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Dubbed Turkish soap operas conquering the Arab world: social liberation or cultural alienation?

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Abstract

In 1980 oil magnate J.R. Ewing was shot and injured in the hit series Dallas, which featured an unconventional family's struggles over power, wealth and sex. The shot was heard around the world, with millions of fans desperately wondering "Who shot J.R.?". It was the first time that a TV series had captivated simultaneously so many people around the world. Five years later, the Arabs were shooting at the stars with the launch of the first Arab satellite system, Arabsat-1. Except for experts and visionaries, no one was predicting that it was "the beginning of the end" for the state domination of television in the Arab world. Almost a quarter of a century later, on August 30, 2008, 85 million Arab viewers were glued to their TV sets for the finale of the Syrian-dubbed Turkish soap opera, Gümüş 1 (Noor 2 in Arabic), a Kanal D production that received little attention in its homeland in 2005. After falling in the past for Victoria Principal, Ridge Forrester, and Latin American telenovela characters Kassandra and Rosalinda , Arab audiences are now turning to Turkey, a close yet estranged neighbor with whom they share a tumultuous history. The mastermind behind this phenomenon has been the MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Center) media empire, a combination of Saudi capital and Middle Eastern know-how, and a success story that started in the 1990s with the birth of a private Arab media field. As Naomi Sakr explains, many factors fuel the field's potential including the fact that "Media flows are (…) facilitated where the language is shared 3 ". The Arab market is indeed unique: a large and essentially young audience with some 20 countries sharing a common language. Researchers have thus observed a relative "depoliticization" of media over the years with the progressive development of mass entertainment programming.
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NoorandMuhannadfromtheArabizedTurkish
soapoperaNoor
TurkishsoapoperasintheArabworld:socialliberationorculturalalienation?
Issue10,Spring2010
ByAlexandraBuccianti
DubbedTurkishsoapoperasconqueringtheArabworld:
socialliberationorculturalalienation?
In1980oilmagnateJ.R.Ewingwasshotandinjuredinthehitseries
Dallas,whichfeaturedanunconventionalfamily’sstrugglesoverpower,
wealthandsex.Theshotwasheardaroundtheworld,withmillionsof
fansdesperatelywondering“WhoshotJ.R.?”.Itwasthefirsttimethata
TVserieshadcaptivatedsimultaneouslysomanypeoplearoundthe
world.Fiveyearslater,theArabswereshootingatthestarswiththe
launchofthefirstArabsatellitesystem,Arabsat1.Exceptforexpertsand
visionaries,noonewaspredictingthatitwas“thebeginningoftheend”
forthestatedominationoftelevisionintheArabworld.
Almostaquarterofacenturylater,onAugust30,2008,85millionArab
viewersweregluedtotheirTVsetsforthefinaleoftheSyriandubbedTurkishsoapopera,Gümüş1(Noor2in
Arabic),aKanalDproductionthatreceivedlittleattentioninitshomelandin2005.Afterfallinginthepastfor
VictoriaPrincipal,RidgeForrester,andLatinAmericantelenovelacharactersKassandraandRosalinda,Arab
audiencesarenowturningtoTurkey,acloseyetestrangedneighborwithwhomtheyshareatumultuoushistory.
ThemastermindbehindthisphenomenonhasbeentheMBC(MiddleEastBroadcastingCenter)mediaempire,a
combinationofSaudicapitalandMiddleEasternknowhow,andasuccessstorythatstartedinthe1990swiththe
birthofaprivateArabmediafield.AsNaomiSakrexplains,manyfactorsfuelthefield’spotentialincludingthe
factthat“Mediaflowsare(…)facilitatedwherethelanguageisshared3”.TheArabmarketisindeedunique:a
largeandessentiallyyoungaudiencewithsome20countriessharingacommonlanguage.Researchershavethus
observedarelative“depoliticization”ofmediaovertheyearswiththeprogressivedevelopmentofmass
entertainmentprogramming.
DespitethespectacularsuccessofArabicmusalsalat(soapoperas),Arabaudienceshavealwaysshowngreat
interestinforeignproductions.WithinthiscontextTurkishsoapoperas,Noorbeingthemostsignificantcase,have
generatedamediarevolution.Myaimisfirsttodescribethistriumphandthentointroducethevarious
repercussionsthatresultedfromit.Ononehand,itwouldbeinterestingtoanalyzethisnewformofdramaonthe
Arabentertainmentscene,explainingitsemergenceasa“genre”aswellasasuccessfulmodelof“hybridization”.
Ontheotherhand,inaregionoflongOttomandomination,whatlinguisticandculturalissuesdotheseseriesand
theirdubbingindialectraise?WhathavetheyexposedaboutArabsocietiesintermsofvalues?
IwilltackletheseaspectsthroughacloseanalysisoftheArabpressfromMarchtoJuly2009,theperiodthat
witnessedthepeakoftheseries’success.Theanalysiswillincludegeneralliteratureaboutsoapoperasformatsas
wellasmusalsalatintheArabworld.
Moreover,IshalldrawconclusionsaboutArabdramaandentertainmentasawhole,aswellasitsinherent
contradictions,mostlyintermsofvalues.Finally,IwilldiscussthenexttrendswithinthisfieldaswellasArab
satellitemediaingeneral,includingthepossiblereturnoflocaldialectsafterthedominationofstandardizedArabic.
Theadventofa“genre”:Turkishdrama
Initially,soapoperaswereradioprogramssponsoredbybigsoapcorporationsintheUnitedStates.Withtheadvent
oftelevision,theybecameawellknownformatallovertheworld.Theywereaimedathousewivesandwere
mostlyairedinthe“daytimeslot”,from9a.m.to4p.m.,accordingtoA.C.Nielsen’sdayparts.Women’saccessto
thelabormarketandthedazzlingsuccessofsomeserieshoweverbroughtmanychanges.Soapoperaswerethus
movedto“primetime”,from8to10p.m.,whereviewershippeaks,andnolongertargetedanexclusivelyfemale
audience.Dallas,BeverlyHills90210,andMelrosePlacebecamesymbolsofsuchdecades.
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MBCbeganbroadcastingTurkishseriesdubbedinSyriandialectin2007withIklilalWard4(“CrownofFlowers”).
InFebruary2008,MBC1airedSanawatalDayaa’5(“TheLostYears”)fromWednesdaytoSaturdayat4p.m.,
correspondingto“regulartime”inMBCdayparts.InApril2008,thepressbegannoticingtheaudience’sgrowing
interestwiththepresenceofTVsetsincafés,importantsocializationspotsinArabcountries,aswellasdownloads
oftheseries’openingthemesongs.SimultaneouslyMBC,withanefficientmarketingstrategyandextensivepress
coveragelaunchedNoorat2p.m.AudiencescouldnowwatchtwoTurkishseriesanddiscussthem.Bytheendof
April,NoorrosetoprimetimeonMBC4,at9:30p.m.,betweentheverypopularOprahWinfreyShowandthe
dailyeveningfilm.Withthisdominationofprimetimeandtheaudience’senlargement,“Noormania”beganand
thefateofTurkishseriesbecamesimilartosignaturesoapoperas.
Explosionsinviewershipconfirmedthesetrends.Indeed,MBCspokeof3to4millionviewersperdayinSaudi
Arabia6.MazenHayek,DirectorofMarketing,PRandCommercialAffairs,atMBCGroupspokeattheSecond
NewArabWomanForuminBeirut(NAWF)of“85millionviewers(fortheNoorseriesfinale)above15yearsof
ageintheMiddleEastandNorthAfricaregion,outofwhom50millionwerefemale”7.SanawatalDayaa’camein
secondwith67millionviewers,39millionofthemfemale.TheNoorseriesevenmanagedtoconqueraspotinthe
top10globalprogramsintheEurodataannualstudy“OneTelevisionyearintheworld”byMédiametrie8.
ThepressalsoreportedoddreactionstotheseriesfromallovertheMiddleEast:fromdesertedstreetsinAlKhalil
(Hebron)andGazatofemalemobsinDubai9andJordanalongwithafitofnewbornsnamedNoorandMuhannad
aftertheheroesoftheseries.Thecrazealsoincludedaneconomicdimensionwithbestsellingtshirtsandposters.
ThesalesofthesegoodssometimesevensurpassedthoseofArableaderslikeSaddamorYasserArafatinGaza.10
Soapoperascanbedistinguishedbytheirspecificnarrativeform.Thesecharacteristicsincludeoverlapping
intriguesthatarehighlightedbytheendofeachepisodeandacommunityofcharacterswithdynamicandcomplex
interactions.Romanticandsexualrelationshipsarecentralamongtheissuestackled,asarefamilyties.Moreover,
theplotusuallyhighlightsemotionalandmoralconflicts.TheNoorseriesfitthismodelperfectly.Eventsincludeda
lifechangingarrangedmarriagecumlovestorybetweenthemaincharacter,Noor(SongülÖden)andMuhannad
(KivançTatlitug),theyoungandhandsomeheirofabusinessempire.Noorhadtofaceseveralobstaclesinherlove
life(includingatriangularrelationshipwithherhusband’sexlover)butalsoinhercareerasawomanstrugglingto
establishherselfintheworkplace.Theseriesweremarkedbyseveralcoupsdethéâtre–thereturnofdead
characters,revelationsoffamilytiesandmissingchildren,allemblematicingredientsasexplainedbyLaura
StempelMumfordinLoveandideologyintheafternoon:soapopera,women,andtelevisiongenre(1995).Class
strugglealsomakesappearances,especiallyinSanawatalDayaa’.Shootingsitesaretraditionalsoapopera
locations:anOttomanpalaceontheBosporus,afashioncompany,restaurantsandhospitals.
Aninnovativeaspectisaddedhowever:the“Turkishtouch”.Liketelenovelas,Turkishseriescarryacertain
identityandculturalvaluesthatareamplifiedbyseveralelements.Thepatriarchalmodelisessentialandis
emphasizedinseveralscenesthroughthedominationofthewiseheadoffamily;inNoor,thishappenstobe
Muhannad’sgrandfather,FekryBey.AllepisodesincludescenesoffamilymealsheadedbyFekryBeyaswellas
Turkishcoffeegatheringswhereheplaysthelute.
Becauseoftheviewershipexplosionandtheimportanceofthe“Noor”phenomenonbothitsextentandthe
intensityofitsfanactivityMazenHayektalksaboutthebirthofagenre:“Turkishdrama”11.Turkishserieshave
dethronedtheirMexicanrivalswhichhadruledArabscreensinthe1990s.Liketelenovelas,Turkishsoapoperas
canbeconsideredashybridbycombiningtypicalcharacteristicsofclassicAmericansoapsaswellasnewcultural
inputs.ItisthusessentialtoexplainwhattheArabictranslationhasaddedtotheshow,focusingparticularlyonthe
useofdialectwhendubbing.
FromGümüştoNoor:linguisticconsiderations
Translationisamodeofrepresentingidentityandtriggersalinguistic,philosophicalandcommercialdebate.Each
languagerepresentsadifferentvisionoftheworldcharacterizedbyitsmeansandvalues.Severalculturalstudies
scholarshavetakenthisideaintoconsiderationwhenstudyingmedia.Indeedtheydiscussedthepublic’s
reappropriationofmassmediaentertainmentproducts.Thereareseveralwaystotranslatefilmsorseries:subtitling
“atranspositionfromsoundintowriting”anddubbing“anaudiovisualexpressionwithonelanguageseen,another
heard”12.Bothtechniquesinvolvesynchronization:“thenumberofsyllablesaswellasthedurationofthespoken
lineissupposedtocorrespondwiththeoriginal”(Rossholm2006).Translationinvolvesacombinationoflanguages
andmedia.
InArabmedia,translationsaremostlydonethroughsubtitling.Asfordubbing,RobertStamexplainsthataccents
andintonationsarealsoessentialastheyconveyculturalandlinguisticdifferences13.WhenitcomestoArabic,the
diglossiaofthelanguageisanessentialcharacteristictoconsider.Itresultsinmajordifferencesbetween“literary”
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Arabic(alanguagethatisnotmasteredbyapartofthepopulation)andcolloquialArabicordialects,thelanguage
“ofthestreet”anddailylife.Theexpansionofmediahasledtodifferentphasesoflinguistichegemony.Intheearly
1990s,Arabmusalsalatproductionsweredominatedbydialects,essentiallyEgyptian.Thispositioncanbe
explainedbyEgypt’slongcinemahistory,datingtothebeginningofthe20thcentury,aswellastheabundanceof
Egyptianproductions.
TheemergenceofAlJazeerawould,however,leveltheplayingfield,introducingastandardizationofliterary
Arabicinordertohelpviewerswhodidnotmasterit.Thisinnovationwouldalsohaveanimpactinthefieldof
entertainment.First,briefincursionsofliteraryArabicinlocalproductionsincreased,althoughthefieldwas
traditionallydialectal(suchastheSyrianhitseriesBabalHara).ThencameMBC’ssuccessfulgamble:having
GümüşdubbedintoSyriandialectbySamaproductionstudiosinDamascus.Thischoicechallengedthetraditional
literaryArabicdubbingofMexicantelenovelasthathadcreatedadisconnectbetweentheaudience,whichfoundthe
languagetoocomplexandinadequateforthescenario,andtheseriesovertheyears.DaniaNugali,a16yearold
Saudi,toldJohnDaggefromTheMiddleEastmagazinethatwhenshewatchedtelenovelasdubbedinclassical
Arabicshefelt“like(shewas)inanArabicliteratureclass(…)butwhenIwatchNoor,Idefinitelyfeelthatitis
entertainment."14.MostfanswhogatheredinfrontoftheMBCbuildingwhenNoor‘sstarsvisitedDubaiagreed
withDania.Therefore,MBC’suseofSyriandialectwasnotanobstacletoNoor’ssuccess,butwas,onthecontrary,
oneofitsmainassets,despitetheimportantdifferencesbetweenSyriandialectandotherArabicdialects.
Withaccessiblelanguage,Arabviewersdiscovered“theOther”,aneighboringcountrythathistoryhadestranged.
IndeedArabnationalismwasessentiallyareactiontoTurkishculturalhegemonyaftertheYoungTurks’revolution.
By“winningheartsandminds”,NoortriggeredasuddenreawakeningandconsiderationoftheseSanawatalDayaa’
(“lostyears”)aswellasseveralotherdilemmas.
TheOttomanEmpirestrikesback?
TurkishdubbedserieswereundeniablyanessentialfactorthatledtoareevaluationofTurkishculturebyArab
audiences.Afeelingofproximitybetweenbothsocieties,ArabandTurkish,thatwasfoundneitherinMexican
telenovelasnorinAmericanhitseries,flourished.
WheninterviewedbytheJordaniannewspaperAlGhad,sociologyprofessorHusseinAlKhozaistatedthatArab
viewerscouldidentifywithmanyofthevaluesconveyedbytheseries,suchasrespectforelderssuchasNoor’s
grandmother,but,moreimportantly,thecentralityoftheheadofthefamily,FekryBey.Thisessentialcomponent
ofArabsocietiescanbefoundinseveralfictionalworkssuchasNaguibMahfouz’slandmarkcharacter,“Se
Sayed”,intheCairoTrilogy.
TheemphasisonTurkishlandscapeswhenfilmingalsotouchedArabviewers.Insteadoffilminginstudios,asin
mostArabseries,manysequenceswerefilmedontheBosporusinNoorandinSanawatAlDaya’,allowingviewers
totravelthroughtheTurkishcountryside.SuchscenesluredtouriststoTurkey.FiguresfromtheTurkishMinistry
ofCultureandTourism15revealasteadyincreaseintourismfromArabcountries,withthemostsignificant
increasesfromGulfcountries,includinga34percentSaudiincrease–includingimportantmembersoftheroyal
family,a75percentincreaseinKuwaitis,51percentmoreEmiratisandover1,379percentmoreOmanis.The
palacewhereNoorwasfilmedontheBosporuswasrentedandtransformedbytouroperatorsintoasortoflovers’
museumdestinedforArabtourists.OthermoreambitiousfanschosetolearnTurkish16.JournalistNajiA’mayrah
describestheseriesas“themissinglink”betweenArabandTurkishsocieties.
Yetsuchenthusiasmforsharedperspectiveswas,however,farfromunanimous.Manyjournalistsspokeofthe
successofNooras“Turkishhegemony”17.MohamedMansourwroteinthepanArabnewspaperAlQudsAlArabi
thathewasoutragedby“televisedalienation”18,labelingNooranextensionofpreviousMexican“assaults”on
Arabculturewhichbeganinthe1990s.Turkishseriesarealsointerpretedthroughthecontemporarypolitical
context.Indeed,throughacommittedandeffectiveforeignpolicy,Turkeyhasdemonstrateditsdesiretoplaya
paramountregionalrole.PrimeMinisterRecepTayyipErdoganhas,forexample,successfullyseducedtheArab
public,whohavecomparedhimtoSaladin,knownastheheroofresistancetotheCrusaders,throughhisdrastic
positiononGaza(alandmarkissueofArabnationalism)attheDavosWorldEconomicForum.Turkishseriescan
beseenbysomeasasoftpowerinstrumenttowinoverArabpublicopinion.Mansouralsoaddsananalysisofa
Muslimworldthatismarkedbycreepingsectarianism.Hedenounces“Shiaopportunism”withIranianseriesbeing
dubbedonShiachannels,inflictinga“Shiitization”uponMuslimsocieties.
Challengesarenotlimitedtotheideologicalfield.Fromacommercialpointofview,theTurkishentertainment
industry“isaUS$6billionayearbusiness19.MBCsawitasan“opportunity”accordingtoFadiIsmail,the
generalmanagerofO3Productions,asubsidiaryoftheMBCGroup.Turkishseriesarelessexpensiveandmore
lucrativethanArabproductions.AccordingtotheSyriandirectorAbbasAlNouri,thesuccessofTurkishdramaisa
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“challenge”20forArabicmusalsalat,butalsoasourceofinspirationemphasizingromanceandfeelingsinfuture
scenarios.Otherdirectors,likeEgyptianstarOsamaAnwarOkashacommentedonthephenomenonironically,by
predictingthearrivalof“Eskimo”seriesonArabscreens.
ThemonthofRamadan,wheretelevisionconsumptiontraditionallydoubles,isarelevantexampleillustratingthis
feelingof“assault”.ThetriumphofTurkishdramahastriggeredabacklash:theproliferationofhundredsofArab
musalsalatairingonalargeselectionofover300channels.
MuhannadandNoor,troublemakersofthesmallscreens
Syriandubbingdidnotonlytranslate,ittransposedandadapted.Manysignificantmodificationsweremade,
beginningwiththeArabizationofthecharacters’names.IntheTurkishversion,themaincharacter’snameis
Mehmet,butSamagrouptranslatorspreferredMuhannad,anancientandrareArabicname,portrayingadesirefor
uniqueness.Otherrearrangementsweremoredrastic,concerningboththeformatandthecontent:theseriesinitially
had100episodesofonehoureach.WhenairedonMBC,therewere154episodesof45minuteseach.Several
eroticsceneswerecensoredbecausetheywereconsideredinappropriateandincompatiblewiththeregion’svalues.
ThiscensorshipwasneverthelessinsufficientforsomenewspaperssuchastheSaudiAlJazeera,whichdescribed
thebroadcastofTurkishdramaasanassaultonpublicdecency.
Theusualcondemnationsofsoapoperaswereaddedtothesegrievances.ForSaidAbulMee’laoftheJordanian
newspaperAlGhad,thesuccessofTurkishseriesisa“scam”andaproofofArabdecadence.Otherjournalists
resentedthescript’strivialityandlackofinnovation.SuchtendenciesserveasareminderofIenAng’sstudyofthe
crossculturalreceptionofDallasintheNetherlands.Shespeaksofthe“ironicpleasureofhatingDallasordisliking
thevaluestheyseeitrepresentingsomuchthattheyenjoywatchingtheshowinordertocondemnandridicule
it.”21Angspeaksof“pleasureindispleasure”animplicitcritiqueofAmericanpopcultureinDutchsociety,
confirmingwhatsomeresearcherscalled“theparadoxofsoapoperas”oneofthemostsignificantTVtriumphsof
thelastfiftyyears.Despitebeinganultimateadvertisingspace,theyremainoneofthemostcriticizedformatsin
popculture.
ByJune2008,adifferenttypeofnewsrelatedtoTurkishsoapsdominatedpopularimaginationintheArabworld.
OneofNoor’smainassetswastheyoungandhandsomeKivançTatlitug,anexmodelandwinneroftheBest
ModeloftheWorldawardin2002.HisWesternfeaturesandroleastheromanticandsexyhusbandearnedhimthe
nickname“theMiddleEast’sBradPitt”22.Tatlitugbecamearealstar,andmadeseveraladsandamusicvideowith
LebanesesingerRulaSaad.Hetriggeredmanymaritalcrises,asArabwomenmadethepainfulcomparison
betweenMuhannadandtheirhusbands,demandingmoreromanceandrespectintheirrelationships.Severaldivorce
caseswerefiled,someofthemrepudiationsoutofjealousyandothersofthemultimatumsgivenbywomen23.Noor
thusservedasthedetonatorofexistingmatrimonialandsexualtensionsallovertheMiddleEast.Turkishseries
alsofeaturedseveralindependent,nonveiledfemalecharacters,rangingfromworkingwomentosinglemothers,
theoppositeofadesperatehousewife.CharleneGubashfromNBCnewsconsequentlyspokeof“upend(ing)
traditionalArabgenderroles”24.
ThecomplaintsofNoor’sfemaleviewersalsofitseveralscholars’applicationoffeministtheoriestosoapoperas.
Theyclaimsoapoperasgivewomenamediumtoescapethedailyroutineoftheirlivesandthestressfamilylife
mightbring.TheescapistdimensionofsoapoperasisevenmorenoticeableinwartornsocietiessuchasGazaor
Yemenandthosefacingdailyviolence,asinIraq,wherestreetsweredesertedduringthedailybroadcastingof
Noor.
Satanicseries”?–FacingTurkishsecularism
Alcohol,abortionsandpremaritalsexareallingredientsofTurkishsoapsbutarealsothenightmaresofthe
religiousestablishmentintheregion.ThemostnotoriouscontroversyregardingTurkishserieswasthevirulent
objectionsofseveralclerics.Despitethereorganizationandthecensorshipoftheseries,severalremainingaspects
wereseenascontrarytoIslamicprinciples.InJune2008,SaudisheikhSalmanalA’awada,hostofareligious
programonMBC,advisedthe“ownerofMBCtoreviseandcensorNoorepisodes.”25Theideaofaculturalbridge
wasdenied,andTurkishsecularismwasquestioned.AseriesoffatwasforbiddingthefaithfulfromwatchingNoor
orSanawatalDayaa’wentalongwiththisindignation.SyriansheikhHamdiKanjoAlMakzoumideclaredthat
prayinginTshirtsfeaturinganyoftheTurkishactresseswasharam,callingthem“nonveiledanddecadent,
promotingviceanddecadenceinplacesofworship”26.
Afewdayslater,thegrandmuftiofSaudiArabia,SheikhAbdulAzizAlSheikh,theofficialvoiceoftheSaudi
religiousestablishment,forbadethe“wickedandevil”Turkishseriesthatrepresented“anassaultofTurkish
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secularismonSaudisociety”.Themostnotoriouscontroversywas,however,theSheikhSalehalLohaidanaffair.
Lohaidan,theheadofSaudiArabia’sIslamicShariacourtsandoneofthemostpowerfulclericsinthekingdom,
declaredthat“theownersofthesechannelsthatbroadcastprogramscontainingindecencyandvulgarity(…)can
beputtodeaththroughthejudicialprocess(qada’an)”.Suchfierceaccusationscreatedapoliticalstormand
consequentmediacoverage,asmostsatellitechannelsareownedbySaudimediamogulslinkedtotheroyal
family27.
Conclusions
Thegenesisandtriumphofthe“Turkishdrama”genreraisesseveraldilemmasinherenttotheArabworld.Series
likeNoorareasuccessfulmodelofhybridization,firstlybecauseoftheirhandlingandeditingbyMBC.Turkish
soapshavebeensuccessfullyadaptedtoaconservativeenvironmentnotonlybylinguistictransformationbutalso
throughacontentmetamorphosisthatwasreinterpretedbytheArabsocieties’mostconservativecomponents.
Viewershavealsoactivelycontributedtothissuccesswiththemassiveuseofnewmedia:blogs,fanfiction,
websitesandphonenumbersforringtonesandwallpaperdownloads,aswellasawealthofFacebookfanpages,
groupsandYouTubevideos.
TurkishdramaandArabicmusalsalatcarrystrongculturalidentitiesandTurkishdramahashelpedpromotecultural
exchange.Televisionisanessentialvectorofmodernityintheregion,and,asinLatinAmerica,hasactivelythrown
light,inthepublicandvirtualspheres,onmajorsocialproblemsaffectingArabsocietiesfromMoroccotoBahrain,
despitetheirdiversity.Thepublic’spassionandstrongreactivitytoanimportedgenrehastriggeredstrong
reactions,fromskepticismtoindignationandviolence.
Despitethereligiouscontroversies,Turkishsoapoperasseemtobeheretostay,atleastfornow.MBCcontinuesto
dubandbroadcastnewTurkishseries28andintendstoapplydubbinginArabicdialectstoothergenres.Ithaseven
launchedapayperviewchannelcalledMBC+drama,broadcasting24hoursofuninterruptedTurkishandArabic
drama.Exchangesarenotlimitedtoimportsbutalsoexports:MBCiscloselyfollowingtheTurkishmarketandhas
successfullyexportedtheSyrianmusalsal,SalahEldineelAyoubi,abiopiconSaladinthatwasdubbedintoTurkish
andhasenjoyedgreatsuccess.OthernetworkssuchastheMoroccan2Mhavefollowedthetrendandstartedairing
telenovelasinMoroccancolloquialinthesummerof2009.Theuseofdialectwhendubbingmarksareturnto
localismontransnationaltelevisionafterthelongdominationofliteraryandthenstandardizedArabic.Dialecthas
alsopenetratedotherformatssuchaspoliticaltalkshows,alsowitnessingasoaringsuccessinEgyptandLebanon,
forexample.
Finally,theriseofsoapoperasàlaturquehasresultedinareevaluationoftheArabentertainmentindustry,a
suddenanddifficultawakeningforafieldthatwaslongdominatedbythestate.TheArabmediaspaceiswitnessing
majorchangeswiththedailybirthofnewsatellitechannels.SincethelaunchingofArabsat1,severalmedia
empireshaverisen,offeringabroadselectionofprogramsaimedatthepopulousArabregioninallitsdiversity.
TheArabentertainmentfieldissimultaneouslyagoldmineandaminefield,unveilingasortofschizophrenia
betweentraditionandmodernity.MediaempiresaremostlyfinancedbycapitalfromtraditionalGulfmonarchies
whichimposetheirbrandofconservatisminArabicmusalsalat.Nevertheless,theacquisitionandsuccessofseries
likeNoorrevealthedesireandtheneedofanessentiallyyoungpopulationforsocialchange.Arabicmusalsalat
alsoneednewbloodtoreplaceageingstars.Asuperficialliberationisdiscerniblethroughtheabundantproduction
ofhighlysexualizedandsuggestivemusicvideosfeaturinglibidinousfemalesingers.
ACairocourtrecentlycalledonthegovernmenttoapplyaverdictinEgyptthatforbidsall“immoral”websites,a
regulationthatisalreadyenforcedinseveralGulfcountriesthatspendbillionsofdollarsonfirewalls.Fromtele
Quranismtorealitytelevision,alongwithsteamymusicvideosandsoapoperas,openskiesseemtobethemost
difficultspacetodominate.Satellitechannelswillthuscontinuetheirascension.
AlexandraBucciantiisastudentattheInstituteofPoliticalSciencesinParis(Sciencespo)intheComparative
politicsgraduateresearchprogram.SheispreparinganM.A.thesisaboutEgyptiantalkshowsandnewArab
media.
1SilverinTurkish
3/29/2015 ArabMedia&Society
http://www.arabmediasociety.com/index.php?article=735&printarticle 6/7
2LightinArabic
3Sakr,Naomi.ArabTelevisionToda y.London:I.B.Tauris,2007.
—.SatelliteRealms:TransantionalTelevisionGlobalizationandtheMiddleEast.London:I.B.Tauris,2001.
4ÇemberimdeGülOya,a2004KanalDproduction
5IhlamurlarAltında,a2005KanalDproduction
6KhaleejTimes(UnitedArabEmirates).«Noor’lightsupbeaconsofchange.»28July2008.
http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticleNew.asp?section=citytimes&xfile=data/citytimes/2008/july/citytimes_july273.xml
7BeiruthostsThe2ndNewArabWomanForum(NAWF).11September2008.http://www.ameinfo.com/168434.html
8Accordingtoitsofficialwebsite,thestudygivesapanoramaofannualTVconsumptioninover80countriesandterritoriesworldwide
http://www.iconoval.fr/publicmedia/original/171/78/fr/2009_%2003_%2024_%20CDP%20l%27ann%C3%A9e%20TV%20dans%20le%20monde%20VF.pdf
9Dagge,John."TheNoorphenomenon."TheMidd leEast,2008.
10KhaleejTimes(UnitedArabEmirates).«Noor’lightsupbeaconsofchange.»28July
2008.http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticleNew.asp?section=citytimes&xfile=data/citytimes/2008/july/citytimes_july273.xml
11Radsch,CourtneyC.ArabTVseriesamong top10globalprograms.30March2009.
http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2009/03/30/69563.html
12Rossholm,AnnaSofia.Reproducinglanguages,translatingbodies:approachestospeech,translationandculturalid entity.
Stockholm:Häftad.Almqvist&Wiksellinternational,2006.
13Stam,Robert.SubversivePleasures:Bakhtin,CulturalCriticism,an dFilm.JohnHopkinsUniversity,1989.
14(Dagge2008)
15www.kultur.gov.tr/EN/
16AlAhrar(Egypt).«Fatayataso'oudiyatyataa'lamnaalturkiyaminajlMuhannad.»01July2008.
3/29/2015 ArabMedia&Society
http://www.arabmediasociety.com/index.php?article=735&printarticle 7/7
17AlManar(UnitedArabEmirates).«A'wdatalhaymanaaltukiyaba'dalMixiq'iya.»06April2008:65.
18Mansour,Mohamed.«Ba'damawjatalmusalsalatalMexikiyawalIraniyawaakhiranalTurkiya.»AlQudsAlArabi,17April2008:13.
19ArabicTVserialstoocostly,MBCChairmanwarns.21May2008.http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2008/05/21/50195.html.
20AlGhad(Jordan).«AlNouri:Najah'almusalsalatalturkiyayoumatheltah'adileldramaala'arabiya.»17June2008.
21RobertClydeAllen,AnnetteHill.Thetelevisionstudiesreader.London:Routledge,2004.Sakr,Naomi.ArabTelevisionToday.London:I.B.Tauris,
2007.
22MiddleEasthasitsownBradPitt.11Mars2009.http://www.welt.de/englishnews/article3357687/MiddleEasthasitsownBradPitt.html
23Turkishsoapstarsparksdivorcesin Arabworld.June29,2008.http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2008/06/29/52291.html
24Turkishsoap operaupendstraditionalArabgenderroles.NBCNews,July31,2008.
25AlRayah(Qatar).SalmanalA'wdaYansah'alMBCbitahzibalmusalsalalTurkiNoor.June30,2008.
26(Dagge,2008)
27Formoredetailsaboutthiseventanditssymbolicsignificance,pleaseread:Hammond,Andrew.«ReadingLohaidaninRiyadh:
MediaandthestruggleforjudicialpowerinSaudiArabia.»ArabMediaandSociety,Issue7,Winter2009
http://www.arabmediasociety.com/?article=702#_edn3
28Sambidge,Andy.MBCexpandssoapoperashowsdespiteMuftifury.21October2008.http://www.arabianbusiness.com/535285mbcexpandsSoap
operasdespitemuftioutrage.
©2015ArabMedia&Society
... In other words, Saudi audiences did not have any social conflict because they were exposed to those dramas which provided identical socio-cultural values and the media content as it reflected their national identity in a restrictive religious society as it is in reality. It started with Western dramas, specifically American soap operas (Alnaser 2013), then Mexican telenovels (Kharroub, 2016), followed by Turkish dramas (Buccianti 2010), and others as Indian and Korean. Even though the Turkish dramas had attracted Saudi viewers since 2000 (Ustek and Alyanak 2017;Özalpman 2017). ...
... In 2006, 75 Turkish dramas were broadcasted to Arabic audiences, interestingly, the highest rate of consuming Turkish drama was for Saudi Arabia (Berg 2017;Toul 2020;Bhutto 2019). In 2008, Noor was the most popular romantic Turkish soap and was watched by 85 million people in the Middle East (50 million were women) (Buccianti 2010). In 2011, Magnificent Century, a famous historical Turkish soap, has been viewed by over 500 million people worldwide (Bhutto 2019). ...
... Currently, Turkish dramas have been presented to multiple cultures such as Croatia (Okumus 2020), North Africa (Al-nashar 2017; Anaz 2014), South America (Constantinou and Tziarras 2018;Özalpman 2017), Greece (Pothou 2020;Kraidyand Al-Ghazzi 2013), and Pakistan (Malik, Haq, and Mukhtar 2017;Zafar, Arafat and Sial 2019). Arabic audiences, especially Saudi women, were the most prominent ones (Buccianti 2010). As mentioned earlier, the Saudi people have complicated Muslim identity; they perceive social-cultural values through Turkish dramas in different ways. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
In the 2000s, Turkish drama series began airing in Saudi Arabia and other countries outside Turkey. Perhaps unexpectedly, they have proven exceptionally attractive to global audiences. Typically, these dramas define and present female characters who can be considered liberal in their adherence to traditional cultural values. To date, despite the growing popularity of these Turkish drama series abroad, research into the attitudes and behaviors of Saudi women who watch such dramas has been limited. The present study evaluates Turkish drama series's influence on the perceptions and attitudes of Saudi female viewers, drawing on social identity theory and cultivation theory perspectives. For the study, 1.274 online questionnaires were completed by Saudi female viewers aged from 20 to 60. The results revealed three different groups of attitudes associated with socio-cultural values. Firstly, acceptance or otherwise of 'independent and self-reliant women' and their 'ability to survive without a man.' Secondly, rejection of 'other' socio-cultural values, such as (1) 'Having a child outside of marriage,' (2) 'marital infidelity, (3) 'restricting religion to older people,' (4) 'presenting alcohol consumption, (5) 'women getting married without permission, and (6) 'couples dating.' Finally, neutral attitudes towards 'friendships between couples,' 'traditional roles of women as mothers and wives and 'fighting for love.'
... Before the banning, in March 2018, of Turkish serials on Saudi Arabian and UAE free-to-air satellite television networks, Turkish cultural products accounted for 60 per cent of all foreign content on Arab television (Yanardağoğlu and Karam 2013). But they have faced the accusation of corrupting Arab morals (Buccianti 2010), and they have been blamed for other ills, from traffic jams and higher divorce rates to a decline in work efficiency (Salamandra 2012). ...
Article
This article explores how young Qatari audiences perceive authenticity in Turkish television dramas. The concepts of authenticity and realism are used as analytical tools to examine empirical findings from twenty focus group discussions with students, in 2016 and 2017. The results reveal that young Qataris see Turkish serials as offering a more authentic representation of real life than local and regional television serials. Although Turkish drama serials do not provide a window into actual life within Turkish society, they are perceived as offering a realistic depiction of characters and storylines representing Turkey’s social life and culture. This article establishes that Turkish serials’ dubbing into a colloquial Syrian dialect has heightened audience experience of authenticity. The fact that Turkish dramas were created against the backdrop of a Muslim country with significant ethnic and cultural similarities further elevated the Arab audiences’ perception of authenticity.
... Hence, to demonstrate the efficiency of the proposed approach and its language independence, we test our pipeline on long TR-AR series and short EN-AR series. We picked TR-AR series following studies that showed that 85 million Arab viewers watch Syrian-dubbed Turkish series [13]. Additionally, Arabic is a morphologically complex language with high degree of affixation and re-ordering when it is compared with English, making it the perfect language for such studies. ...
Preprint
Dubbed series are gaining a lot of popularity in recent years with strong support from major media service providers. Such popularity is fueled by studies that showed that dubbed versions of TV shows are more popular than their subtitled equivalents. We propose an unsupervised approach to construct speech-to-speech corpus, aligned on short segment levels, to produce a parallel speech corpus in the source- and target- languages. Our methodology exploits video frames, speech recognition, machine translation, and noisy frames removal algorithms to match segments in both languages. To verify the performance of the proposed method, we apply it on long and short dubbed clips. Out of 36 hours TR-AR dubbed series, our pipeline was able to generate 17 hours of paired segments, which is about 47% of the corpus. We applied our method on another language pair, EN-AR, to ensure it is robust enough and not tuned for a specific language or a specific corpus. Regardless of the language pairs, the accuracy of the paired segments was around 70% when evaluated using human subjective evaluation. The corpus will be freely available for the research community.
... Similarly, Turkish soap operas demonstrate a patriarchal model where the head of the family, who is almost always a male is dominant (Buccianti, 2010). According to Mutlu (2013) Additionally, Rusnáková (2014) asserts that along with so-called Western modernity, Turkish soap operas also portray traditional Islamic culture that can appeal to Islamic countries and open a window to present sensitive and controversial issues in the frame of soap operas. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Although efforts have been made by the Afghan government and its international partners to promote the tents of gender equality in Afghan society, biases against women and other marginalized groups persist in the society and media sector, particularly. The current study is a timely research because feminist media studies are an under-researched field in the context of Afghanistan. My research aims to be a contribution to this field and open a path for Afghan feminist media studies. The current study explores the representations of gender relations in transnational television soap operas broadcast on Afghan television stations, audiences’ decoding of the representations, and the role of the media in promoting social change. The selected soap operas for the study are Paiman and Qesay Maa, Turkish television soap operas dubbed in the Dari language. The current study is based on feminist theory and feminist methodology, providing a balance of content and reception analysis. Drawing on feminist media studies and focusing on media representations, the content analysis of transnational soap operas echoed previous studies on representations of gender relations and indicated that gender relations are often portrayed in stereotypical and traditional manners. The content analysis further demonstrated that women are objectified in different ways and are often represented as domestic, passive, selfless beings in men’s service. Moreover, relationships between women are often based on rivalry, hatred, and shaming and often without any particular reason. The study also found that contrary to women, men are often represented at outdoor and professional settings. Additionally, grounded on encoding/decoding model through a feminist lens, the thematic analysis of focus group discussions demonstrated that audiences constantly interact with media text and actively make meaning. Interestingly, FGD findings further indicated that as active viewers, both female and male participants, derive multiple and often diverse meanings from the media text. Although both female and male participants problematize the content of transnational soap operas, their interpretations of representations of gender relations and gender equality are dissimilar. The study concludes that transnational soap operas, and the media in general, can play an important role in promoting social change in Afghanistan, particularly gender parity through the Entertainment-Education strategy. However, an intersectional framework is essential in designing EE programmes for promoting gender equality in a diverse society like Afghanistan.
Article
Turkish soap operas propose an alternative modernity marked not only by tra-ditional family structures and gender roles but also by the social conservatism im-posed by the current government. Nevertheless, the soap operas in question are also under the pressure of representing social change, particularly as far as wom-en's rights are concerned. Through this article, the author aims to highlight the ways in which Greek women resist to the patriarchate through their decoding of these particular media texts. Based on the results of an audience ethnography, the author demonstrates that the resistance of meaning receivers is neither always op-positional to the media text, nor necessarily progressive.
Thesis
This research explores the relationship between new screen production and exhibition spaces and urban transformation in Istanbul. In the last two decades Istanbul, like many other metropolitan cities, witnessed a dramatic growth of urban reconstruction projects. These reconstruction projects create new screen production sites by transforming post-industrial areas such as old ports and docks, abandoned factories into “creative locales” as well as new exhibition sites such as multiplexes, luxury city club movie theaters, hotel and museum screening halls, which are adapted to the neoliberal urbanite consumption trends. This dissertation focuses on physical and representational spaces in the city and in TV series to provide a comprehensive understanding on the relation between media production, consumption and urban studies. Such analysis helps to understand the social and economic impacts of urban renovation projects on screen media and vice versa. The first part of the empirical research focuses on screen media production: how the TV series and film production has shaped the city in the last two decades and how this transformation is represented in films and TV series. The first paper explores on-location TV production sites; historical neighborhoods, post-industrial spaces and business centers to illustrate how TV production may promote gentrification in less visible yet more complex ways than other creative industries. The second paper discovers TV drama production studios of Istanbul and shows the relation between the construction of these studios, the content of the TV series and the ratings. The second part of the empirical research focuses on contemporary exhibition strategies in the city: from open-air cinemas to the construction of multiplex cinemas and contemporary alternative exhibition spaces and how and why they are used by film festivals and filmmakers. The third paper examines the nostalgic sentiments around the newly-established open-air cinemas in Istanbul and traces their history and disappearance that dates back to the urban transformation projects in the 1950s. The last paper looks at alternative film exhibition spaces in Istanbul, such as museums, cafes, cultural centers, exhibition halls and the politics behind their proliferation in the last decade. The research combines relevant research methods for each individual case study: content and visual analysis for cases on screen representation; archival research for historical data and interviews and participant observation for cases on media production and exhibition. Using such multimethod approach, this research aims to explore the entangled relationship between the film-TV industry and the urban renovation projects in Istanbul and show how both screen making and consumption are connected urban production and consumption patterns.
Thesis
Full-text available
This research explores the relationship between new screen production and exhibition spaces and urban transformation in Istanbul. In the last two decades Istanbul, like many other metropolitan cities, witnessed a dramatic growth of urban reconstruction projects. These reconstruction projects create new screen production sites by transforming post-industrial areas such as old ports and docks, abandoned factories into “creative locales” as well as new exhibition sites such as multiplexes, luxury city club movie theaters, hotel and museum screening halls, which are adapted to the neoliberal urbanite consumption trends. This dissertation focuses on physical and representational spaces in the city and in TV series to provide a comprehensive understanding on the relation between media production, consumption and urban studies. Such analysis helps to understand the social and economic impacts of urban renovation projects on screen media and vice versa. The first part of the empirical research focuses on screen media production: how the TV series and film production has shaped the city in the last two decades and how this transformation is represented in films and TV series. The first paper explores on-location TV production sites; historical neighborhoods, post-industrial spaces and business centers to illustrate how TV production may promote gentrification in less visible yet more complex ways than other creative industries. The second paper discovers TV drama production studios of Istanbul and shows the relation between the construction of these studios, the content of the TV series and the ratings. The second part of the empirical research focuses on contemporary exhibition strategies in the city: from open-air cinemas to the construction of multiplex cinemas and contemporary alternative exhibition spaces and how and why they are used by film festivals and filmmakers. The third paper examines the nostalgic sentiments around the newly-established open-air cinemas in Istanbul and traces their history and disappearance that dates back to the urban transformation projects in the 1950s. The last paper looks at alternative film exhibition spaces in Istanbul, such as museums, cafes, cultural centers, exhibition halls and the politics behind their proliferation in the last decade. The research combines relevant research methods for each individual case study: content and visual analysis for cases on screen representation; archival research for historical data and interviews and participant observation for cases on media production and exhibition. Using such multimethod approach, this research aims to explore the entangled relationship between the film-TV industry and the urban renovation projects in Istanbul and show how both screen making and consumption are connected urban production and consumption patterns.
Salman al A'wda Yansah' al MBC bi tahzib al musalsal al Turki Noor
  • Al Rayah
Al Rayah (Qatar). Salman al A'wda Yansah' al MBC bi tahzib al musalsal al Turki Noor. June 30, 2008. 26 (Dagge, 2008)
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