The summer of 2021 was an eventful time in Pakistan, for it was when the highly anticipated web series, “Midsummer Chaos”, landed in Pakistan. A youth-led project, Midsummer Chaos came with the promise of revitalizing a media industry that was constrained by censorship, nepotism, and fierce competition from Indian and American offerings. The series pays tribute to web-based over-the-top (OTP) services like Netflix and Amazon Prime by being distributed online via Youtube. It was meant to carry the narrative of the youth of a country and reflect their aspirations, challenges and concerns. It was to set right an industry in a rusty decline and inject new talent into the media scene of Pakistan. It would wag its finger in the face of television powerhouses like HUM and show them the power of youth.
The consensus, however, is that “Midsummer Chaos” was a dumpster fire.
The show follows a group of friends and acquaintances as they hobble from one crisis to another. Sameer and his friends represent the elites of Islamabad and proudly carry all the narcissistic and frivolous traits of this social group. Each of them is defective in their own individual, American-derived and caricatured way. Alaina is living two lives as she hides her liberal lifestyle from her conservative family—an interesting storyline that was sadly dropped soon after its introduction. Sameer suffers from anger management issues. Kaira is back in Pakistan from Canada and is presumably gay—another storyline that was dropped. Haris is worried for Sameer and his mental health; they have spent their entire lives as friends, but it turns out they were actually step-brothers all along.
Just your normal Islamabad crowd.
The storyline of “Midsummer Chaos” is incoherent. One leaves every fifteen minute episode feeling utterly confused. There is some pseudo-metaphysical speech, some music from fringe bands, some explorations of single-dimension characters and then rinse and repeat. The dialogue is lackluster at best and seems like a hodgepodge of mystical self-help pulp fiction. The marketing around it is also worth talking about. “Midsummer Chaos” was marketed as being about a group of teenagers “that have just gotten done with high school and their shenanigans over the summer before college.” Yet, the show featured none of the light-hearted, rom-com elements that it promised to its audience.
The show, however, did expose the vast network of nepotism that belies the social structure of Pakistan–ironically not via the content of the show, but because of the shenanigans surrounding its production. The most attractive narrative of “Midsummer Chaos” is that it was supposedly being made by youngsters hustling on a shoestring budget. That was false, however. Through money and connections, “Midsummer Chaos” was featured multiple times in Pakistan’s largest newspaper, DAWN, and got media coverage that extremely talented bands and content creators could only dream of. This speaks mountains of how connections and cronyism in Pakistan can get you in all the right places. After the show bombed and became a trend on Twitter as people expressed their utter disdain for it, the people associated with the project actually seemed to relish the negative attention. Attitudes such as this will only make Pakistani society a degenerate race to the bottom.
Besides all these things, what is particularly bad about “Midsummer Chaos” and merits special mention is how dislocated it was from the zeitgeist of Pakistan. That it portrays the youth of Pakistan as partying maniacs instead of being hardworking young people trying to carve out their future in a rigid and crazily competitive society is really egregious. It could have talked about so many real and interesting things about young people in Pakistan. We could have seen young people slumming in tuition centers preparing for the competitive MDCAT medical exam or the Civil Services exam in Pakistan. We could have seen them hitting the gym to prepare for the army’s ISSB entrance tests—a popular option for many in Pakistan. We could have seen young people reminiscing about the golden days of high school and coming together for a last hurrah before hopping onto a plane to go and study abroad. All these are authentic stories of hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis, and “Midsummer Chaos” seems to have done a disservice to them in pursuit of an edgy storyline.
You can stream all episodes of “Midsummer Chaos” on the Qissa Nagri Youtube Channel.