I have been watching a number of TV shows on Colors Infinity. It boasts of airing the latest episodes within 12 hours of their US release and indeed it has become a go-to place for me when it comes to watching TV. Maybe because I feel this attachment with the channel, its actions have hurt me deeply. And when I made the discovery I did what any conscious, Indian citizen would do, I tweeted about it. My tweets went unanswered and I had to do something else. So now I am writing an open letter about it.
It was early March last year. The new superhero show Legends of Tomorrow was airing its first season. I was following it on Colors Infinity from the beginning. During Episode 8 (“Night of the Hawk”, released originally on 10th March, 2016) one of the characters Sara Lance (she’s the leader of a group of time travelling warriors, she flies a time-spaceship and she is a trained ninja; she’s awesome) strikes up a relationship with a nurse. Right before the kiss the scene ended abruptly. I was surprised. Colors Infinity is not exactly shy when it comes to showing display of affection. Would they cut it because it was between girls? A quick search confirmed what I suspected- Colors Infinity had censored a lesbian kiss on Indian television. I didn’t think much about it and forgot the matter altogether. Until recently.
The same thing happened again during the fourth episode, called “The Last Picture Show” (original release date February 16) Kevin Keller, Betty and Veronica’s friend got a potential love interest (finally!) and they’re about to “hook up” and the scene cuts abruptly. Yes, the potential love interest was a guy. Kevin is gay.
And a few days afterwards I was watching the Season 2 of Legends of Tomorrow, a very interesting episode that involved Arthur and his knights (Episode 12- ” Camelot”, original release date 21 February) Sara was talking to Guinniver (the queen of King Arthur), suddenly the set changed abruptly. The same thing kept happening thorought the episode. It was jumpy and weird and I couldn’t enjoy it. When the episode was about to draw to a close (the good guys beat the bad guys and everyone was about to go home happy) and Sara was about to go say her goodbyes to the queen, I could tell it was a romantic set up and my TV expert brain knew a kiss was coming. What you think happened next? Yeah they censored out the kiss and as I would learn later from research (read googling) other scenes involving Sara flirting with Guinevere had also been trimmed down.
The whole incident left me angry and speechless. We live in the 21st century. We live in a country where tolerance and acceptance is ingrained in our cultural values. Our country is a pioneer when it comes to giving Constitutional safeguard to minority groups. And yet a section of our people still has to hide behind pretenses. They have to deny themselves happiness in fear of legal persecution. Even after having an alive Constitution that has seen more than 100 amendments since 1950, we are still keeping a law that was enacted in 1862 by our colonizers, the Section 377 of Indian Penal Code that criminalizes homosexuality. Even the UK went on to decriminalize homosexuality in 1967 (Scotland, England and Wales would eventually go on to legalize same sex marriage in 2014 ) and it’s been more than 15 years since the first same sex wedding took place (in 2001, Netherlands). But India is still struggling with allowing a section of Indians the rights they should enjoy in its democracy.
But I have written this open letter to talk about amendments and legal rights. We live in societies and acceptance is as much important to lead a healthy, content life as much as the rights you are entitled to. Especially when you are doing nothing to harm other people and just going about life minding your own business. Things are changing, desh badal raha hai. People no longer frown over inter caste marriages, having boyfriends and girlfriends are no longer taboo, even parents give in when they learn that their son or daughter is living with their partner before marriage. Of course such incidents are few and rare but it’s a hopeful start. But India still has a long way to go when it comes to the LGBTQ community (the initials stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer). That it why we should raise awareness. And media has a huge role to play because they can reach the masses, help people getting familiarized with the concept that love between a same sex couple is nothing unnatural. It’s the same love.
At this point I would like to mention a personal experience. I was watching “Supergirl” on Zcafe (yeah, I watch a lot of TV) and my grandmother was also in the room. Those of you who follow the show you’d know that Supergirl Kara’s sister Alex is gay (or lesbian if you prefer) and in that particular episode there happen to be a kiss between Alex and her girlfriend. I was horrified that I’m going to get an earful from my 80-something grandmother. But she didn’t say anything.
I peered at her if she looks scandalized by what she saw. But I saw no change in her expression. When the episode ended I asked her casually what she thought about the show, she only said the people in it are very beautiful. At that moment my heart swelled with pride and adoration for my grandmother. Maybe this is what we need. To make people aware that this can also happen. It’s in nature of people to be fearful and cautious of the unknown. I truly believe once they get to wrap their heads around the fact that a girl and boy being in love is just like a girl and girl (two boys for that matter) people would slowly come to accept it. And for that they need exposure to such relationships, such stories. Normal stories of normal people, not the caricatures some TV serials feed us in the name of humor. And this is why I am angry at Colors Infinity ruining that chance. Because what they were doing was targeted censoring (they show a lot of liplocks between straight people and even more!) and this needs to stop.
If you’re from the Colors Infinity team and reading this, please give this some thought.