YouTube just revealed its list of the most-watched videos and content creators in India.
When it came to music videos, Indians stuck to popular basics with Badshah’s Genda Phool. When it came to creators, the most popular video remained CarryMinati’s titled “Stop Making Assumptions" which he filmed after a massive backlash against comments made in another video.
So what do these two top videos on YouTube India reveal about Indians?
That we continue to be a deeply misogynistic and homophobic country. Why? Let’s take one more look at why these videos are popular.
Despite the year being one littered with incidences of violence against women - from rape to rising domestic abuse - the most-watched music video on YouTube remains one depicting a saree saree-clad Jaqueline Fernandez gyrating to folkish beats. If the appropriation (read corruption) of a Bengali song was not questionable enough, the makers of the music video ensured each frame remained brimming with sexual innuendo. Not just Genda Phool, the second most-watched video was Moto by Haryanvi pop artists Ajay Hooda, Diler Kharkiya and Anjali Raghav’s Moto which also depicted two boys stalking a female and vying for her attention while she tried to work. Innocent and toxic, just like Indians like it.
Meanwhile, Indian politicians are busy blaming “item songs" for rape.
A lot has been said about Ajey Nagar aka CarryMinati, the 21-year-old YouTube content creator whose controversial videos have often made headlines for the most unpleasant of things. His most-watched video this year was “Stop Making Assumptions", a video which came a sequel to his previously most-watched video “YouTube vs Tik Tok: The End". The video was meant as a roast of TikTok but was littered with sexist and queerphobic comments. The latter had been TAKEN DOWN by YOUTUBE after multiple people reported abuse against it for referring to gay persons as “mithai". Even YouTube took down the video citing that it violated its standards against bullying. Yes, YouTube understood and reacted to homophobia. But not Indian viewers.
But blaming audiences can only get us so far. While bowing to popularity is easy, taking a stand can also bring abuse and hostility. Think about the Tanishq Diwali ad, for instance. The ad, depicting Hindu Muslim amity through an inter-faith wedding, was accused of spreading love jihad. The makers of the ad as well as Tata felt that recalling the video was an easier and safer option than risking the lives of employees, many of whom allegedly got personal threats after the ad was released.
Videos are a reflection of society and their popularity reveals the trends and beliefs of large sections of this society. On the one hand, large numbers of Indians have started speaking out against sexism, homophobia, bigotry, and other societal ills. Several artists, filmmakers and content creators are risking their popular fan bases and even sometimes their necks to take a stand against misogyny and violence.
But when videos that highlight objectification of women, violence, queerphobia and other problems become the most-watched videos in a country, one needs to wonder who really is responsible. It’s an end of 2020, and it seems we are still normalizing and even legitimizing abuse, albeit in the garb of music or humour.
(This story was first published on 15.12.2020)