Each year the month of Ramazan is accompanied by special transmissions and game shows on TV. And each year these shows are called out for airing problematic content, ranging from force-feeding mangoes to the audience or spewing sectarian hatred.
While this year's transmissions have seen some improvement, much work is left to be done. From fat-shaming to poverty porn to misogynistic remarks, we have had to bear with all sorts of inappropriate content again.
It's disappointing to see that under the guise of 'helping people in Ramazan' and 'providing entertainment', people's insecurities, religion and poverty are being exploited. It is understandable that shows must provide entertainment to the viewers, but do mockery and crude jokes really qualify as 'entertainment'?
Some examples of content on this year's Ramazan transmissions that was unnecessary, unfair or just plain wrong.
1. Poverty porn on Ramazan Pakistan
A number of episodes of Ramazan Pakistan (hosted by Ahsan Khan and Bushra Amir) regularly feature people from low-income backgrounds who are in need of financial aid. The aim is to try and raise money for them, which is obviously a noble idea. However, its execution leaves much to be desired.
The segments in question focus on people from the audience having to convince the hosts about how needy and helpless they are by narrating their issues in front of the camera. Then the hosts get to decide who is the 'most destitute' out of all of them and therefore, the most deserving of a gift.
In one episode, a rickshaw driver from the audience was made to give a detailed explanation of how tough his life was and was asked personal questions like where and how he spent his money. Then, he was deemed 'poor enough' to be given a bike.
If the purpose really is to help those in need, why not adopt an approach that is respectful and sensitive... instead of forcing people to reveal personal details about their lives and practically beg for gifts on national TV?
The way this segment is set up is almost akin to fetishising poverty for our consumption, and that is definitely not ok.
2. Zero regard for children's physical boundaries
Ahmad Shah, an eight-year-old boy, has become a sensation this Ramazan. He is regularly featured on Fahad Mustafa’s game show Jeeto Pakistan and has developed a huge fan following.
However, some of the things he is made to do on the show are highly problematic. From having to hug and kiss all the celebrities who visit the show, to being made to choose the most “good-looking” person on set, Ahmad is made to participate in activities not necessarily appropriate for a child his age.
Personal space, especially that of young children who might not be able to speak for themselves, should be respected. By exhibiting ignorance of such a sensitive topic, these game show producers are being extremely irresponsible.
3. Absurd 'games'
Fahad Mustafa’s Jeeto Pakistan is full of energy, with lots of jumping, laughing and joking around.
However, the show comes up with extremely absurd games for its audience. One of the games involves women having to stick cotton balls to their noses using butter and running across the room before depositing them in a box. The one who manages to carry the most cotton balls across the room is supposed to win a bike.
Another game requires people to stuff food into their mouths while blindfolded. Safe to say it’s all incredibly messy. While we are all for creative games, we found these extremely weird and a waste of food as well.
3. Crass, unfunny jokes
Making inappropriate jokes and comments has been another trend this Ramzan. Sometimes it’s Fahad Mustafa telling a man who was participating in a competition with his wife, “You asked your wife to eat the cream to shut her up, right?”
Sometimes it's Aamir Liaquat dissing his first wife on his Ramazan show (that happened). Sometimes it's Aamir Liaquat (again!) cracking a highly inappropriate joke about circumcisions on his show Hamara Ramazan which left the audience visibly uncomfortable.
4. Blatant fat shaming
Making humiliating comments at the expense of people from the audience and organising activities which make fun of insecurities have been quite common this Ramzan.
For example, Jeeto Pakistan has a “Who weighs the most?” competition in which plus-sized people from the audience are called onstage and... weighed. The person who weighs the most gets to go home with gifts.
It seems like no one stops to think what messages such activities and comments are giving to the viewers and how distasteful they are.
Similarly, Danish Taimoor constantly fat shamed a woman playing musical chairs in one of the episodes of his show. He told other participants “You probably weigh the same as one of her arms” and made comments like “Be careful not to run in to her, she might cause an explosion”. He later apologised by saying people shouldn’t take his jokes seriously, and the show can’t run without some comedy. We find it quite disgusting that he thinks fat shaming is comedy.
Our TV shows need to do better.