Readers Write In #33: Tweet, Outrage, Abuse, Repeat

Posted on February 5, 2018


For those who frequent the twitterverse, it is of no surprise to regularly come across online skirmishes involving movie stars and their “veriyargal”. Smarting from the lightest pokes and jabs at their stars, these entities hurl abuses, threats and engage in less than civil behaviour that is now the norm on twitter. This post is pretty much a follow up to the article on Parvathy and the feminichi incident.

Recently it came to the fore that 2 anchors on Sun TV made some innocuous jabs at actor Suriya’s height. This isn’t so uncommon. There are memes that poke fun, so has Jagan’s recent “whose plot is it anyway” and it is said that Suriya himself has indulged in it in this movie. The 2 ladies have been the target of a lot of fire and I am not surprised. Most of the people sharing the video direct their abuses at the anchors naturally and not at the show. Logic flies out of the window- did these women write the lines or was it pre-written by the shows unit? It really doesn’t matter, twitter has awoken to the ills of body shaming and and the outrage is like no other.  Internet celebrities and personalities jump in to protest the body shaming and alleged slander against their ilk. And yet the irony is that the ire is at the women and takes the form of abuses at their bodies and it’s their faces that get stomped on in posters. 

Are these women just easier targets, virtual goats that need to be routinely slaughtered in the obeisance directed towards demigod stars? And this is so common, that this incident will probably get buried under the torrential turn-over of twitter stories as the next goat is slaughtered to appease the Gods. Probably this is one way of understanding rabid fan culture in our society which will be soon demanding independent religion status. The demigods in question are neither all good nor all powerful. After Dhanya Rajendran was trolled for comparing Harry Met Sejal and Sura, it took Vijay a while to put out this weirdly worded statement “I respect women. I appeal to not hurt sentiments of women on social media. There’s freedom of expression to criticize anyone’s film”. Who is the appeal directed to? On social media? Sentiments? So is it okay to hurt the sentiments in public spaces and in films? Why isn’t he condemning this behavior? Ajith preemptively asked his fans to not speak on his behalf. On related note, why does poking fun at a movie star render a sense of insult and humiliation to his fans and followers? One possible explanation is that people find a sense of kinship in belonging to a fan group and this blissful identity is threatened when their star is ridiculed. This is the virtual version of an identity crisis. If youngsters can only find a sense of belonging in the virtual world and go on a rampage every single time something small happens, do we blame the society for the absence of alternative community structures for engaging young people or do we blame cinema for the blatant masala hero worshiping stance that has existed through its inception?  Also did this kind of rabid fan culture exist in times before social media, since even MGR and Sivaji Ganesan had huge fan bases or has the internet given the fan base a common platform to interact and overreact?

But I digress. Body shaming has been deeply pervasive in Tamil cinema as comic routine. The examples are too numerous to even mention. I read that in TSK there is a scene where Yogi Babu is made fun of. The biggest offender in recent times is Rajnikanths Sivaji where the Angavai and Sangavai comic routine is despicable. But not many were up in arms against this. And even normally sane people on twitter share these tweets and condemn such forgettable comedy (I mean the SunTV show) in times when there is so much consumption of all sorts of comedy, satire and parody. And some body shaming has been a part of this. Body shaming is unhealthy but so is selectively protesting body shaming and the people indulging in it. It is definitely time that we discuss body shaming in tamil cinema in a civil manner, with the right examples and not easy targets such as the SunTV anchors. If people really want change, we need to hit where it hurts most that is ourselves, our culture and our cinema that for ages past have been complicit in body shaming. Taking one isolated incident and blowing it out of proportion does not help. It is sad that this incident has received traction on twitter right from movie producers and actors who are exhibiting such hypocritical behavior that they are no better than these rabid fans and will only damage any healthy discussions that can arise out of this. But is the silver lining that we are finally talking about this?