About a couple of months ago, I was watching an Indian kids’ dance reality show with my parents. My sister is a fan of the show and I too liked it. Until that evening.
A pair of girls came up to dance–a competitor and her mentor. The dance was a fusion of classical and acrobatics. The performance was beautiful and magical already. Then came a moment that made it ugly to me.
The little girl hung on to a rope attached to her mentor by her neck. It looked so dangerous that even the judges looked scared. The child kept smiling, though.
“Was such a life-threatening step necessary?” I asked my sister. She did not know what to say.
“It was not,” was my verdict. The show acknowledged that it was dangerous but did not warn the mentor to put a child on such a risk again. Even if she was warned, it was not televised.
Are we watching a circus in the name of a TV reality show? I asked myself.
When a circus puts children in danger for “entertainment”, we usually feel bad. There are several organizations working to rescue them from the illegal, perilous, and underpaying circuses.
The TV show is similar to the circus in putting the children in peril for entertainment. They may claim it is safer, but the children are swung on harnesses, rings and trailers with very little visible protection beneath them. Days of training against the fear of falling, and yet they smile. Everything they feel is overcome by the appraisal of talent and the way they handled the performance with maturity.
Maturity comes with training and experience. When a child becomes matured at an early age, she understands discipline, as well as responsibility. Being matured, however, is not the same as growing up into an adult. Some adults never mature.
But children participating in reality shows are not only expected to be matured, they are also expected to act like adults. It’s cringey when a five year kid dances on adult-oriented songs like Sheila ki jawaani, Munni badnaam Hui, and so on. It’s even more frustrating when you see how the kid became a helping hand to her poor family changed the economy and lifestyle forever. Parents living off on the income of a child less than sixteen years old! Isn’t it child labour?
When a three year child comes to my home and dances and sings “Didi ko magani bhaisakyo merai paalo chha”*, it looks and sounds cute but have we not unconsciously placed on her mind that she should be wed soon after her sister marries.
Children insist on listening to a popular song because we play those for them. We never care whether they are suitable for them or not.
About six months ago, one boy, four years old, came my home with his mom. They live in my neighborhood but very rarely come to us. As soon as he was in, he asked his mom her phone and ran a video. He read the lyrics of Shape of You and sang along. I had not heard the song before. I watched the lyrical video. One line caught my attention, I’m in love with your body.
Body? I asked the singer in my mind. Not “you” but “your body”! So you’ll leave her once she loses the shape.
I wanted the kid to turn that song off immediately. I disturbed him. “Do you know what this song means?”
I knew he did not understand. He looked at me, smiled ignorantly and shook his head. He did not stop, though. I did not have power to stop him. And now some girls are learning to dancing on the song. [Facepalm!]
Children all over the world are now undergoing the pressure of growing up. Recently, a twelve year girl won an extremely popular American TV reality show. In one episode, she made her puppet flirt with a male judge. People found it cute. A twelve year old, albeit indirectly, flirts with an adult and we find it cute. What sort of world are we living in?
I don’t know how many people think the way I am thinking. I don’t know if I am over-thinking. I don’t know if the things I am thinking are problems for all. But if there are problems, they must be resolved, and I am yet to discover an effective solution.
* A line of a popular Nepali song that translates to: “My sister is already engaged, it’s my turn now.”