Baring its chest to Cupid

IN Media Practice | 25/02/2003
Commerce is behind the media’s uncritical promotion of Valentine’s Day, but shouldn’t we be protesting?


Santhosh C


It is paradoxical that love should fire the imagination of a nation at a time marked by hatred of every kind - religious, communal, racial. The vivacious enthusiasm with which the media has submitted itself to the `cause of love` contradicts the rationality and perspicacity that we tend to associate this institution with.


Valentine`s Day has now evolved into Valentine Week and it is surprising that the media`s role in this metamorphosis has gone unnoticed. This annual eruption of love, propelled by corporate
interests, is being ably serviced by the mainstream media which is eager to claim its share of the moolah that the event generates.Its hyping of Valentine`s Day can be understood given the influx of ads that the event brings. But the editorial silence over the  event (barring the exception of a few columnists who have questioned this seemingly innocuous event) and the uncritical attitude which allows it to pass without even evoking a whimper is a cause for concern.

The abuse and misuse of a basic human emotion by the corporate world to fill their coffers is despicable. But more repugnant is the love-smitten media which has shed its veneer of reasoning and allowed itself to be roped into the scheme of things. Hence, the publicity it gives to Valentine’s Day should be questioned for two reasons. Is it not aware of the economics and the consequent corporate power which has created Valentine`s Day? If yes, why does it pretend ignorance and abet hyping of the event?


Obviously because it is indispensable to claiming a share of the profits. By exposing the sham that is Valentine`s Day, the media would only be robbing itself of lucrative advertising revenue. It has deteriorated into just another enterprise, with absolute disdain towards its social responsibility. But another reason should clearly engage our attention. Does it fear accusations of cultural policing? We did see hordes of Shiv Sainiks making a bonfire out of Valentine cards, covered by the national press in a subtly hostile and mocking manner. Such coverage may have been warranted since the party in question was trying to cash on assumed cultural fears. But why was the media reluctant to accommodate saner voices which sought to take on the forces sponsoring the event and expose the commercial interests behind it? Such voices were either muffled or got confined to cursory coverage.

So was the media trying to take a culturally neutral stand? Its excessive coverage and its silence in exposing the other side does not prove anything of this sort. A few reports and columns did speak about the Valentine`s Day having become commercialized. But such reports were a mere grumble, easily offset by garish features which exhorted the youth to don the Valentine cap. We had features advising amateur lovers on what gifts to buy and what restaurants to dine in, only to be supplemented by ads which catalogued where the best discounts were being offered. Pink, the colour of love, was lavishly splashed.

 Shots of couples dancing at discotheques accompanied mildly sneering write-ups.


The media can also be accused of pandering to a largely urban and upwardly mobile clientele and in the process, trying to transplant concepts and ideas in popular culture and which may have the potential to be culturally subversive. So, its acquiescence in hyping this transnational concept should be questioned. It has readily bared its chest to Cupid, whose arrows have found their mark.












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