“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” If you read this and had a mental smirk, then you’ve probably watched the popular franchise of Star Wars. If you hear “How you doin’?”, and imagine Joey saying it with that look on his face, then you’re probably among the majority of people who are absolutely in love with the popular sitcom “F.R.I.E.N.D.S.”. Both of these are examples of widely popular franchises which have made a massive impact on the Indian youth. It is quite well observed that the youth in India, associates itself more closely to the west than to Indian culture.
India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. Due to these ever-changing demographics, our consumption patterns are undergoing a paradigm shift. Over the past decade, the western pop culture has had an unprecedented impact on the way the young Indians live. The youth of today is completely aware of the fact that Jon Snow knows nothing, but might not be aware that Krishna knew everything.
With a sizable population of India being under the age of 35, television, movies and books had to be according to the taste of this chunk of the population to be successful. When there was nothing indigenous that could grab the attention of the youth, people turned to the west, which catered to their needs with F.R.I.E.N.D.S, where waiting tables and being unemployed is not something which is frowned upon. Where people switch careers at the peak of their lives to start from scratch.
There has been a shift in the way we consume information today. With even the educated people preferring the visual media, the written word is having a hard time finding its share of attention. That said, even the visual media has observed a shift in the ways it is marketed today, compared to the simpler times. Earlier only Marvel and DC used to have their merchandise every time they brought out a movie, and now every popular Bollywood banner movie releases its merchandise for movie promotions. People await the release of movie trailers.
For a long time, daily soaps targeted housewives, but now there is something for everyone to watch. This has led to new business opportunities with the emergence of independent entertainment houses such as TVF and AIB. These are flourishing because they sensed that the Indian crowd was ready for light sitcoms like Permanent Roommates where the lead couple is in a live-in relationship or an Indian version of John Oliver's show that is On Air with AIB. This shift in preferences has also resulted in streaming services like YouTube, Netflix and Hotstar gaining ground in the Indian entertainment landscape.
If we sit back and analyze how this pop culture has slowly and steadily affected our lives, we’d find many things to reflect upon. The success of the stand-up comedy scene, the acceptance of meaningful cinema vis-a-vis the traditional Bollywood dhoom dhadaka (pomp and show) and the popularity of Netflix, Hotstar, TVF, AIB point to one thing. People are only loyal to their interests. You cater to that, they'll be your viewers. The stereotypical Indian mindset of playing it safe is being replaced by risk-taking attitude. The famous Quora-user Roman Saini is an example of that, with him leaving the cushy job of the Civil Services to pursue his passion of co-founding a free education mission--mainly with the MOOC-platform Unacademy. The mindset is reflected by the types of choices people make. A shift has also been observed in the preference of people for govt. jobs over the private ones. Jobs that were considered petty and substandard, are now being glamorized. Many of these changes are an amalgamated effect of growing economic prosperity in India and wider acceptance of foreign ideas.
The way we consume has also undergone an overhaul, as young people watching American television try and emulate their idols, going out more and using services like Spotify, Reddit, 9GAG. It has also radically changed the social scene with coffee shop culture, club culture and partying being the norm in the youth. It has also changed how we view love and dating. Dating and meeting apps like Tinder, Meetup are leading the apps download charts. Inter-caste marriages and live-in relationships are gaining more acceptance than ever now.
The influence of western culture has made us more cosmopolitan, and thus more capable of being able to connect with different cultures. With the Western pop culture being more egalitarian than Indian pop culture, Indians have learnt about racism, feminism and many other ideas from it. Western culture also has more individualism and emphasizes on independence from cultural imperatives. The Indian culture and youth are slowly becoming westernized, but the metamorphosis is incongruent. This might also be because television and movies are at many times not an accurate representation of society.
We have selectively adopted the easier-to-embrace parts of Western society--eating habits, clothing, consumerism, media, arts and language--and have neglected the more universal ideas like gender equality, egalitarianism, social justice, and LGBT rights. The reason for this might be a society that selects ideas on the basis of comfort and what would be easily acceptable. So, yes, Western Ideas have changed Indian Youth, but not in a way that would benefit our society at large. Western societies strive to become more inclusive while maintaining their identity--their folklore, arts and crafts, food, and language. These ideas seem to be missing in the “westernized” youth of today. Instead of accepting useful values and ideas, and preserving the ones that already exist, for example, secularism and non-violence, we are becoming a comatose patient being fed unnecessary products for the rich to benefit.
So, what can we expect from the future? We can expect more and more Indians accepting the ideas from the globalized world that will make us egalitarian. If we do not become aware, and reason and question everything that we do, we will certainly erase certain parts of our culture-- including Indian Classical Music, Nukkad Nataks, agrarian cuisines, painting styles etc.--that need to be preserved. It does not mean we cannot mix new cultures and ideas; India was a melting pot of different cultures till the USA took the crown. Maybe we can be the new melting pot, the next new world. A young culture for a young country.
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