In popular Hindi cinema, Non-resident Indian (NRI) Genre films such as Salaam Namaste or Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam, characters are typically staged as affluent and rich in a positive way, personifying a ‘model’ Indian patriarchal citizen.
Even when they focus on social discrimination issues like poverty, environment, and class, they conveniently leave out the caste-gender-race dynamics from the portrayals. Media art culture has the power to shape and influence society, and as shared above, mainstream media and art in India have perpetuated the binary, colonising, casteist, and capitalist views.
Feminist underpinning is crucial in ensuring that this power is used responsibly and ethically. Intersectional feminism, in particular, recognizes that issues of gender cannot be separated from issues of race, class, caste, and other intersecting identities, and therefore must be considered when creating media art. An excellent example is a recent Hindi film, Gilli Puchi, which is one of the rare realistic portrayals of sexuality and caste in India. It showcases the love and breaking of a lesbian relationship between an upper-caste and a lower-caste woman. It is very sensitive to the questionable moral choices of women. The contextualisation of their intent and action eventually makes it difficult for the viewers to hold them accountable on moral grounds. A must-watch!
An example of the significance of intersectional feminism in media art culture globally can be seen in the representation of marginalized identities in popular culture. The movie "Cyborg," for instance, explores themes of race and gender through the character of cyborg protagonist Grace, who grapples with her own identity as a Black woman in a world that seeks to exploit and erase her. Similarly, the story of Phoolan Devi, as depicted in the movie "Bandit Queen," highlights the intersections of caste, class, and gender in the life of the titular character, who becomes a rebel leader in response to the oppression she faces.
Feminist artists such as Ana Mendieta and Coco Fusco also use media art to challenge and subvert dominant narratives, often through the use of performance and interventionist tactics. The work of these and other feminist artists serves as a crucial counterpoint to the often one-dimensional and biased representations of women and other marginalized groups in mainstream media.
In terms of the future, intersectional feminism in media art culture could lead to a greater focus on issues such as censorship and ecological sustainability. Feminist views of ecology, as outlined by theorist Donna Haraway in her concept of the "cyborg," recognize the interconnectedness of all beings and systems, and call for a more holistic and responsible approach to the natural world. By incorporating this feminist lens into media art, we can work towards a more equitable and sustainable future.
Another important aspect of the future of media art culture is the role of technology, particularly the internet. The internet has the potential to connect people globally and facilitate the sharing of diverse perspectives and experiences. However, access to the internet is not evenly distributed and media created and consumed is not the same everywhere. It is important to recognise that local technology and art futures will not look the same everywhere and work towards technology being an aid to uplift communities rather than hinder growth.
Over the past few decades, while there has been a focus on feminist underpinnings in diverse fields such as literature, artistic practices, natural sciences, ethics, and technology, we have a long way to understand and counter the overall impact of the binary, patriarchal, and colonised system across the world. To begin with, we need to first recognise the power of media art in engaging with the diverse perspectives and experiences of people from various backgrounds. Next would be to democrative media art giving platform to people and narratives that are underrepresented. This will play a critical role in creating a media landscape that is truly representative, inclusive, and serves all people.