Since the FIR filed against Rhea Chakraborty, every Indian reporter’s dream come true. From childhood dream of becoming like Sherlock Holmes to becoming one in real life, it gave the reporters every right to prove Rhea as a fortune huntress cum witch hunter who did a black magic trick and Sushant Singh died in the thin smoky air.
Stanley Rachman a psychologist, in his book ‘The Treatment for Obsession’ talks about Cognitive theory of obsession, which is heavily drawn from Paul Salkovskis work, who proposed the cognitive theory of obsession as the obsession which is caused by catastrophic misinterpretations of the significance of one’s thought and images. And the obsession persists as long as the misinterpretation continues and diminishes only when the misinterpretations are weakened.
Understanding S. Rachman’s cognitive theory in SSR case, it shows how the obsessional behaviour was created among the Indians by the media which led to three months of mock trial and conspiracy based news. Open freedom to interpret the unfortunate death led to misinterpretations of images and text.
Albeit the case started with the SSR death but within days, it shifted to Rhea Chakraborty. She became the subject of gossip for media and oblique remark for misogynistic abuse. Neglecting her privacy, the media laid down every fine detail of her life and relationship in the public by debating about it on Prime Time shows.
Before the court, the reckless media declared her as a culprit which helped them to geared toward sensationalism to gain the viewership. The ambience of the Prime Time shows us how the unfair pre-media trial created a voyeuristic mob out of the news channels.
The cruel sexism and ubiquitous coverage captured the attention of the viewers and made then more engrossed in it as every day a new chapter about her private life was disclosed among the Indians. And in turn, the media got its ratings.
The campaign was run by media channels to break down Rhea and make her believe she was the culprit in the name of pressurised catastrophic justice, it all had been a hysteria and melee hunt driven by the misogynistic media.
Role of the media
Since the beginning of the case, the media made sure to breach the code of conduct. While the media has the right to freedom of speech and fair reporting of the case they made a mockery out of it. Not only did they create conspiracy theories, but they also created sensationalism, unverified theories and conjectured content which made the case dominate their 24×7 coverage.
Without presenting any proof the media represented her as a gold digger, a Bengali black magician and called out for sex bait all of this shows how the acrid reporting was also geared up by the patriarchal stereotypes and biased views towards a woman.
Some of the media channels took tremendous pride in leaking her private chats which were later explained in-depth on their gigantic show screen. The media ran their unbalanced trial and announced her as a wrongdoer and demanded to put her behind the bars.
Misogyny of middle-class
Every Indian has an idealised version of Indian women and any women don’t suit their version then she is busted.
When a young upcoming prominent rich actor dies by suicide without a note or letter leaving his girlfriend clueless or you can say framed the ending of his life becomes ambiguous leaving everyone to interpret their theories. And that’s what everyone did, everyone became an expert, be it from blaming to Rhea for money laundering to doing black magic to control him.
The pandemic gave everyone enough time to think about the misinterpreted image of Rhea made by the media to over-analysis and that’s where the media helped everyone to fill the gaps in their assumptions because of it the media and the audience always ended on the same conclusion.
The middle-class misogyny always blames women for the bad happening in men’s lives, which could be seen prominently in this case. The mob created by the media gave death to rape threats to Rhea and another nepotistic female actress. And the rape threats were comprehended as justice for SSR.
The media coverage and middle-class misogyny went hand in hand to smash the patriarchy.