Monday, June 04, 2007

libertinism in India

There are some striking ways in which Indian culture reflects American culture of a few decades ago. In India, you can still get in trouble for kissing in public. Families are very strong and parents are respected. Women wear dresses (very colorful, beautiful dresses), and men wear slacks and dress shirts.

Another striking similarity is that you can see the media in India striving to change Indian culture toward libertinism just as our media did (and does). It seems to be working; if you bring up this subject with Indians, they will usually describe their culture as being "behind" the US, implying that they think our culture is more advanced.

Is that sad or what? The sexual revolution has been a social disaster. The bed-hopping search for "true love" has led to far more broken hearts and ruined lives (and ruined children's lives) than life-long commitments, and those life-long commitments are always disillusioning for people who thought their life was going to be like a Hollywood romantic comedy.

But the media knows better than everyone else, and they are going to use their power to change India. In the newspaper, I read a review of a book. The book was an autobiography by a woman from southern India who concentrates on how mean her mother was to her. The reviewer takes this opportunity to pontificate on the "disgraceful" conditions of this conservative area of India. Presumably, one mother that didn't care about her daughter's feelings (assuming you take the book at face value) proves that there are no mothers in southern India that love their children. It's just one huge semi-continental cauldron of child-hating mothers.

The entertainment pages sported stored that could have been copied with minor changes from the entertainment pages of my youth --actresses being interviewed about their love scenes and partial nudity on screen. Just like American actresses of decades past, these Indian actresses insisted that they don't enjoy the love scenes and it's all business, and they only do those things when "the character calls for it". Meaning that if you are a screenplay writer and you want to have your actress doing partial nudity or a love scene, then you better make your character a slut because an actress playing a chaste character would refuse to do it. Unless you can make it compelling, of course. In other words, "the character calls for it" is no limit at all. These actresses are invariably --invariably-- treated by the newspaper as courageous heroines for flaunting traditional modesty. Sound familiar?

And then there was the Entertainment Tonight ripoff show where the hostess effused over slutty women from India and around the world, talking about how smart and powerful and popular and just plain wonderful they are. The clear message to all the twelve-year-old Indian girls watching the show: if you want to be smart and powerful and popular and just plain wonderful, you should be a slut.

It was sad watching India follow the steps of the West into the bleak morass of libertinism. I wanted to yell at them: "Don't do it! I've tried it and it won't make you happy. Don't let the libertines control the media here like they do in the US, your entire nation will suffer horribly for it." But they don't see the dark side of libertinism. All they can see of the American sexual revolution is the movies that the libertines want them to see. They just don't know.

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