Benedict Cumberbatch in a screen grab from the the BBC's "Sherlock"
According to one famous film director, Apple does not allow filmmakers and producers to show bad-guys using iPhones. Wow! So… ‘good guys’ use iPhones… bad guys, well they must use other kinds (Android anyone?)
This careful management of their image might sound over the top, but clearly Apple believes that, even subconsciously, we are forming opinions about brands, concepts, people, ideas, beliefs, whenever we are consuming media. I suppose this is really just another form of ‘product placement’... James Bond driving an Aston Martin (or more recently, a BMW), Marty McFly drinking Pepsi in Back to the Future, etc. (See here for more examples) It’s all around us whether we are aware of it or not.
Is the media capable of changing the way we think about one another? Absolutely! Let me give you some examples…
And how about Christian characters in the media or public life? I’m not going to go on a rant about it, but in general, Christians are not portrayed very well: they are frequently weak characters, often mocked for their hypocrisy when living failed lives, regularly belittled for their ‘antiquated’ and non-scientific beliefs. If you’re watching a murder-mystery, prepare for the vicar to turn out to be the villain (and he probably has an Android phone too) :-)
The way Christians are portrayed on TV in Pakistan is different from that in the West, but is also a cause of frustration. Their situation is perhaps more akin to some of the minority groups in the West that I have already referenced - where they are often regarded as “not being proper Pakistanis” or stereotyped as being weak or poor or ill-educated.
In one recent soap opera. "Maryam Pereira, there was some excitement that a Christian character had been included and the show tries to deal sensitively with the Christian minority. Yet, she as the series progressed, she embarked on a relationship with a Muslim man and married him. This provoked outrage from the Christian community who felt deeply disappointed by the way they had been portrayed - but then, what can you expect when other people are telling your story? This is why it is so important for Christians to be involved in all aspects of the media: from media ownership to script writing. See this excellent article from DAWN about Maryam Pereira
This is why one of our activities at PAK7 is to make quality TV programs that people of all faiths enjoy - and which feature Christians in a positive way. We want to show Christians contributing to the good of society and culture in Pakistan, Christians who are well educated, Christians who are decent and kind, Christians who love their country, Christians who are just downright normal.
In the past, storylines about black characters often revolved around their difference, their struggle for equality and acceptance, but now most black characters simple ARE. They are detectives, parents, heroes, sometimes even villains - and their race just isn’t an issue.... it is normal. For Pakistani Christians, acceptance and normality would be a great thing to aim for.
However, for now, we are producing programs which simply show Pakistani Christians in a positive light and alongside normal, decent Hindu and Muslim men and women who treat them with respect. Shows like Community Makeover where Christians working in charities serve those around them regardless of faith, where we also show Muslim-run charities and bless them; and like VideoStar where we show Christian teenagers and twenty year olds as positive, enthusiastic, and basically normal young people.
At PAK7 we want to create shows that have the power to change the way people think about the Christians of Pakistan, and which can lead to a more inclusive and loving society.