Monday, 25 September 2023 12:44 GMT

When Politicians Go Wild On Reality TV

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer) In India, we love our outrage. But seldom is it directed at more urgent crises that are staring at our face. This is why a Bollywood actor berating a journalist is likely to get a bigger and bolder display than the news of a 17-year-old boy being set ablaze for his refusal to chant 'Jai Shri Ram'. A video on Indian tourists stealing money and commodities gets greater currency. The question is not if we are angry, rather, if our anger could, at times, be misplaced.

Social media has shifted the site of protest from the street to desktops and smartphones. That is where we register our disapprovals and believe we have done our bit of conscience-keeping for the day. This week presented one such opportunity when the trailer of a popular show on Discovery Channel, Man vs Wild, was aired, featuring Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in its August 12 episode. This is not the first time when Man vs Wild has courted a controversy in India, and given the outrage it has sparked, looks like it will not be last either. The Indian Express had reported earlier this year that Bear Grylls was in Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve on February 14 - the day of the Pulwama attacks. To substantiate its claims, a report in the publication states, "Grylls had posted a few tweets prior to coming to India, which were later deleted. 'And it is a GREAT day in India! Am coming there soon to shoot something very special." one of his tweets read, followed by a 'Shh' emoji.'" The claim was that Modi was shooting the episode around the time attack happened - a damning prospect given his son-of-the-soil image.

The brief teaser released this week has invited its share of backlash, with many criticising Grylls for not having studied Modi's alleged dubious commitment to environment and his government's allegiances to Adani, whose controversial coal mine project in Australia may threaten the ecosystem of Great Barrier Reef.

Like most social media outrage, this one, that immediately put #PMModionDiscovery on trending lists, seems toothless. For anyone who has watched Man vs Wild would know that it is primarily an adventure show, environment being a natural addition to the project. What can be seen throughout the two-minute teaser is as much an endorsement of India's green cover as it is Modi's own. In that sense, it is not vastly different from the Putin calendar that spotlighted key areas in Siberia. What the calendar also did was catapult the Russian president as this all-powerful, macho leader and ended up becoming more popular for that reason.

Fewer public figures generate as many opinions as politicians. The problem is when the scrutiny turns into attack. Bear Grylls show has featured political figures in the past - former POTUS Barack Obama included. The idea is to explore an aspect of a public figure that the viewers know little about. Hence conflating the larger social and political issues his detractors have against him with his alleged lack of commitment to environment misplaced. Even when a publication like The Guardian refuses to see Modi's appearance on the show as anything beyond "a pitch that appeals to his party's nationalist voter base", the whole project begins to look reductive. This is not to say that the Indian PM is above any scrutiny - but his appearance on a popular show needn't drive us hysterical.

Before he captured public imagination with his presidency and tweets, Donald Trump had been a part of the reality show, The Apprentice. Apart from the drama that characterises reality shows, it was as much an exhibition of his wealth and might. After presidency, the show is believed to have hit all-time high viewership. Some key moments from the show are now popular Internet memes. Those who love their laughs see it as nothing more than humour, the rest, however, make a case against the president on the basis of the things said and unsaid on the show. A public appearance - be it on the show or a rally - is ultimately a performance. It would do us good if we could sieve the truth from the hype.

The Article First Appeared InKhaleej Times


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