In today’s day and age of digital media, social media has become an essential aspect of our lives. With around 825.30 Million internet users in India (“The Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicators”, 2021), out of which 755.47 million people are social media users (“India: number of social network users 2015-2040”, 2021), it is sufficient to say that social media plays a role in the life of an average Indian.
It is one of the primary forms of digital media, and many engage in it as a means of entertainment. Over the years, many trends have emerged on social media, more often than not influenced by pop culture and becoming a subgenre of it in itself.
Initially released in 2016, social media app Tiktok started gaining popularity and was available in most regions. After it was merged with the social media app Musical.ly in 2018 it became available worldwide and started gaining even more traction. As of June 2020, India had amassed over 100 million Tiktok users before the app was banned by the Indian government along with many other Chinese apps citing privacy concerns (Bhatia, 2020). Owing to the ban many users have shifted to other social media with similar content format like Instagram Reels, MoJ, Taka Tak and Josh (“From TikTok to Taka Tak? The Future of Videosharing in India”, 2020). As of 2022, there are approximately 230.25 million Indian Instagram users (“Countries with most Instagram users 2022”, 2022).
Owing to the rise of TikTok, there has been a growing popularity of the format of short video posts. Such videos, usually less than a minute long, often consist of people dancing or lip syncing to some trending song or dialogue or acting out a short skit with a popular storyline. Other major social media platforms like Instagram, Youtube and Snapchat have also come up with their version of such short videos, in the form of ”reels”, ”shorts”, and ”spotlight”. More often than not, the content on these other platforms is recycled content from TikTok.
Since TikTok is banned in India, TikTok content is mainly consumed via secondary sources as mentioned above. What sets these short TikTok videos apart from other video formats on popular platforms such as YouTube and twitch is the production value of these videos. In order to make a TikTok video all you simply need is a smartphone and an internet connection and you’re good to go. Whereas for platforms like Youtube, one needs a high grade camera, amic, and other relevant production equipment. On top of that in order to edit the filmed content, one needs access to premium editing software (which of course does not come cheap) and a good laptop to run these heavy softwares. For TikTok, from filming to editing, everything can be done on the app – and given its user friendliness – the user doesn’t need any technical knowhow. Moreover, it is a logical conclusion that it takes less time to edit and upload a minute long tiktok video as opposed to five to thirty minutes long (or longer) videos on YouTube. Thus, anyone and everyone, regardless of caste, class and creed can upload videos on the app and potentially become a famous star or “influencer”.
Many of those participating in TikTok trends and posting videos belong to a lower class background. In the Indian context, many creators do not belong to an upper-caste, wealthy english speaking background. In many cases the videos made by such groups do not fit with the “aesthetics” of the videos of those belonging to the upper-class. Nonetheless, these creators aren’t proactively looking to fit into the mould of the upper class, they are simply freely expressing themselves by participating in various challenges and maybe even creating some of their own. When content is produced in a way which bifurcates from what the upper class deems as “acceptable” and “cool”, it is branded as “cringe” content. Content creators on other platforms, especially YouTubers often “diss” TikTok influencers calling the content “mediocre” and “easy” – echoing the establishment of the “standard of content” of the dominant class. Urban Influencers on the same platform look down on those coming from visibly lower class backgrounds calling the content “cringe”. Such TikTokers have been labelled by “shudras” of the platform by some, indicating that such content lies at the bottom rung of the hierarchy – reemphasizing that the upper caste sets the benchmark of what is considered good. The prevalence of the caste structures defining the quality of content on the platform is quite evident. Despite such labels, TikTok has become a major medium of those belonging to the lower classes to express themselves. They continue to produce content and contribute to the image of India reflected on such global platforms (Verma, 2021).
In our project we aim to examine the themes of heterosexual scripts on Instagram reels. In particular, we wish to examine a dominant sub-genre of this trend: the storyline of a triad usually out of which two of them (the duo) are in a romantic hetereosexual relationship. Such posts usually follow a similar storyline – where the third member of the triad (outside of the relationship) is usually viewed as a either a competition or as an ally by the member of the same sex in the duo. For example, if we consider the case of a female, her boyfriend and her male best friend, in such cases often an element of competition is shown between the said boyfriend and the best friend. Visual presence of all the three members is not always required in the portrayal of such scripts – the presence of the remaining member is oftentimes implied.
Our project revolves around the themes of gender and heterosexuality. Before diving into the latter two, we shall first take a closer look at the themes of sex, gender and sexuality and build from there.
Historically, the notion of sex was primarily seen as referring to the biological differences between males and females; it included differences in genitalia, hormones, et cetera. Owing to Anne Oakley’s work in the 70s, gender was seen as a social classification. It referred to the socially constructed characteristics of men and women. The characteristics encompassed norms and roles of men and women and the interactions and relationships between the two parties. In discourses pertaining to sex and gender, it was taken as a given that sex precedes gender. It was until Christine’s Delphy’s work in ‘93 that such a notion was challenged. Delphy argues that gender precedes sex. Delphy emphasises that like gender, sex too is a social construct. One must look beyond the binaries in order to integrate multiple possibilities. Delphy emphasises that sex too is a gendered category, constructed to retain the social hierarchy of the binaries. She argues that the world cannot be divided into two distinct categories of complements – sex enables a mark of social distinction between the dominant and the dominated. She further observes that since society itself has established a singular indicator, i.e., the genetalia to in order to use sex as a dichotomous classification , this establishment of the indicator in itself is a social act. Thus, reinforcing her argument that sex is a societal construction. Moreover, she observed that the presence (or not) of a penis was by way of definition, an indicator of gender and argued that it was weakly correlated with functional procreational differences. It did not markedly differentiate between those who can bear children and those who cannot. In fact it singles out some of those who cannot bear children. It doesn’t capture those, who even in the absence of a penis cannot bear children. Delphy questions the traditional classifications of sex and genders and calls for a rehaul of these classifications, and whether they are indeed required (Delphy, 1993).
Sexuality traditionally refers to how an individual expresses their sexual identity and attraction. An individual’s sexuality may or may not be on par with their sex and gender. Heterosexuality, homosexuality, asexuality and bisexuality are some examples of the many sexualities (Zevallos, 2014). In the Indian context sexuality gained traction in relation to heterosexual violence against women in the 80s. Sexuality increasingly became visible in Indian feminist literature in contexts other than sexual violence and redefined the confines of heteronormativity. In their book “A question of Silence: The Sexual Economies of Modern India”, authors Janaki Nair, and Mary E. John question whether there has been a “conspiracy of silence” regarding sexualities in India. The authors propose that sexuality must be viewed as a way of of addressing the validity of sexual relations through institutions and practices. They also argue that the discourses regarding “sex” must be taken into consideration as well (Nair and John, 2000).
When talking about gender and sex in the Indian context, caste comes into play. Historically caste has played a central role in terms of gender and sexual relations in India. In today’s time we find that there is a conflux of caste and class, especially in the urban context. This has completely eliminated components of diversity in sexual systems across various caste groups and rebuilt the old casteist patriarchies. Usually, this is accomplished by the state and its citizens undertook through an intense homogenization – through legislation and internal reform movements where heteronormativity is acknowledged as a “sign of progressive existence” (Kumaramkandath and Srivastava, 2020).
With the above-mentioned themes in mind, we intend to carry out a content analysis on the Instagram reels revolving around the storyline of the triad. Content Analysis is a quantitative technique which is used to measure certain aspects of media. It involves counting the frequency of certain underlying themes and messages found in the piece of media in question.It also aids in identifying patterns (Gill and Gill, 2007).
Objective and Methodology
The objective of our project is to analyse the themes that emerge out of scripts of heterosexuality on Instagram reels made by Indian content creators.
We aim to look at the portrayals of each of the actors in the triad and identify how their relations with each other are defined and examine its implication in the context of the script.
We shall look at how sexuality is shaped and not independent of caste and class dynamics and critically analyse these themes within the scripts. We shall also analyse the hashtags (if any) being used in such reels and what they say about the underlying themes.
There are many methods with which content on social media can be analysed, for our project we found digital ethnography to be the most well suited. Digital ethnography often makes use of information publicly available in online forums, and can be conducted in an unobtrusive manner (Kozinets, 2009). This method allows us to analyse interactions in virtual communities in the form of video, photo and text content, comments etc. on various online platforms. Digital ethnography transcends the barrier of physical space and time. It deals with the virtual, i.e., cyberspace. Thus, it allows for a lot of flexibility in the subject matter being studied. In our case, when we look at the trend of storylines it is not restricted to a solely physical space, but can be studied across many instances in the online space across time. For example: A reel made by an influencer in Kerala can be viewed by a boy sitting in Imphal. Language barrier may pose an issue, but since the content is in video format it may be easier to interpret for the viewer by decoding the visual themes and cues (Kudaibergenova, 2019).
On Instagram, users communicate via posting pictures, videos or “reels” (one minute long short video). Users often make use of hashtags (#) in order to increase the “reach” of their post, i.e., in order to increase the visibility of the content that they have shared. Hashtags are used in order to specify a certain topic under which the content lies, and attract those consuming similar content. For example: A person trying to promote their dog cafe is likely to use “#dog”, “#cafe”, “#dogCafe’ in order to reach those audiences interested in reaching those cafe’s.
For our project we will curate some of the most popular posts following the storyline of the triad via Instagram reels. We wish to examine the popular songs and other audios used in videos of such category and their significance in enhancing this particular storyline.
In order to do the above, we have created an Instagram account exclusively for this project. We will follow relevant hashtags related to such storylines in the indian context such as “#yaari”, “#dosti”, “#terayaarhoonmai”, “#lovetriangle” etc. This way we wish to tune our feed so as to get the content for such storylines. Once we feed into the Instagram algorithm, we shall identify the trending audios, popular influencers and other related hashtags(if any).This way we can curate the reels showcasing the storyline of the triad.
We aim to analyze the content, find the underlying themes and messages in such storylines, and link them to the concepts of gender roles, sexuality, caste and class.
Upon gathering the posts, we shall identify the actors in the storyline and and study the roles that they take on in the narrative and break down the implications of such roles.
We have collected a dataset of over a 100 reels and have carried out our analysis. We have identified several popular audios, and have also identified some Indian content creators who mainly create content revolving around the storyline of the triad. We have attempted to root out the common themes that we have observed and their implications below –
4.1 Themes Identified
Codependency and Domesticity
The theme of codependence is observed to be a recurring one as per our analysis. In such scripts the female portrays herself as indispensable to the male in the duo by ensuring that the male is dependent on her for his needs.
In one of the popular audios used, we see the female praying to god that she would rather have her significant other (male) be blind than look at other women – “Hey bhagvaan, aajkebaadisneladki ko dekhana, toh ye andha ho jaaye”. She also says that she would rather see him be disabled, than have the opportunity to be with other women. She stresses that she would take extremely good care of him – ”kisiaurladki ko chedetoh ye apahij ho jaye, agar iskehaathpaernachale, ye kahijaanapaayetohbhichalega, maiiskadhyaanacche se rakhungi”. Here, we can see that the female in the duo feels a sense of insecurity stemming from the potential presence of any other in the male’s life. She presents herself as a domestic woman who would be able to take extreme good care of her partner even when he is unable to do so himself. In this manner, she wishes to establish a dependency of her partner on her so that he is bound to her.
A dialogue snippet from the popular south Indian movie Maari 2 is also a popular audio used reels of such genre. In such reels we are accompanied by the visuals of the female threatening a prospective “contender” for her position – “ Isse touch bhikiyana to terinaakphoddaalegi”. She then immediately lists her traits of domesticity to the man so as to showcase herself worthy of being the man’s wife and tries to establish a sense of dependence – “Teresaaregandegandekapdedhoyegi, khanapakayegi, safayikaregi, teriacchi life set kardaalegi”. However, the man in turn scoffs at her and gives an implication of his good social standing by saying that he can always hire household help to do what she has said she has to offer – “kapdadhonabartanmaaznatohkaamvaalibhikartihaichalnikalyaha se”. He then makes a show of his sexual prowess, and implies that if the female is not up to the mark and her contenders might be – “apun ko aisimazbootgharvaalichahiyaekyunkiapunkeghar pe mazbootpalanghai”. Thus highlighting the fact as to why the female in this situation feels the need to establish co dependence, as she only has this man to pursue, but the man in turn has many other “options”.
A Punjabi song by the name “saunkansaunkane” is used to showcase the sense of competition between two women. Here the two females in the triad feel threatened by each other’s presence and fight aggressively amongst each other in order to determine which one of them is more worthy of the male’s attention. Again, domesticity is shown as a desirable trait in females. Here the female laughs at her “contender” as she implies that the other cannot handle housework as well as she does – ”JeKamm Da KoyiKeh De Jade Lag Jaye Tu Haunkan” – If anyone asks you to do any work, you start panting Thus, making her the more superior of the two who the male in this triad will then need, and thus establishing a sense of his dependence on her. Again, here the male is portrayed as the one with the choice, while the females fight for the position to be his partner, explaining her urgency to create a sense of codependency and make herself indispensable.
Male Possessiveness and The Female Identity
The recurring theme of possessiveness as a trait of masculinity can be observed. Moreover, an implication of such a possessive attribute leads to the female’s identity being subsumed by the conjugality. The man is one with agency in the relationship while the female is defined by the conjugality.
An audio snippet from the Pakistani serial “KaisiteriKhudgarzi”, one of the popular audios used by creators to lip sync to act out a certain scenario. In this setting we see the female’s identity being questioned by a third party. The male in the dynamic then proceeds to call her “his”, almost as if she is his proprty rather than a partner – an equal (“Meri Hai, mai hi iskizaathoonaurmai hi iskakhandan”). Implying that she belongs to him and that in itself is enough for her identification. Thus, warping the female’s identity as an extension of his own.
In an original audio created by content creator – mrmalikofficial, we see the make in the dynamic controlling the actions of the female and not letting her interact with any other male – “Kyubaatkarrahithi tum usse”, there is an element of suspicion present as well. Similar actions are showcased via the song “Ding Dang” as well, we see the male dictating when and where the female can go – “Location check kartahai, Tum yahan pe najaana, Tum wahan pe najaana”.
We can again observe the same themes in the original audio created by content creator navabishayr420. Here, despite having ended the relationship with each other, in this script, the male (Golu) still has a sense of possession over the female (Kajal). He openly mocks her in front of her current boyfriend and implies that her identity is still defined by him – whether or not she likes it – “Ha kyamilamujh se door ho ke?Logaajbhitujhemerimohabbatkehtehai”.
In audios and scenes discussed in the previous section, it is evident that the male in the duo is the one with the agency, i.e., he has the choice to “choose” a “worthy” woman. Whilst the female in dynamic is defining herself as being worthy of the male.
Scripts showcasing these themes usually show how the male in the relationship does not like when the female even as much as interacts with other males. He is shown as being very controlling of her behaviour. It often plays out the scene of a woman talking to her male best friend, a scenario which her boyfriend disapproves of and he drags her away against her will. One of the scripts shows a male walking down the street with his while flapping his shirt, and another female touches his abdomen to express her interest, which no doubt his partner disapproves of. So, in retaliation the female starts flapping her shirt as well which the male immediately puts a stop to, as even the idea of another man expressing his interest is disapproved of by him.
Showcasing, even though the male can partake in certain behaviour the female is not allowed to do by the man in light of his possessive nature. In many cases where the male feels that his partner has been interacting with other males, it is shown as the responsibility of the female to assure and pacify him while the male in the same situation would have to do no such thing.
A sense of competition between the two women in the triad dynamic is a very common theme. Moreover, sexual competition between women is portrayed in these scripts as being very open. In a trend created by the influencer soniya official95, we see a scene where the male implies replacing the female in duo with another – “Mera bas chalenatohdoorsi girlfriend banaloon”.She gets extremely defensive and implies in an aggressive manner that no one else is as “good” as her – “Main nahitohkaun be?”. Similar theme can be observed in the setting where the dialogue from the film Maari 2 is used , where the female openly threatens to break her prospective competition’s nose. Again, in the audio discussed in the previous section where the female is praying,we see that the female wishes to obliterate all sense of competition by praying for extreme measures to make sure that the male in the dynamic cannot interact with them. We see the same theme in “saunkansaunkane”, where they openly compete with each other for the male’s attention.
Here it is quite clear that the element of competition is fueled by insecurity. The fear of being replaced by the other woman drives and feeds into the competitive nature of the female duo dynamic.
Even in the absence of any such popular audios, we see this theme playing out in a very particular setting. Such scripts usually show an “outsider” female flirting with the male of the duo, well knowing that he is in a presumably committed relationship. We then see his partner direct her anger at the female and push her away and thus “winning” the competition between the two. There are even cases where the male willingly interacts with the third party female in a seemingly platonic fashion but his partner sees it as a threat and does her best to drive the other away. She is shown to be always on alert for other women who might be vying for her position.
The Male Friendship Dynamic
So far we have seen situations in a triad where the dynamic between two women has been showcased. The relationship between them is portrayed as competitive and oftentimes sour, fueled by a sense of jealousy stemming from insecurity. The dynamic between two males in a triad situation is portrayed in a vastly different light. It is portrayed in a comparitvely friendlier manner. One of the most popular songs used to accompany such storylines is “Tera YaarHoon Mai” from the popular Bollywood film “SonuKeTitu Ki Sweety”. Special emphasis is placed on the lyrics “Jatenahikayirishtepurane Kisi nayeke aa jane se” , implying that even if a third party is introduced in the friendship dynamic of the two males, the friendship is strong enough to survive the change in dynamics. Many a times, such a situation is showcased by the arrival of a third member (usually a male), who scorns one of the males in the existing friendship duo for not having enough money , i.e., implying that he belongs to a lower class. But, the lack of money does not make the already existing friend leave. In fact, in many scripts the other friend in the duo showers the “poor” friend with lavish gifts. One such script showcases how one of the friends is unable to purchase an ice cream and is made fun of by others, his friend seeing this purchases him the entire ice cream cart.
The way in which male friendships are played out in the scripts are when a female is present in the triad dynamic (implicit or otherwise). There are two routes such scripts usually take.
In one of the cases of such scripts, there is an implication of one of the male friends in the duo belonging to the lower economic strata of society. The friend in question here is the one who is going to pursue the female in this setting. But, he feels ashamed of his economic status. So, his best friend ,who in this case belongs to a very well off background, gives all of his possessions to his friend so that he can impress the female and win her affection. So, here, not only is there a “code” of brotherhood where a friend helps out another without hesitation but, there is also the underlying insinuation that females are materialistic and can be won over only if the male pursuing her is belonging to the upper strata of society. Another observation that we make here is the fact that male friendships in such settings are shown as transcending class boundaries. In the above cases discussed, male friendships hold despite the two in the duo belonging to different stratus of society.
The second case in such a dynamic plays out as such – usually the female is shown as a threat to the friendship between the two males. The female is villainized in such scripts and is shown as “stealing” away the best friend from his friend. One such reel in question displays the quote written by the creator “Inn alhadsiraatonmaisaathwaqtbitayezamane ho gaye, kuchduriyonmaibadlewaqtkesath hum logo keliyepurane ho gaye”, while displaying visuals from the movie “SonuKeTitu Ki Sweety”, as the best friend gets married while his friend feels left out and rejected . There is an implication that a friendship is strong only if a female does not manage to come in between the friendship duo. One such example of such a script can be showcased by a tweet used in a reel with the song “PakkiWaliDosti”. The tweet reads as such – “Vo glass hi kyajisme drink chutjaaye, aurvoyaar hi kya jo ekladkikiwajah se tut jaaye”. The scripts portray the best friend feeling left out when his friend gets into a relationship he takes it as a given that the female has come between the relationship. A “strong” friendship is shown when the best friend does not leave his friend behind when a girlfriend is introduced into the dynamic. In contrast, when an introduction of a female does indeed cause a change in the friendship, the friend who is left out is left lamenting with bitter feelings towards his best friend and views the female as the problem.
Females are often portrayed as a “distraction” towards men, one of the scripts showcases how a man’s grades dropped because of his relationship (with the female in question), so for his “benefit”, his best friend “steals” his girlfriend from him.
Morover, male friendships are are also shown to have a mutual understanding, or a “bro code” between them which implies that a sister of a friend is off limits. Such scripts play out showing a male rejecting the female, as she is his best friend’s sister – “Hello? Kya I love you? Kitnibaarbolchukahoonmaiaapkesaath relation mainahi aa saktaaapmeribehenjaisi ho” The female in the dynamic is shown as ”belonging” to the firend, and thus untouchable.
Portrayals of Violence
Another recurring theme that we have noted is that of physical violence. In these scripts we have seen a frequency of portrayal of using violence as a resort to fend off any perceived threat to the conjugal state between the male and the female. Usually the female in the duo is shown to threaten any other female with physical violence. For example, the popular dialogue snippet from south Indian movie Maari2,shows the female threatening to punch the other woman’s nose if she dares make a move on “her man” – “Isse touch bhikiyana to terinaakphoddaalegi”. Even in the song SaunkanSaunkane, we see the females threatening to resort to extreme measures in order to win the ”competition” for the male’s affection –
“Main Vi GhuttGhutt Deni Teri Bhutni Pila” – I will beat you black and blue.
”KiveinKaudaKauda Jake Tere Dele BhannDoon” – I will gouge your eyes out if you stare at me sideways.
”Main Mar MarBandri Da Munh Ban Doon” – I will beat you up and break your face too. Alongside the audio, we are accompanied by the visual of women bickering profusely amongst themselves, oftentimes accompanied by a male actor who appears to be tired of their fighting. Scripts show the female in the relationship with the male getting extremely jealous when any other woman interacts with the male in question. The third party female is showcased as the “threat” to the conjugality, implying the underlying insecurity of the female in the duo. Thus to ward off this imminent threat the female actor is shown as slapping, punching or even kicking the other female(s).
Another context in which violence is used, is when the man in the duo slaps the female. This is shown in a very negative light as when the female in this setting is attacked as such we usually see either her female best friend or a male (in some cases her ex boyfriend) rushing to help her and taking revenge on her behalf by slapping the male in question. In one of the scripts we see that the female is slapped and her conjectured ex boyfriend comes to save her, but he is dragged off by his current girlfriend, showcasing the girlfriend’s sense of insecurity and hostility towards the other female.
The Saviour Male
In many of the scripts, we have spotted that a male is many a times showcased as being the “saviour” of the female – oftentimes from the hands of other males. Usually, the female is shown as being injured or harassed by others when the male comes and saves her from the situation. There seems to be a running theme of the idea of a “macho man” being a key trait of masculinity. As discussed in the above section, a setting is often showcased, where the female is slapped by her current boyfriend, and is then “rescued” by another male (either her best friend or an ex boyfriend who is still presumably in love with her) who then takes better care of her.
One of the scripts showcases a male making fun of the female for suffering pain during her menstrual cycle, which reduces her to tears. Then the other male comes into the picture as her “saviour” and intimidates the other male and comforts the female. Another script showcases the female as having suffered an injury, but her current boyfriend refuses to help. In fact his female friend discourages him from helping her by saying “isslangdi pe time waste karoge?” as they walk off. Meanwhile her ex boyfriend comes into the picture and helps her, thus “rescuing” her from the situation.
A point to note is that it is always the female in the dynamic who is shown as being helpless and in need of help and never the other way round. This showcases an underlying assertion of weakness not being a desirable trait of masculinity. Females on the other hand are portrayed as weak docile beings always in need of help from a man.
Male Promiscuity and Female Purity
There is an underlying assumption of the promiscuous nature of men in such scripts, while the female is expected to be “pure”. Promiscuity is almost taken as a given in males. In these scripts we see the female being extremely insecure of other women and always fearful of the prospect of the male getting “bored” of her and moving on to other females. Even when a male and a female are in a committed relationship the female in the duo is always shown as being afraid of the male being tempted by other women and possibly being unfaithful to her – “aajkebaadisneladki ko dekhana…aurkisiaurladki ko chedetoh ye apahij ho jaye”. In contrast, the male in such a setting would prefer the female to be “pure” and “untainted”. One of the scripts in question showcases a girl shaking hands with three other men before offering her hand to the male, the male rejects her as she is now “impure” and thus not good enough for him.
4.2 Locations Identified
During our analysis, we noted that not only were there common themes in the reels, but the locations in which they were filmed were also common. Several locations kept popping up reels created by various creators. Nevertheless, one such reason for this observation could be attributed to the Instagram algorithm, which threw us more content by creators within the New Delhi-NCR region with its location tagging capacities. However, even within this region, certain locations are favoured by the creators. The most popular spot for filming content appears to be the Ambedkar Park in Noida, about thirty per cent of the reels in our dataset were filmed in this very park. Other popular locations include the Hauz Khas Fort, Humayun’s Tomb and Metro Stations. Malls seem to be a popular spot to film reels as well.
The most prevalent feature amongst all these locations is the fact that they have ease of access. Entry in such areas is either free or charge a nominal fee (as low as Rs. 20 per person in the case of monuments like Hauz Khas Fort and Humayun’s Tomb). Accessibility can be one of the possible reasons as to why creators favour such spots. One can also conjecture that it is the lack of privacy in their own homes that drives them to such public spaces where they can freely express their love outside the confines of surmisable cultural norms.
We also note that such content is usually filmed in the daytime. Although the monuments and parks are closed as evening falls, another aspect to keep in mind is the lighting. When filming anything in general, lighting plays a key role. Most individuals partaking in creating such content do not have a high budget along with the proper lighting and set-up, which is seen in other forms of content such as Youtube Videos and Cinema. Thus, creators must rely on natural sunlight to supplement the lighting for their videos.
If we take the significance of the locations into account, one can say that the timeless aspect of the monuments is one that is used to signal the timeless aspect of the theme of love in the scripts being acted. Metro stations can signify the distance being put between the two lovers as they are being separated en route home.
Lastly, an interesting point to note is that all the mentioned locations (barring the malls) fall into the sepia colour pallet. It would be indeed fascinating to determine the significance that this colour pallet plays in the scripts of heterosexuality.
4.3 Hashtags Used
On examining the hashtags being used by the creators alongside their reels we noticed that the hashtags which were used the most were “#reels”, “#reelsvideo” ,”#trending”, “#foryou”
“#explorepage” and “#viral”. These hashtags are ones used by creators around the globe to increase the reach and visibility of their reels. The usage of these hashtags implies that these creators wish to target a wide audience, maybe even at a global scale. The hashtag
“#reelkarofeelkaro” is used for a similar purpose but is specifically meant for targeting the Indian Audience. Many creators also use the hashtag associated with their location, so as to increase their reach within a particular radius, in our case we saw creators using “#delhi” for the same.
Creators also use the hashtags “#love”, “#couple”, ”#couplegoals”, #friendship“, “#dosti”, “#yaari”, “#bestfriends”, “#acting”. These hashtags indicate the type of content being made by the creator, a usage of “#couple” and #friendship” in the same reel together helps identify the kind of script playing out – in this case it would include the dynamic of a couple with a third party “best friend”.
Moreover, there exist hashtags meant specifically for a particular trending audio. For example, the reels using the punjabi song “SaunkanSaunkane” would use the “#saunkansaunkane” in their caption. In some cases, hashtags are even used to indicate the movie and the industry the song or dialogue snipper belongs to. So a reel using the dialogue from the movie “Maari 2”, would have the hashtags “#maari”, “#maari2”, “#maaridialogue”, “#southindian”, “southdialogue”. Similarly a reel using the song “Tera YaaarHoon Mai”, would use the hashtags “#terayaaarhoonmai”, “#bollywood”.
Many popular creators tend to use hashtags specifically meant for them and their fans, for example creator mrmalikoffcicial uses “#maliksquad”, in his reels. This helps them reach not only their target audience but also a brand name of their own.
Instagram allows users to follow hashtags, indicating their preference in the type of content they would like to see. Thus, usage of such hashtags is more likely to give these creators an audience who are looking for exactly the kind of content they create.
4.4 Individual Creators
During our analysis we came across several creators whose content primarily follows the scripts of heterosexuality we have identified in our study. We must admit, when starting out the analysis, our initial aim did not include finding individual creators. However, as we dug deeper we came across several individuals and found it relevant to our study. We have identified several creators. All of these creators have a considerable amount of followers,. Due to Instagram’s AI-based algorithm with its geotagging capability, we mostly identified content creators based in New Delhi.
These creators usually create a very similar kind of content, outlining the scripts in our study. To elaborate on our case, we take the example of the creator Shivam Anand (shivam anand3) who has a following of 165k. Majority of his reels focus on the storyline of the triad. In most of his content, we have seen a recurring concept where his girlfriend and female best friend are seen fighting for his attention, while he contemplates a choice between them. He’s often seen to caption his posts in such a way so as to goad his followers to comment on the situation played out in the reel For example, one of his reels is captioned “Best friend vs Girlfriend…kyamainesahikia? Aapkise choose karte” to induce people to debate it out in the comment section.
These rising Instagram content creators often have their own hashtags. For example, Shivam Anand uses the hashtags “#shivamanand3” and “#parshiv” in almost all of his reels. This can be interpreted as a claim to their authority on the original content that they create and to establish their brand name and value.
Most of these creators follow each other on the app and often post reels in collaboration. Given the fact that their content follows similar concepts, collaborating with each other helps bring in more prospective followers.
A peculiar thing that we observed was that mostly none of the male creators tagged the female(s) present in their Instagram reel. Again taking the example of Shivam Anand – even though he has two other female creators appearing in his reels to play out the dynamic of the triad, not once has he tagged any of them. Meanwhile we noted, the female creators always tag the others present in their reels. Due to this we are yet to trace the other female content creators who partake in making such reels alongside the male creators.
We also noted that most of these creators also mention their alternate platforms for their content in their Instagram descriptions, mainly their Youtube channel links and usernames on Platforms like “Moj” and “Josh”. They also brand themselves as “Influencers” and often mention their passions and targets in the description. Many mention acting and modelling and also mention the number of followers they wish to target.
Researchers have suggested that YouTube has facilitated the emergence of various subcultures in India, as people from diverse backgrounds create content and explore various genres on the platform. We conjecture the same for the content created on Instagram and see that creators such as Shivam Anand are contributing to this phenomenon.These creators emerge as belonging to the rising family of micro-celebrities,showcasing mobility and visibility of a certain class (Nayaka and Reddy, 2022).
In an attempt to gain more depth and clarity into the content of such influencers, we reached out to several of them. We wanted to learn details on how they work on such scripts – what are their primary sources of inspiration? Why is it that the storyline of the triad is such a prominent feature in each of their scripts? We also wanted to learn why they film in specific locations and their significance. Furthermore, we also wished to learn how collaborations between such influencers work – how does their communication develop? How do they decide who to tag in their reels? Lastly, we also wanted to learn how they gauge fan reception and how it influences their content.
Unfortunately, out of all the creators we reached out to, none of them agreed to an interview with us. 60.7% of the creators we contacted have yet to respond to us despite several attempts. Out of the ones that did respond to us, one of them stopped replying after they learnt that the interview was not for commercial but academic purposes. As for the others, they agreed to the interview but did not turn up at the designated time and have yet to respond to further communication. We hope that we shall be more successful in the future.
Observations and Conclusion
In our analysis we observed that there is an overarching theme of the males in the dynamic of the duo being the one with the agency whilst the females actions are bound to the male. It is the male who are portrayed as the ones being pursued by multiple women and having the option to choose amongst them. In contrast the female is shown as having only one man to pursue while fending off the others as they’re her competitors, the male is exhibited as her only choice.
Masculinity is portrayed in such scripts with the characteristic of being oppressive and controlling. Moreover he is also shown as a beacon of light in times when his female counterpart is shown to be in trouble. Females on the other hand are shown as docile and powerless and domesticity is portrayed as a key aspect of their femininity. Purity is illustrated as a preferable trait in a female, while males on the other hand are presented as promiscuous. His promiscuity in fact is an indicator of his sexual prowess which is a defining feature of his masculinity.
Scripts play out in such a manner that the female’s entire self is seen as being defined by the male. The female’s identity is subsumed by the conjugality but is not independent of the caste and class dynamics of society. Another aspect to note is that males are showcased as powerful beings, and their economic status is given weight. Belonging to a higher economic strata of society is shown as a desirable trait. This helps us identify the underlying assumption of females being materialistic.
Now, when we take into consideration the dynamics of the duo with an outsider, that is, if we look at the relationship between the members of the triad as a whole- we make note of some interesting observations. We notice that the scripts play out in very different routes depending on the gender of the third member of the triad.When the outsider in question is another male, we see the male in the duo direct his anger at the female for daring to interact with the third. In contrast, when the outsider is a female, we see the female of the duo direct her anger at the other female and never once do we see the male being on the receiving end of his partner’s anger.The female here channels her anger on the other female for attempting to “take” her position and completely ignores the male’s role in the said interaction. So here, we see that the female’s actions are driven by her sense of competition rooted in insecurity. The insecurity in women is palpable in such a situation. On the other hand we see that the male’s reaction to such a situation is driven by his sense of authority over the female.
We saw a plethora of themes emerging from these scripts of heterosexuality and how the implications of said themes play out. We noted several aspects pertaining to each gender and how they define their identity and role in terms of the conjugality and their interaction with those outside of it.
It would be best to carry forward this work by talking to the creators who partake in the content creation revolving around such scripts and gaining an in-depth understanding of how this content comes to be. Even if one manages to talk to even one of them, the insight that could be gained into their content is tremendous.
Another direction one could take is to do a content analysis of the comments on these reels and gauge the audience’s reaction to such scripts. Another exciting path would be to take into account the historical significance of each location identified and find their roles within the scripts of heterosexuality.
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