Sehar Khan has recently come under fire for a statement in an interview wherein she stated that she wishes to do a character like that of Priyanka Chopra Jonas in Barfi, terming the character "abnormal," "crazy," and a "psychopath.
"While the Fairytale actor is thoroughly beloved in the show's fandom, the internet is divided over her usage of incorrect terminology.
"Dear Sehar," began one user on X (formerly Twitter), attaching a snippet of the starlet's interview with journalist Aamna Isani. "The proper term to use here is autistic. Jhilmil wasn't abnormal or a psychopath; she was autistic. When someone with a disability/psychological disorder is referred to as "abnormal," it conveys the wrong idea that those with disabilities are deviant or strange."
The user continued, "When your voice is influencing so many people in a society that inherently views disability as a taboo, one needs to be extremely careful about their words because to build a more inclusive world, our vocabulary plays a critical role. I know this might not be intentional, but this may have a significant negative effect on young people's thinking. But again, mistakes are inevitable, and what really counts is that we learn from them."
As the video spread, so did the criticism. People took to X to shed light on the importance of terminology in sensitive cases. "I hope Sehar learns from this, but being 23 is not an excuse for this comment. To the people blindly defending her, saying she is young, 23 is an adult, and in this day and age, to not know the difference between a psychopath and autism is unbelievable. [If you don't know, don't speak.]"
The user further stated, "This isn’t about Sehar solely. I’m sure she is a lovely person. But Pakistani audiences need to move away from using the “he/she is young” argument when their favourites get caught for stuff. 18+ is an adult; if your family or fans view you as a kid, doesn't matter." Another said, "'She's just a 23-year-old' is no excuse. I love her too, but she made a big blunder, and she needs to be criticised for this. Stop defending her."
However, not everyone believed that Sehar deserved to be dragged relentlessly. "Sehar's choice of words was definitely wrong, but it was a genuine mistake and wasn't done intentionally. So, instead of nitpicking or calling her uneducated, we can make her aware so she doesn't repeat it. She is young and has a lot to learn!" Another said, "Sehar made a mistake, and instead of correcting her and hoping she learns from it, we get two extreme reactions. One is unfairly scrutinizing her, and then the other keeps bringing up her age to defend her. She’s 23, not 13."
Another user of the microblogging site said, "Yet to watch Sehar's interview but to see another actress being subjected to trolling and hate for her statement makes me real mad. Sure, she was wrong and needs to educate herself with regards to mental health and also be fully aware before putting out words, but the criticism can be done constructively, too." One stated, "Everybody schooling Sehar Khan, like you all, was born with PhDs and never said or did anything wrong. For crying out loud, constructive criticism can be done respectfully instead of this cancel culture attitude."
Amongst all this, Sehar took to X to officially comment on the matter. "In a recent interview, I meant to say I want to do a role of a differently abled person, but due to a slip of the tongue, I mistakenly said something else. I should have gathered my thoughts before answering the question to express myself better," said the actor. "Mental disabilities and special needs are a very important matter, and I have immense respect for people dealing with them; hence I apologize if I unintentionally hurt anyone," she continued. The young star capped off her message by saying, "Also, love you all! Thank you for your understanding and respect."
An incident such as this is an excellent reminder of the various facets of public life. While it is true that local exposure to certain outdated or insensitive terms is limited, it is also equally true that the onus of betterment through awareness is on each individual. It is also worth noting that Sehar did not double down on her take; she apologised and seemed willing to learn. It remains to be seen how this fares for her and her fans.