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The "Gora Complex" in Pakistani entertainment Industry

The west has made significant attempts to adopt affirmative action to increase opportunities in the workplace for underrepresented parts of society. Mainstream media in America and Europe has increasingly made attempts to cast people of colour and create stories that are more diverse, especially after the social media campaign #OscarsSoWhite took the global entertainment industry by storm. The campaign criticized the lack of representation of BIPOC, women, and the LGBTQ+ community in the nominations for the Academy Awards. It has, since then, expanded as a call for greater inclusion and awareness of several marginalized groups in all aspects of the film and television industries across the globe.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is still following that colonial mindset, which has ingrained within generations that fair skin is superior to other tones. This belief is propagated through television advertisements, soaps, drama serials and celebrity endorsements. It’s hard to imagine a future where Pakistan’s beauty standards will have shifted to real beauty. People here are too obsessed with the “gora complex” and using whitening creams and beauty filters. Especially in our entertainment industry, where we see that the entire cast is fairly skinned, whether it’s a drama serial or a movie.

Saboor aly, a Pakistani actress, shared similar views in an interview. She believed that almost all media agencies cast on the basis of fair complexion. Saboor talking about the beauty standards and complexes in our society mentioned that “There are many channels and production houses who still believe in beauty standards and fair complexion. If you have a fair complexion you will immediately get a lead character.”

Faysal Qureshi, a Pakistani actor, has also expressed his concern for the obsession with white complexion in the industry in particular and the society as a whole in a recent interview with Fuchsia Megazine. According to Faysal, the concept was affecting the career of accomplished actors by not getting the roles they deserved, “just because of your face, just because of your color complexion, your Instagram following, don’t waste other people who are really good actors both male and female. So please we need good actors. We must do something, to make the only good actors work.”

The percentage of naturally fair-skinned individuals in South Asia, when compared to the region’s predominantly dusky tones, is fairly low. The lack of young women and men on screen with darker complexions is unfathomable when it comes to casting leads for drama serials, advertisements and even social media or modeling campaigns. Even fair-skinned actresses are made lighter and fairer with makeup, making them appear at least two shades lighter.

How can any young woman with dark or dusky skin feel comfortable with her appearance and natural skin colour when she has no role models to pave the way for acceptance and self-love? Drama producers cast domestic helpers and lower class women with darker skin because apparently you NEED to be rich and affluent to be fair skinned.

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