Gender & Late-Night Pakistani TV

Every Friday night, my father, without fail, starts switching between the 11.00 pm news channel shows to amuse himself. Shows such as "Khabardaar," "Hasb-e-Haal," and "Khabar-Naak" may cloak sexism and stereotypes as humor. Though watching these shows portrays this sense of learning, with random facts thrown about here and there to "educate" the show's viewers on some issues, one can question whether this information is being relayed is authentic and unbiased.


One constant occurrence in the shows listed is cisgender heterosexual men dressing up as women to ridicule them. Since they air on popular news channels, the shows' humor circulates political personalities; one constantly under fire is Firdous Ashiq Awan. Though the politician is not a saint by any means, these shows take the liberty to fat-shame her and ridicule her accented English. Her caricatures are almost always played by men, who refuse to acknowledge their privileged criticism against the personality. The male-dominated panel of such shows find such bits hilarious; one recurring skit on Geo TV's "Khabar-Naak" was when one of the comedic panelists mocked Meera, the actress, through constant jabs at her way of speaking and her Television History. He'd act highly feminine only to be ridiculed by the comics sitting there.


One can see that this is heavily rooted in transphobic and fatphobic tendencies that dominate throughout the population of Pakistan. These shows are mostly catered to middle-aged Pakistani men, who mimick women with exaggerated features and voices. How is this transphobic? The instance mentioned of Geo TV mocking Meera, as mentioned, is done by a cis-gender man. Multiple examples of the show clips show the panel calling him a common local trans slur and being disgusted by him. Hall's study of representation as a form of language interpretation holds up here in the sense that overly feminine features being portrayed by a masculine figure are considered mainly deviant, to the point where people resort to slurs to display their disgust—pointing to the deep-rooted prejudice existing for trans-people. Fatphobia mostly takes form from the portrayal of fat "villainous" women. AshiqAwan is not the perfect politician, yet she is reduced to her physical appearance, like most women being criticized for something completely unrelated.

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