Reality Bites Back: AMERICAN IN ARABIA Gets 'Real' About Arab Television

Published March 8th, 2012 - 02:40 GMT
Will reality TV melt your brain? Middle Eastern censors sure don't think so.
Will reality TV melt your brain? Middle Eastern censors sure don't think so.

It is an ongoing debate of how real are reality TV shows. With the Middle East's influx of reality television imitations, our American in Arabia Brett thinks that Arabs have too much of reality going on already. And that it isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Media Censors are a crazy thing --- a big boardroom full of aliens telling the masses what will not melt their brains and souls. I am not going to rant on ‘freedom of speech’ or anything revolutionary. Actually, I just want to petition the ‘powers that be’ here in the Levant to keep out Big Brother or any other ‘Reality TV ‘.   Currently, many have to live their own Surivivor series daily so I think Arabs already get enough reality as it is.

Firstly, I apologize for my request to the Arab censorships committee since you're plates are already very full.  Most TV stations in the Middle East have to edit out  all hints of sexual impropriety in thier media. And I’m talking all. Even kissing is considered dangerous to youth, as it is routinely these lip locks that are snipped off the film reel. It can cause some confusion in watching romantic comedies for sure. (How does Sleeping Beauty wake up?)

When it comes to the network news though, it seems no amount of blood or loss of limb is deemed harmful to young minds. Everyone in the Middle East is well acquainted with the suicide attacks on Shia pilgrims in Iraq, mass shootings in Syria and the deaths in Tahrir square because they saw the mangled bodies on the local news! Numerous times I have been in a café halfway through the meal and up on the screen are the remains of a child blasted in some sort attack. How horrendous! We never see this stuff on American news. My filter wants to say, " Why are they showing us this? I’d rather see America's Next Top Model!”

On the other hand, maybe this is the right thing to do i.e. show the wounded and violence. It gives Arabs an edge; an awareness that, though we ( the protected humans) may be safe, not everyone around us has that same luxury. While I think the news here may be too bloody, it is bringing folks back to the harsh realities that this world needs an Extreme Makeover .

My fear is that the virtual realties created by Arab Idol or Big Brother will convince people to be naïve and escape the cognizance of global injustices, out of touch just like many of the faithful TV watchers in America who ‘seem’ so happy all the time. News flash: They are not happy. Antique Road Show or Pawn Stars just do not show them how or why to be sad.

Most would consider the origins of reality TV coming from MTV’s Real World in 1992. The premise was seven people living together with cameras on them all day. But these ‘real people’ never had to worry about whether or not they'd have work that day. There was not a threat of a sniper shooting at them and no concern for their family being attacked by armed guards preventing them from crossing into the next ‘room’. My Egyptian and Palestinian colleagues would say that if we throw in those ‘Fear Factors’, then it becomes the true reality television they've been watching and living for years. 

By Brett Weer

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