No medium of art is immune to stereotypes. A recurring template is used, not because it is rich in content and deserves exploration, but because it worked before and so it probably will again. That is how trends are created. This phenomenon is that much more rampant in cinema as it is a medium where marketability plays as important a role as artistic integrity.
Telugu cinema is no exception. Our films have been known to be riddled with stale repetitions, so much so that we even pigeonhole actors to play the same type of roles. It baffles me that the so- called intelligent filmmakers cannot seem to understand that having Prakash Raj as the ‘wildcard/ secret’ villain doesn’t work anymore because, by now, we can sniff it out from a kilometre away. The thing with tropes is that they aren’t always limited to becoming lazy screenwriting decisions. When they are about a community that isn’t well-represented in popular culture, tropes can lead to misrepresentation—take the hyper-sexual/predatory gay men, for example.
After a point, stereotypes need to be questioned, rather than being laughed at and this article is going to discuss a few tropes that must just go away forever and never come back—not just because they stopped being interesting years ago because after a while they are problematic and dangerous.
Kids acting like wise adults.
It is not just annoying to watch children doling out love advice to the male lead or the female lead, it is also wrong to portray that they might have the emotional maturity to deal with something like that. I have never seen a film with a kid pretending to be a love guru and not wanted to leave. They happen more often in Sukumar films, but aren’t restricted to his endeavours only.
Maybe, it was nice to see women being shy and secretive about their feelings for the “hero” a few decades ago, but it definitely isn’t anymore. Any person who’ve seen a newspaper will tell you that men don’t just go to their room and drink in silence to nurture a broken heart anymore, they get violent. So, it isn’t responsible anymore to have women be/look mad at the man until the very end of the film, only to reveal that she is just being bashful.
Abused best friends.
I can understand many things and be open about them, but I cannot understand a world where people slap their friends like it’s the 1800s and everything gruesome is back into existence. The male protagonist’s friends are almost always jobless, charmless, and basically worthless. They are there to be made fun of or elevate the hero. And the female lead’s best friends are either chubby women, who are actually sassy and interesting or horny women who are salivating after the hero.
The Oedipal Complex.
Do not get triggered, but it’s not healthy, let alone romantic/ideal, for a man to reject a woman because she doesn’t remind him of his mother. Even though this particular instance is from Geetha Govindham, I have seen enough movies where the male lead does this. In Hello Guru Premakosame, the heroine goes a step further and declares that a father is a girl’s first boyfriend; maybe that was supposed to sound sweet, but it doesn’t. Unless a film wants to get Freudian about human relationships, let us all have well-adjusted protagonists. Shall we?
Manic pixie dream girl/boy.
The thing with this stereotype is that it is hopeful, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong. No one is going to make you come alive, man! Its everyone’s individual and personal journey to look inward and spruce things up a little. Since it is TFI, things aren’t this poignant either. All we need is a man hugging a woman or a woman hugging a man, inappropriately and often without permission, and the world changes. It’s hormones. You are horny. It will pass.
Apparently, the character named Honey from F2, the recent blockbuster, is inspired by a viral video of a child. Now, why is it appealing to have a grown woman act like a child is a question that needs an immediate answer. A female protagonist can be childish and dumb, sure, but also tell us why that is. Give her mental/emotional immaturity a reason to exist. Otherwise, you are just creating a pattern that forces young women to think that dumbing themselves down is the only way to get a man to like them.
Silent women are strong women.
For a woman to come off as strong, it isn’t necessary for her to look constipated—Tammanah from Baahubali or Supriya from Goodachari come to mind. Not just that, for some reason, writers—almost all male—think that an ideal woman is someone who likes to be silent. She is docile and submissive when the man needs her to be because it’s sexy, but strong when the man leaves her behind because she has to fend for herself. This is why even great performances by actors like Vidya Balan, in NTR Kathanayakudu, and Shalini Pandey, in Arjun Reddy, cannot take away the feeling that something is off. There is more to a woman’s strength than that and films need to start doing her justice.
Okay. Hear me out. No woman I know likes an insensitive, reckless man with no personality or interests of his own. A well-educated woman of taste isn’t going to betray her parents’ trust for a guy who she has nothing in common with. It’s a misrepresentation and it’s sad to expect women to settle for someone like that. Countless films do this but Cinema Chupistha Maava takes the cake. The problem isn’t financial security, the film’s heroine is a merit student who will find a good job eventually. The problem is that the hero is not going to add anything to her life in a meaningful way. He is an idiot.
Assholes are cute if they are good-looking
Nope. An attractive face isn’t going to nullify an ugly personality and feminism has nothing to do with this. Rarandoi Veduka Chudham has a self-centred, churlish woman as the female lead and the hero finds her charming still because she looks nice. If you are going to write imperfect characters, call her imperfect and give them a redemption arc that is more than a beautiful face. Thank you.