In Defense of Veena Malik
Much has been made of Veena Malik’s appearance on the fourth season of the Indian edition of reality television show Big Brother. As the show enters its seventh week of a fourteen week process, I thought it would be the right time for me to spring to her valiant defense. I’m nothing if not chivalrous.
Most criticism of Veena’s performance (if you can call living in a house with some strangers a performance) center around three major thrusts:
1) Veena Malik is embarrassing to Pakistan and Pakistanis
2) Veena Malik’s overt sexuality is ‘cheap’ and awful
3) Veena Malik is an idiot
I believe all three of these claims are inaccurate, and will try to refute them one by one.
Veena Malik is Embarrassing to Pakistan and Pakistanis
This is probably my favourite claim since it seems to imply that Pakistan has started sending delegations to reality television shows. If that is the case, I’d like to respectfully ask PEMRA (I suppose they’d have to be in control here) to send me on the next US edition of Survivor. I’ll make sure to make the country proud.
Veena Malik has gone on the show in an individual capacity and not as an ambassador of Pakistan. To borrow political parlance, she’s what we’d call a ‘Non-State Actor’.
That guy who wrenched the flag from an athlete at the opening of the Commonwealth Games? Embarrassing to Pakistan. He went to the Games in an official capacity (a State Actor, if you like), and then made a fool of himself. By extension, the people who appointed him to that position look foolish and should be embarrassed.
Veena Malik? Embarrassing to herself maybe (if you think of it that way). But to the country? No.
Veena Malik’s Overt Sexuality is ‘Cheap’ and Awful
This claim doesn’t entertain me; it just mostly serves to anger me. The disdain for Veena Malik’s sexuality probably stems from the (fairly widespread) belief that a good Pakistani girl keeps to herself, plaits her hair, and makes some hot roti whenever her husband / father / brother demands. Most importantly, the good Pakistani girl does not mix with men. Even sharing the same oxygen supply with a na-mehram can lead to a shocking pregnancy.
Enter Veena Malik.
Not only is she overtly sexual and seductive, she’s supremely confident about it. She likes a guy, so she goes after him. She likes another one, so she goes after him too. My question is simply why this is considered an inherently bad thing? Why is a confident woman who knows what she wants and works to get it, ‘cheap’?
I contend that it’s not. In a global discourse where the Pakistani woman is seen as a submissive creature with no independence, I’m delighted to have someone like Veena crushing those stereotypes. While always wearing 5 inch heels.
(My implication here is not that this reflects well on Pakistan and therefore is complimentary to the country. Simply, that it shows that there are all kinds of women in Pakistan.)
Veena Malik is an Idiot
Big Brother is a show where you need audience votes to win. No discernible talent is required, so the audience can’t make it’s mind up based on how well you sing a song for example. Given that Veena Malik has no fan base to speak of in India, the likelihood of her winning is very slim.
Clearly her purpose on the show, then, is to generate buzz for herself in the much larger Indian market. To generate the necessary amount of buzz Veena must accomplish two things: she must stay in the house for as long as possible (exposure), and she must create a complex character that people want to see more of (interest)
On the staying in the house front, I don’t think anyone in there has been nearly as successful as she has. She’s locked down a solid four person alliance, and will extend friendship / flirtation wherever else necessary to ensure that she isn’t nominated.
Similarly, on the complex character front, I believe that Veena has done a better job than anyone else in there. She has created a strange love triangle, has established a rivalry, hasn’t been afraid to stand her ground, and has had plenty of more ‘vulnerable’ moments.
I (somewhat ashamedly) watch far too much reality television. In many ways, Veena ranks among the most interesting and engaging characters I’ve come across. As far as achieving her goal goes, I’d say she’s done pretty well. You’ve got to be somewhat smart to accomplish that.
Her purpose on the show is to entertain. Not to be an ambassador, not to be the archetype of the good girl, and not to join Mensa. On that front, job well done.
Veena Malik will probably get voted out of the show fairly soon. There aren’t many people left on the show, and most have sizable fan bases. Once she does, the show will morph into a bunch of people living in a house, doing chores, and getting along. If that’s your idea of fun viewing that’s great, but I probably won’t be watching anymore.