded the ban must have had a great time watching the ‘objectionable’ contents perversely after which he must have mused that he was entitled to an exclusive right to voyeurism and, hence, denied the public the same ‘pleasure’! Some people are also seen envying jocularly the members of the Censor Board for Film Certification, who get to see ‘everything’ while others don’t.

The English media, especially, has never had kind words to say about the moral police. Its editorials are, to that extent, predictable. It falls, after all, under an unwritten code of conduct that supposes that a government is too holy to intervene in matters of ‘recreation’. Let’s grant the media its entitlement to this presumption. But whose recreation is it anyway? Aren’t the editorials calling the matter “frivolous” going by a popularly held myth that the semi-clad girls in the cricket stadia entertain the young alone? Enter any household in your neighbourhood without an appointment and you could well knock into a man facing mid-life crisis, feasting on every visible millimetre of an FTV model’s skin. Women who have to bear with mild to severe molestation every day inside buses will tell you that the older a man is, the greater are his chances of being a pervert, having lost all interest in his post-menopausal wife. Yet, as the young are not represented in the higher ranks of the media, the older people (the editorial commentators) can get away with belittling today’s generation, age-wise the biggest section of the Indian population. These men and women past their prime perpetually question the cerebral prowess of the young, whatever be the topic of discussion. One wonders if any old man who judges the young has ever viewed his judgement this way: Does it give me any pleasure to declare that while I am intellectually evolved — if not intellectually gifted — my son is intellectually challenged? In the case under study, the equivalent inference is worse: While I am not licentious, my son certainly is!

But much before the psychology of the moral police and their detractors bother you strikes the very nomenclature of the subject that is now in the eye of a storm. Nothing can be prompter than a spontaneous reaction. And the promptest obviously leads the rest. Therefore, how come the hired girls cheering two respective teams are called “cheer-leaders” if their choreographed display of joy succeeds — instead of preceding — the crowd’s delectation? Whose idea was it? More important, what inspired the idea? Is it the sight of bikini-clad women lying all around the stadia — a view that many Indian viewers have been associating with cricket in Australia since the 1980s, thanks to the television crews’ roving cameras? The society of voyeurs must be asked which of the two — flesh displayed voluntarily or that displayed for money — titillates them more.

One wishes emotions too could be bought by the BCCI. Beyond the lure of the so-called cheerleaders’ skin lies the fact that it feels nice to have pretty members in your club when you are cheering your favourite team. If anybody is blessed with sublime taste and discernment, he would agree that the sight of fully clothed (yet Westernised) Pakistani girls cheering their team in Sharjah was much more pleasurable. But which cricket fan watching television today is naïve enough to believe that those half a dozen pretty girls are actually friends in the same camp? Since inducing such a crowd-cheerleader fellow-feeling is impossible, let the cricket board admit honestly that the girls have been hired for nothing other than a mild version — or the first stage — of erotica, if at all even that can be achieved. There is a joke that goes: Women hate cricket because when a match is on, men don’t turn around to look at them! The BCCI does not seem to have taken this joke seriously, as the spectacle of semi-nude women, if the minuscule population of lesbians is overlooked, cannot be targeted at anybody other than male spectators.

If so, this act of employing girls with reluctantly draped busts exhibiting artificial joy not only disregards women as incapable of appreciating cricket — for which they cannot be the target viewership — but is also a glaring example of commodification of the fairer sex. Viewed in this light, it is both ironical and unfortunate that the overwhelming presence of women in the editorial boards of two pro-market Indian newspapers did not influence their editorial comments, which focussed solely on decrying the moral police. Celebrating “the woman of substance”, it seems, is akin to reducing a woman to a substance.

Where in this brouhaha would you place the Generation Next? Disgusted with the incorrigible proclivity of hyper-sensitive politicians and journalists to debate endlessly what a VIP said rather than what a VIP did, the young have long turned their faces away from the media. Young boys want real girls in their lives rather than fake girls on TV and in cinema. The debate would have never taken place had our country not been a gerontocracy, where one of our 40-plus uncles wants exclusive rights to voyeurism and another is obviously worked up for being denied the peep show.

This piece was adjudged the best article of the month (April 2008) by merinews.com:



Nithin.S said...

Very true.
Having cheerleaders in sports as such is nothing wrong. Its for entertainment. We can just enjoy it. Nothing it has to hurt Indian-Hindu culture or anything. But only thing is that, it shows a trend of Commercializations and commodification of Women, which is sad.

Surajit Dasgupta said...

What is both hypocritical and funny, the people who want a ban on cheerleaders and those who are criticising such moral police, both comprise that section of the population that enjoys erotica on the silver screen and idiot box the most -- people in their mid-40s. Perhaps lusting over something on screen is an indirect admission of the fact that the real thing is now beyond their reach. Sigh!

Red Baron said...

I must disagree with Surajit on his "taste" of clothed,Westernised Pakistani women cheering for their team being "more sublime". First of all one must realise,wearing skimpy clothes in an extremely hot country like India should be natural not the other way round.South Asia is possibly the only place on earth where people take pride in wearing more clothes than necessary,hence it becomes very repulsive and "uncultured " to see women in bikini/skimpy clothes.Would this be offensive in Caribbean/Africa? Not the least. So one has to examine seeing the past of India why Indians take so much pride in British and Islamic cultures which influenced the sub continent than in a period where it was quite normal to dress as per the climatic conditions with both men and women exposing far more than they do today.
Coming to the topic,dresses of cheerleaders can't be dictated.T-20 is a fun sport,I personally despise cricket but i enjoy watching T-20 which makes a boring game like cricket entertaining and cheerleaders are a part of it.Would I watch a NFL match if there were no cheerleaders entertaining me between the quarters? Maybe ,I find it a far more entertaining sport.Would I watch the IPL without the cheerleaders? Perhaps not.Call it a taste,call it a culture.I simple like it.Doesn't matter where it comes from.

Anonymous said...

Influence can be defined as the power exerted over the minds and behavior of others. A power that can affect, persuade and cause changes to someone or something. In order to influence people, you first need to discover what is already influencing them. What makes them tick? What do they care about? We need some leverage to work with when we’re trying to change how people think and behave.


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Surajit Dasgupta treats no individual, organisation or institution as a holy cow.