It's Time to Retire the Idea that Arabic Shows are Morality Plays

Published June 20th, 2017 - 08:00 GMT
"Don't Extinguish the Sun." (CBC)
"Don't Extinguish the Sun." (CBC)

 Idealists have been spamming my timeline recently with long Facebook essays on how this year’s Ramadan TV series' are not aligned with nor reflective of Egyptian society’s values and traditions.

One TV series that is being particularly mentioned a lot “La Totfe’ El Shams” (Don’t Extinguish the Sun). This is because most—if not all—of the protagonists appear while drinking alcohol, clubbing, cheating, doing drugs and/or gambling.

The aim of this piece is not to argue whether or not the protagonists’ lifestyles, faults, and habits are actually reflective of the lives of some Egyptians (which, by the way, they are), but rather the aim is to question those critics’ perspectives on the purpose of TV series’.

In my humble opinion, a TV series is a form of art that narrates a story, with its ultimate purpose being entertainment. I do not think that it is a “must” for art to promote good (or bad) values, nor is it the role of art to equally represent all factions of society with the highest degree of realism possible.

We’ve gone beyond the time when television’s sole purpose was serve as morality narrative, designed to educate the masses and tell them how they should behave through the use of good role models like Abla Fadeela and Bakkar.

I find the argument “people blindly copy what they watch” a poor one. Indeed, people who choose to behave in a manner that aligns with Egyptian culture and tradition are surely doing so because they would like to.

Similarly, people who behave in ways that are described as unaligned with these traditions were not taught to do so from a TV series or a movie. Consequently, no TV series has the power to corrupt, and no TV series should be burdened with some version of moral rehabilitation.

A work of art should be neither expected to represent nor mirror the entirety of society. It is totally okay if a TV series tells a story that focuses on a certain group or particular class of society.

TV series’—like Don’t Extinguish the Sun, and many others—are set within a certain social class contained within Egyptian society, so why are they expected to represent and mirror the moral values held by others? All narrative forms of televised art must possess a specific context and defined angle in order for it to be accessible to viewers.

If these aforementioned ranters deny the fact that the behaviours like drinking, cheating, and gambling do exist in fact exist in Egyptian and indeed Arab society, then they have a severe case of denial.

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