When you watch almost anything on TV, the slew of advertisements is a constant, unceasing stream; one that annoys you, makes you comment on how a voiceover about a lipstick isn’t actually going to help you sell a lipstick, and makes you think about how much you want to watch the show itself.
The standard template for advertisements for domestic products has stayed the same. Ever since war-ravaged society decided to sell canned foods like they were the bee’s knees, advertisements for domestic products have emphasized the way the product works, how it affects the family, and how oh-so helpful it ultimately is. Where colognes and clothes employ models to look like they want to sleep with you from the word go, domestic products sell you sex in a different way – as the nice, post marital, two-kids-and-a-white-picket-fence kind of sex.
There are strict domains for each gender, each age, and each thought that is related to domesticity. The women are involved in the sale of food products, in kitchenware, in cleaning clothes and basically in the Nirmas of the world. The men take decisions where electronics, travel and furniture are concerned.
The five-armed mother who can cook almost every South Indian dish for one breakfast is meant to make you want her to be your mother, and in the right age bracket – your wife. The idea of the modern mother is sold simplistically – she is the one who knows exactly how to clean the son’s dirty shirt with a “ma ke haath” type of wash in the washing machine, even when she goes to her office. She obviously has five arms, how else is she supposed to cook, clean, work, and rub off the spot of dirt from the kid’s uniform? Every time she chooses a particular cleaning detergent, she will smile and you will just know that this is the right detergent, the right moment, the right household, the right fakeness, the right everything.
The #feminist wife is the one who is the husband’s boss in office, gives him a deadline that forces him to stay at work late, and then comes home and cooks a magnificent meal of spaghetti and other generic delicious things for him. With her professionally cut short hair, pretty sarees and lack of sindoor, she fits right into the modern market. A woman who is the husband’s boss is obviously not going to be allowed the right to be represented with children. The male domain of ambition has to remain separate from the female one, if the kids are to be given a healthy upbringing.
Then there’s your father. The hyper-masculine figure wearing polo shirts and disarming smiles, who always knows about the perfect policy decision, market investment and energy-saving LED bulb (irrespective of mutual funds investment being subject to market risk, of course.).When he smiles at you, you know the house is going to function perfectly. The inverter won’t be using too much power, the fridge will have five stars, capitalism will bless your kids with the best tiffin boxes, and everyone will have good grades because the printer will be able to print high quality pictures for the children’s projects.
The model sanskari kid of every family is always the one who grows taller, stronger and sharper, top his class, and have popularity on his side as well. Young Chintu can’t be compared with Sharmaji’s son, he can beat Sharmaji’s son twice over. He’s the popular Complan boy with an organised study system and the ability to make his projects with the help of his mother.
On the other hand, the girl in pink dresses is the very symbol of innocence and adorableness. The perfect Indian family of nice, North Indian values ultimately features a girl who is studious, cares about her parents and is never seen playing with something like Hot-Wheels cars. She’s a perfect little angel, occasionally financially minded in the way she saves up change in her gulak (Read made in China piggy bank.) We trust poor quality products with finances very easily, you see. No wonder India’s economy is doing so well.
The whole point of an advertisement is to sell you something that is supposed to make you happy. You’re supposed to want that domestic life, need that professional touch to your home along with perfected emotional moments that make joy bubble out of Fantas and Cokes. You’re supposed to want to protect this image of your family, or this dream of your family – own a car, a home, a kitchen which functions very well etc. This is perfection on a plate – and you’re supposed to want it.
There is very little space left for those who don’t want to fit into this mould. For instance unmarried people are never shown, and women who pursue careers which involve travel are always shown in their twenties, before they “settle down.” The suburban perfection, after all, is what we are supposed to aspire for.
T in a Cup
A Cup of T
‘T’ as in me, ‘Cup’ as in tea, ‘Of’ as in preposition and ‘A’ as in article. Bringing you thoughtful rants on TV, books, society and various other things induced by too many cups of ice tea.
Written by Tanvi
Updates every fortnight
Column icon by Sanna Jain
Featured Image by Kanishka