I know that’s an odd thing to say. Let me explain. When I was a little girl, the main entertainment for us kids was television. Other than that I read everything I could get my hands on. At that time Asians on TV were limited (Network East is all I remember) and non-existent in school books (although the time of Enid Blyton and her gollywogs had long since passed). Think Rainbow, Button Moon, A-team, Punky Brewster, CHiPS, Knight Rider, He-Man, Dynasty and Happy Days. Until recently, every time there was an Asian on the telly, it was a family event, with everyone running in to have a gawk.
I distinctly remember when I was about 10 watching Darryl Hannah in Splash and deciding that when I grew up I would be blonde (as opposed to a police woman, teacher, doctor…). The heroine (She-Ra, Daisy Duke, Miss Piggy) was always blonde and good-looking and that became the definition of all that was good and beautiful.
This was until the start of the 90’s, when my mum secretly bought a video recorder and hid it in the cupboard. Every day for the next ten years, we waited until my dad went for his night-shift brought out the video player and watched an Indian or Pakistani film (that’s three-hours long on a school night). After the first few months he clocked about the video player and went ballistic, but once it’s in the house, it’s not going anywhere. If you ask me about what we watched on television during the eighties, I’ll give you a list like the one above. Ask me about the 90’s and I can’t remember much apart from Timmy Mallet and Beavis and Butt-head. What I can remember is every Indian and Pakistani film from 1990 to 2001, each with its own array of glamorous, beautiful brown-skinned virtuous beauties: the incomparable Anjuman from Pakistan, Madhuri Dixit, Rekha and Sri Devi from India. The possibility of being Asian and beautiful became a reality and I was suddenly happy to have brown skin and black hair.
I know this topic isn’t very Islamic and I don’t want to encourage people to watch these films (I do so no longer and don’t allow my children to watch them – they seriously rot your brain), but it does make me think about who our children’s role-models are. My children are at the most impressionable age they will ever be, who is it they want to emulate? I worry a little as with my daughter it is the Disney Princesses, but I know it’s also my cool sisters. Little Man long ago decided he would be his dad when he grew up, which is fine by me. I’m trying to find a replacement for the TV for them (although Asian faces are more common on the box now). There are excellent books from around the world now, including the Islamic world. Then there are the stories of the Prophet and Sahabah. The hard part is making sure the correct influences get through and that the highest values are adopted by our children. I suppose the example starts with us doesn’t it?