Pakistani teens: Partying with Chuck Bass to spite the Taliban

Published: January 1, 2011
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Everyone has their own reasons, ranging from looking at hot boys to taking fashion tips.

A strange new American phenomenon has taken hold of the Pakistani youth, particularly young women. There is no escaping it. It is everywhere. It has penetrated our very soul and become part of every aspect of our life. I am referring to, of course, teen shows.

Teen shows on the whole were never watched in Pakistan as much as they are now. Very few people would remember Dawson’s Creek (personally, I couldn’t stand Katie Holmes). Shows like The OC and Gilmore Girls were the first of their kind that mapped their way into the TV viewers at large. Now, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t know who Blair Waldorf is.

What makes these shows so fun?

Aside from the age segmentation, there’s no generalising the audience. Simply put, their attraction is the result of a well-crafted strategy by their makers. But eventually, these strategies stop working, and the shows start becoming redundant and boring.

This is how a typical teen show goes:

  • Boy meets girl.
  • Boy is either geeky and the girl is glamorous and beautiful either/or both are from “different worlds.”
  • Boy and girl have a series of meetings in which they are gradually attracted to each other.
  • Some kind of misunderstanding, fight, tragedy, shocking revelations, etcetera occurs that throws a wrench in the relationship.
  • Boy and girl either break up, or decide to take some time off.
  • Boy and girl proceed to have a series of awkward social encounters.
  • Either of the two meets someone else.
  • Whoever meets someone else starts dating only to realise that the previous boy/girl is the one for them.
  • Both get back together but something from the previous fling of either character strains the relationship between them again.
  • And the cycle continues.

The clichéd characters are even more amusing. They may differ in looks, but they’re always the same.

  • The bad boy: The unredeemable hottie that girls pretend to hate but secretly crush on.
  • The good girl: The girl that somehow gets the bad boy’s attention, and almost redeems him until he realises he can’t be a better person.
  • The genuine good boy: The boy next door who wants the girl he can’t possibly have. The boy next door’s best friend wishes he’d look at her the way he looks at the girl he’s in love with.
  • The mean girl: The cruel and heartless girl who is gradually revealed to be that way to protect herself from the oh-so-horrid world of high school.
  • The geeks: Just there for comic relief.

The most delightful part about these shows is that a vast majority of boys also like these shows. I was actually convinced to watch 90210 by a friend of my cousin’s, who kept telling me how hot Liam was till I finally had to see for myself. He swore he was straight, and I’m not one to discriminate, so I didn’t ask many questions.

Often, when I look up people on Facebook, or stalk people on Facebook, however you want to see it, I end up laughing myself silly when their favorite TV shows happen to be Gossip Girl or Greek. Why they like teen shows, I’ll never know, but it never fails to crack me up.

And yet, despite the redundancies and horrible, horrible acting and painful dialogues that sound like they’re written by a twelve-year-old, these shows still manage to attract a large audience.

Why do teens watch these shows?

Everyone has their own reasons.

1. Because I’m Chuck Bass

If I had a rupee for every time someone on Facebook updated their status to say “Because I’m Chuck Bass,” I would be a very happy girl. As shallow as it may sound, the pretty male actors play a huge role in attracting target female audiences; it’s why I endured Smallville for five seasons after all. It’s superficial at best, but girls will watch anything as long as there’s a cute guy to sigh over.

2. The clothes

There lies a weakness for fashion in even the geekiest of girls. I’m a fan of Serena’s makeup and Jenny’s wardrobe myself. Those that can’t endure the bad acting, watch for the clothes, jewelry, makeup tips, etcetera. Again, shallow, but even the girls that stood for hours collecting money on the streets for flood victims are allowed to have personal interests aren’t they?

Plus, thanks to the joys of video piracy and torrents, people can see the newest episodes of any show just a few hours after their original air date. Texts are sent, OMG-ing over the latest controversy/hook-up and more importantly, did you see what Casey was wearing? I loved Adriana’s necklace! I have to know which shade of lipstick Jenny was wearing! Oh, how do you think Caroline’s eyes looked so full and dark? And so on and so forth.

Websites are checked, tutorials YouTube’d. It’s almost fascinating how much attention girls give to these details. (Personally, I loved Caroline’s eye makeup in the episode where Katherine turned her.)

3. The relatable plots

For those who, are indifferent to boys and aren’t attracted by fashion tips, there’s the relatabilty factor.

As hard as it may be to swallow, real life can sometimes be just as melodramatic as it is on TV. For many teens and tweens, it’s a relief to see that people out there understand their issues and problems, who are willing to address such issues on TV. The fact that this is Pakistan makes no difference. Jenny’s dad doesn’t want her becoming a designer. Any girl whose parents won’t let her study in her preferred field can sympathise. Grounded for sneaking out, an unfaithful boyfriend, a bad breakup; we’ve all been there at one point or another, and know how it feels. We can easily relate.

The extremely devoted fan base

Regardless of their initial charms, most of these shows tend to lose their audience after the first two or three seasons. Eventually people get sick of the repetitive storylines and countless clichés. That is what happened with The OC in the past, and is happening to One Tree Hill now. But, losing viewers is never a loss for these shows, because they always have an extremely devoted fan base that is fiercely loyal, despite their own disappointment with the show’s storylines.

As for me, I watch teen shows for the boys, and because the female actor who plays Jenny Humphrey has an amazing band, and because I just can’t resist a vampire show (other than Twi-crap of course) and because, this simple girl – geek or not – is still very much a girl.

I know how bad the acting is, and how the storylines are even worse. But I just can’t stop. It’s an addiction no girl would ever be willing to give up. And that’s the way it should be. Our real social lives may be restricted by protective and conservative parents or people blowing up places because they’re bored but hey, we’ll always have our shows!

ghausia.rashid

Ghausia Rashid

A BSS student majoring in journalism at Bahria University. She enjoys writing about anything that matters, is an avid reader, talks more than she should, and to her bemusement, is frequently asked if people find her annoying! She is interested in activism, politics and culture.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://amnamela.wordpress.com/ Amna Mela

    hahaha I think you summed it up perfectly. Although I don’t often admit to watching these shows publicly, when you put it like that, I can’t deny it. Now how ’bout a post on when all my guilty pleasures are returning? Recommend

  • http://natashasuleman.wordpress.com Natasha Suleman

    Taliban? Recommend

  • Dina

    Another terribly pointless blog which illustrates the correlation between watching trashy, American TV shows and the rapidly declining IQ levels of our youth.
    And what on earth does the Taliban have to do with this.Recommend

  • http://abbasiworld.blogspot.com Wasio Ali Khan Abbasi

    Wow, I have never even heard of these shows except Smallville and One Tree Hill (I am fan of the former and watched the latter on a female friend’s suggestion, I only liked Basketball stuff and rest was crap). I had no idea that people here are such devoted fans. I did know that some of the Star channel shows were and still are famous (like Bold and the Beautiful), but these shows and the eye on glamor is news to me.
    Girls are girls, what can we say :DRecommend

  • Ali

    hahah nicely written :) but think of a different title i dont even think taliban was written apart from the title!Recommend

  • Majid Urrehman

    Ghausia, I would suggest you to have some short religious course. U’ve ruined ur topic by using the words “spite the Taliban”Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    The writer would like to clarify that she originally titled this ‘Teen Shows: An Incurable Addiction’, and not the Taliban title. The editors in their infinite wisdom changed the title, to the writer’s chagrin but hey, they know better. The writer is also going to stop talking in the third person now.Recommend

  • Raheel

    GrammER Snubs are everywhere………………………………. so are the spelling snubs lollllllRecommend

  • http://amnamela.wordpress.com/ Amna Mela

    unfortunately, the illiteracy rate seems to be very high among our youth…when it comes to sarcasm.

    the, title folks- it’s sarcasm. because we’re talking about gossip girl and 90210 here…no one is trying to actually fight off the taliban with chuck bass. humour, kids, it’s a thing. and it’s pretty awesome one once you get the hang of it. Recommend

  • Anam Ashraf Ali

    Lolz.. very good post Ghausia! Well I confess I am big TV buff and I watch unhealthy amounts of tv series…few of those are teen series. I think mostly its the ‘hottie factor’ that sells these tv shows, like for example Damon Salvatore from Vampire Diaries, Liam from 90210 and ChuckBass(who i don’t think is hot but fits the bad boy routine perfectly) from GG.

    But I am big fan of Greek – its a comic relief and a guilty pleasure. Recommend

  • Rameez

    useless,pointless waste of space…..Recommend

  • http://amnamela.wordpress.com/ Amna Mela

    AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO FINDS THE TITLE FUNNY?Recommend

  • Amer

    @Ghausia: What a crazy title! That’s the first thought that came to my mind, even before reading your blog…
    I don’t have much to add to your blog except that it was a fun read. The editors at ET really need to get a grip, they think throwing the word “taliban” would add more masala to their pages but they are totally wrong. My point is just like the editorial below, maybe the “editors” at ET can “edit” each other first, if the title was ‘Teen Shows: An Incurable Addiction’, I wouldn’t have had so many pre-conceived ideas before reading your blog and your writing might have had a more lasting impression.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/97850/petrol-bomb-and-other-unfair-labels/Recommend

  • parvez

    I read the whole thing through and was pretty astonished that someone could write something as long as this on a subject such as this and still make it a fun read.
    The other thing that came to mind was that Ghausia must watch television with the same intensity as my little five year old watches Tom & Jerry.
    Lastly, I thought the Taliban thing was very apt, you just have to make the connection. Recommend

  • GGM

    Can’t we ever write anything without having to mention the Talibans? We are urbanised, middle-class and educated Pakistanis dude, and the majority of us don’t have anything in common with TalibansRecommend

  • NAFISA

    hahaha nice article ghausia…for people who think it’s useless try to see the lighter side of life sometimes. It is true that most teenagers have developed a fascination for it recently. Although i agree with many “why the mention of taliban?”..good piece of leisure reading =) Recommend

  • Samreen

    Erm, care to explain the title anyone? Throwing ‘taliban’ into a headline is just lazy journalism. Recommend

  • Samreen

    Oh and to take a page out of your book, if I had a rupee for every time any of the teens you mention has ever met someone from the ‘taliban’, I’d be very very poor indeed. Recommend

  • Samreen

    @Samreen:
    And this last comment is directed to the editors who changed the title, not the writer.Recommend

  • The original ‘Samreen’

    hahaha…. now that is what i call a detailed summed up! nice observation Gausia …..though I think i’ve already read few articles before on ET ….hope to see more from your side soon!Recommend

  • Sara

    Well though i feel that everyone above has a valid point, it was nice to read this article! Personally I had no clue that we had such avid viewers of such shows here in Pakistan! I’m a TV series addict myself, and have been watching all sorts of series, starting from Knight Rider and Airwolf on PTV! …So, what I want to know is, does Chuck Bass know he has a fan following here in Pakistan? Crazy idea: How about one of our dozen (and rising) media channels interview him! better yet, get a small TV audience of Bass fans in the studio during the interview so they ask ques as well!…Come on, is it that impossible to get this done?! We’re living in an age of Skype! Let’s do something totally unique, which just might get the western media to report on something ‘normal’ about us for a change!…and let Hollywood know that they have fans down here as well!..There is a target audience here which the media can make use of…albeit small, but it does exist!Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    Cool I was expecting to get a lot of negative comments about this from people disgruntled that the country is going to hell and all I care about is Damon Salvatore(But those eyes people, those eyes!) Thanks everyone!

    @Anam I started watching Greek just two days ago, and I love it, total Cappie fan!

    @Amer Glad you liked it despite the title. I don’t see the humour in it but I’m not very smart so its a moot point. Plus, they’re editors for a reason after all. :D

    @parvez haha glad you thought it was fun, I must have gone through at least six drafts of this in an attempt to spice it up somehow and make it more fun. And I totally get the T&J reference, my nephew is the same, but no, its easy to make the connections when you watch so many teeny shows. :)Recommend

  • aismab

    What a terrible piece of writing. Does the author have nothing better to impart?Recommend

  • benzil

    what a shame this article is…………….a nation losing morality ……..Recommend

  • Abdullah Zaidi

    @ghausia

    do us a favor, write briefly. Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    @Sara I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic or not, but I doubt the dude has enough time to Skype with Pakistan. It would be totally cool if he did though, although I’d prefer to talk to Ian Somerhalder! :D

    @aismab what a terrible piece of criticism does the commenter have nothing better to impart?

    @benzil Sure, THIs is immoral and the mullah brigade and their hypocrisy isn’t?

    @Abdullah do us a favour, don’t bother reading something when you don’t like it.Recommend

  • Ali Hassan

    I do not know about these shows so can’t say much, but I like the title.
    I can start watching, if they spite the Talibs.Recommend

  • Ali

    An excellent and much needed blog post… Really enjoyed reading it.Recommend

  • http://islamabad Maryam

    luv it totally….

    -GG and Greek fan… :)Recommend

  • http://www.bonfriends.org/2010/12/31/best-way-win-world Anum Aziz

    Nice summarization. But it is not the same for every shows. Have you seen how i met your mother, DEXTER??? Ghausia, atleast they are entertaining and you are criticizing. Thats why our country’s tv industry is flop.Recommend

  • Yousuf

    Its because we’re all ‘sheep’. The only shows I’ve followed devotedly are shows like “Scrubs” & “The Big Bang Theory”. Theres not much of a plot, but the humor is ‘epic winrar’. I did watch 5 seasons of Smallville (Yes, I regret it dearly), but that was only because I ‘have’ to watch everything related to ‘Superman’. Shows like ‘Dexter’ and ‘The Wire’ deserve to be on our teen watch list, but alas, a sexy hot cast and cheap senseless melodrama (with overdramatic drama queens) are more appealing than a mind boggling plot, that actually force you to think (or be inspired). What we need, is access to even more creative content, like ‘Japanese Animes’ and ‘Korean Dramas’.Recommend

  • Omair

    Loved the topic. Loved the blog. Loved the headline. All the times that I could not go out becaus of “conservatve parents or terrorists” I would watch 90210 or OC and I totally relate to this.Recommend

  • Waqqas Iftikhar

    I see no one’s talkin about one of the best shows on TV…..not really from the genre discussed here but man South Park is amazing……

    discuss. Recommend

  • Dr. Amyn Malik

    Well done! Yes a lot of people are attracted to such shows, even I watch 90210 with some interest.

    The interesting part to note is that not only teen shows like GG and 90210 have caught up in popularity, other shows like Grey’s Anatomy and The Big Bang Theory have developed a good fan base over here too. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/143/taha-kerar/ Taha Kehar

    This piece should be expanded, possibly as a research project! Brilliant work!Recommend

  • Waqqas Iftikhar

    @ghausia…..they are blasphemers…but hilarious ones at that…..everyone should really watch the muhammad episode that people were up in arms about, it was very very funny….Recommend

  • http://www.pakspectator.com Sana Saleem

    Nice n Realistic ! I loved it!Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    @Taha don’t encourage me, I bet I could do a whole thesis on this topic! :D

    @Waqas man I don’t know how guys can watch this and not wig out, I don’t like hurting the sentiments of any religion so it doesn’t have to be Islam to make me feel bad, every dude I know tells me to watch it!

    @Sana EEK a Twitter/blogosphere celebrity likes my blog! fans selfRecommend

  • http://bakedsunshine.wordpress.com/ Shumaila

    Ummm….I’m not a huge fan of TV in general, much less TV series, and thats probably why I don’t understand why you’d want to write a whole blog-post on them – has the world run out of topics? I mean, I hear enough about gossip girl and greek and pata nahin kya from my friends, I don’t see why you had to drag it here too. But to each his own. I suppose they’re popular among the youth today and that’s why you had to somehow…bring them in the limelight more, although that will accomplish….what exactly? No idea.

    I am not criticising you :P You made the things seem mildly interesting, even to me. But still. Gossip girl? A whole blog post on gossip girl? ummm…Oh well.Recommend

  • Sara

    @Ghausia:
    No, i wasn’t being sarcastic at all! somehow i have this crazy idea that our media actually has the power to do such things! I mean, why not? It may take a while to set up, but is it that an impossible task to undertake? I don’t know anybody in the media, but i do feel that we really need to think out of the box and get some extraordinary things done! And the target audience should be the ordinary citizens in the west, in order to improve our image amongst them.

    I finally saw one show, The Platform on Express 24/7, which has a panel in Pakistan, and one in the US, and questions are asked. An excellent start for our point of view to go across directly. But much more of the same is needed on a larger scale. More shows where we can talk directly to people in the west and tell them what we think. So why not one show topic being on how Pakistanis are as crazy about series like Gossip Girl, as are Americans and why not try to get an actor from the show on as well! Hey, crazier things have happened in the world and in Pakistan! :))Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    Et tu Shumaila? As for what it accomplished, well, it lifted up people’s spirits and started off the year on a less gloomy note for some, plain and simple. And the whole blog isn’t about GG, you obviously don’t watch any of these shows since you didn’t recognize that I’d mentioned characters from different shows so no, not totally GG. Besides, its better than a weak, superficial blog about say, shopping or expensive branded clothes, accessories, etc?Recommend

  • Zainab Khan

    Hhhahah. Really well-written Ghausia.
    And yes,the Humphreys are also my reasons for watching GG,Jenny because of her awe-inspiring wardrobe and Dan because he is just so goddamn cute.
    P.S: Love the title.=)Recommend

  • http://gypsyinsepia.wordpress.com/ Manahil

    At last, someone wrote about what I wanted to scream for so long.
    Fun to read. Recommend

  • AHR

    It was fun to read!
    ET Editors: You know what I really like this newspaper because I can relate to it’s orientation in more ways than I can relate to other newspapers, but please don’t put off a lot of us by sensationalizing unnecessarily (ref: title) and do keep up the good work!Recommend

  • Maha

    How can one not fall in love with such trifling tv shows? They provide a great reason to be completely unproductive, and as mentioned lots of hotties to ogle at. Don’t know where I would be without them, my totally useless brilliant waste-of-time-shows. Recommend

  • Erfan

    Can’t relate to it. Oh wait this is “Pull – ke – Uss per” walay logRecommend

  • Shoaib Pervaiz

    This article is very well written, Ghausia. It portrays the current teenage psyche accurately and shows how easily the youth of our country is influenced by these glamorous western shows.Recommend

  • Fahad

    Awesome article Ghausia but v dnt hav time for such shows.Facebook,Movies,Girlfriend,friendz,Night party all in cool Izlooooo(Islamabad). Recommend

  • Aaliyah.

    The title would only make sense to those who watch these shows, only they can relate the two. The title amused me and I could understand what was between the lines! As far as those grumbling commentators are concerned they must be those who want to accuse the youth of having nothing better to do than follow the West and the Taliban are justified in doing what they’re doing because the youth is “oh so bad oh so bad!” So people this article is NOT for you.
    Ghausia, you’ve done a commendable job in summarizing exactly how the youth is duplicating these Western shows. I hate Jenny despite her wardrobe, and Chuck is Chuckilicious! I do not mind acting like Queen B at times either. Keep writing!
    :DRecommend

  • Angelos

    Perfectly summed up!!!Recommend

  • Rameez

    Nice article but it represents less than 1% teens of Pakistan so I can understand the comments like “What a terrible piece of writing. Does the author have nothing better to impart?” and I feel these comments are perfectly justified.Recommend

  • http://www.twitter.com/iansomerhalder Ian Somerhalder

    @Writer: I am honored that you want to speak to me but sorry I do not find you interesting by any means. No offense.Recommend