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Gold-Digging: Fluidity in Meanings Explored in Pakistani Media

Pakistani media’s portrayal of 'gold-digging' varies significantly, reflecting the fluidity of its meaning and moral interpretation. This article examines two Pakistani dramas, Meray Paas Tum Ho and Quddusi Sahab Ki Bewah, to understand how the portrayal of female gold-diggers can oscillate between serious condemnation and light-hearted humour, based on the meanings attached to the deed in each scenario.


Meray Paas Tum Ho - Gold-Digging as a Moral Failing


In Meray Paas Tum Ho, the narrative centers around Mehwish who is portrayed as an ambitious gold-digger. This character (viewed through a lens of moral scrutiny) is depicted as the antagonist, embodying traits of greed, betrayal, and selfishness. The drama presents her actions – forming relationships for financial gain – as a serious ethical failing. This portrayal aligns with stereotypical societal values that vilify women who prioritise material wealth over emotional or moral integrity in relationships.

The drama's treatment of gold-digging is significant in its seriousness. It not only casts Mehwish in a negative light but also engages with broader societal conversations about gender roles, morality, and the sanctity of marriage. In this context, gold-digging is not just a personal flaw but a symbol of societal decay, reflecting anxieties around changing gender dynamics and the erosion of traditional values. Mehwish is seen as a titular villain for her bold actions and extra-marital relation with Shehwar. She suffers a fateful end where she loses everything - money, social status, her husband, as well as, her son. Shehwar on the other hand, is eventually forgiven by his wife and returns to work with her.


Quddusi Sahab Ki Bewah - Gold-Digging as Humour


Contrastingly, Quddusi Sahab Ki Bewah adopts an entirely different approach. In this drama, the theme of gold-digging is woven into the narrative with a sense of humour. The female characters who engage in gold-digging are not demonised but are instead part of comedic plots, their actions leading to humourous situations and misunderstandings. The titular Shakooran feeds off of the money her daughters earn, while each one of the daughters - Khajista, Badriqa and Shagufta - engage in a constant quest of finding rich people to marry. Rooh Afzah is often seen as demanding and obsessed with appearing “richer.” Never in the drama is the idea of gold-digging vilified. Rather, it is treated as a common trait shared among lower-class households and their members.

This lighter portrayal suggests a more nuanced understanding of gold-digging. Instead of outright condemnation, the drama uses humour to explore the complexities of why individuals might be driven to such actions. The humour does not necessarily absolve the characters of their materialistic motivations but instead humanises them, allowing the audience to engage with their stories in a less judgmental way.


The Fluid Meanings of Gold-Digging in Pakistani Media


These two contrasting portrayals in Pakistani media underscore how the meanings around gold-digging are not fixed but fluid, shaped by the contexts in which they are presented. In Meray Paas Tum Ho, the portrayal reflects societal anxieties about morality, gender roles, and the sanctity of relationships, while Quddusi Sahab Ki Bewah offers a more empathetic and less judgmental view, acknowledging the complexities behind such actions.


While the differing meanings exist, one cannot claim to hold any one of the representation at a higher pedestal than the other. Stuart Hall's theory of Representation argues that there can never be any true representation of events, people, places or histories because meanings are constantly constructed - there is no one true meaning. The differing treatments of gold-digging in these dramas reveal much about changing meanings and perceptions in Pakistan towards women, wealth, and relationships, and can be analysed to comment on the effectiveness of media products, rather than the validity of representation within them.

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I really like how your analysis provides an insightful exploration into the diverse depictions of 'gold-digging' in Pakistani dramas. It's fascinating to see how Meray Paas Tum Ho and Quddusi Sahab Ki Bewah present contrasting perspectives on this theme.I find it intriguing how one drama condemns gold-digging as a moral failing, while the other presents it humorously, humanizing the characters engaging in such behavior.Personally, while I appreciate the nuanced exploration of gold-digging, I wonder how these contrasting portrayals might influence viewers' perceptions and attitudes toward societal norms. Do you think viewers are more inclined to empathize or judge characters based on the way gold-digging is portrayed? What is your opinion on the impact of these nuanced portrayals in shaping evolving…

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Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir
Nov 27, 2023

I completely agree with your perspective on representation, particularly the pervasive theme of women being unfairly portrayed as gold diggers in our society. However, what truly astonishes me, especially when watching drama serials like "Mere Paas Tum Ho," is the prevalence of biases against men and their actions. The validity of representation becomes distorted in these media portrayals, especially when considering that if the narrative were reversed, with a male character in Mehwish's place and engaging in the same actions, the outcome would likely differ significantly. A man involved in an extramarital affair would probably not face the same severe repercussions, nor would he likely lose everything as Mehwish did. It's disheartening to observe such gender-based disparities in the consequences…


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Mahnoor Zafar
Mahnoor Zafar
Nov 28, 2023
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Yes, agreed indeed. The gender binary which exists in dramas like Meray Paas Tum Ho underscores the differential treatment woman receive in comparison to men in all walks of life. Had Mehwish been a man, her ending would have been completely different, something which can be seen in the way the show ends for Shehwar (he goes to jail for money laundering, but is eventually forgiven by his wife). Mehwish on the other hand is supposed to live with the guilt of being the reason for her ex-husband's tragic death. The audience is clearly expected to learn more from Mehwish as her end is more significant and carries a larger than life sentence. We see how the women becomes the…

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Mariam
Mariam
Nov 27, 2023

I believe a part of the comedic effect originates from the fact that "Aunty" can be considered its own gender. Middle aged women in Pakistani culture are not bound by the same social constraints as young adults, in that they are allowed, and often expected to be gossipy, outspoken, and snarky. A lot of young women are chastised for, aunties can get away with by virtue of their gender expression and age. As said by Kareem Khubchandani, "the aunty is not a promiscuous figure - she can be curvy, but not sexy" - and so her actions are not seen as seductive, but a laughable attempt at seduction due to her lack of sexual appeal in mainstream media. Moreover, there's…

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Mahnoor Zafar
Mahnoor Zafar
Nov 27, 2023
Replying to

I really like your idea of how "Aunty" can be considered a separate gender/category of female characters who derive their agency through their age. Quddusi Sahab Ki Bewah definitely employs this tactic, where most of its female leads are old (or relatively older women in their 40s and early 50s). However, there are also portrayals of younger women, notably the sixteen years old Shabbo - Aleem-uddin's third wife - and the women who are seen as potential love interests of Wadood. These younger women embody the same gold-digger attitude. Shabbo only marries Aleem-uddin so that she can inherit his wealth(however meagre it is). Wadood's love interest, played by Sajal Aly, also embodies the same gold-digger attitude (supported by her mother)…

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