The Resonations of the Thousand and One Nights | Halas Časopis studentů Fakulty sociálních studií. 32. ročník

The Resonations of the Thousand and One Nights

Do rubriky Okénka napsal Ali Türünz (Pondělí, 21. březen 2011)

I had not watched the soap opera Thousand and One Nights or thought about its potential to resonate so strongly until it became a phenomenon in the Czech Republic. Let’s discuss some reactions to the series.

A Turkish friend of mine, who had lamented that she was being “othered” in the Czech Republic because she was darker-skinned than the rest of the people living in Brno, hoped that 1001 Nights would help to lessen xenophobia by representing a secular, successful and beautiful Turkish woman. When she told me this, about a month ago and just before the series began, I was almost sure that those were just her wishful thoughts. I would never have expected that the series would reach a high prime-time rating both in the Czech and the Slovak Republics, reaching thousands of Facebook fans. However, having read about its prior success in Eastern and Central Europe, I suppose that it was not completely unpredictable.

Personally, I find the series “tele-kitsch” and I wish to emphasize that it is definitely not my cup of tea. However, I am also aware that one cannot easily close his or her eyes to its sociological dimensions. Across the social networking sites, the series has its admirers on the one side and its boycotters on the other. While there is an extreme example of wanting to name a newborn baby “Şehrazat”, which is the main female character in the series, there is also a discussion about whether the baby was actually of Romany origin. Certain critics also exhibit open or latent Eurocentrism. Some even associate the series’ higher popularity in the Slovak Republic with the assumption that “Slovaks are rather like the Balkans”.

What is ironic is that the Eurocentrists in the Czech Republic and the rhetoric of the conservative ruling-party AKP in Turkey are critical of the series for the sake of conservatism. Some Czech boycotters simply push so hard to find Islamic references in the scenario, which is actually based on mundane values. The AKP Minister of Health’s criticism was based on the so-called “misrepresentation” of the Turkish mother, the bosses and the health care-system in the serial because Şehrazat accepted the “wicked offer” of her boss in order to find money for her son’s surgery, necessary because of his leukemia.

The series, regardless of how poor-quality it is in artistic terms, somehow includes a lot of suspense that compels audiences to watch it. Its commercial success in Eastern and Central Europe must also lie in offering another world where the audience may escape from everyday life’s concerns.

I do not believe that the series will result in macro-level effects, such as decreasing the level of xenophobia. However, I would expect its boycotters will forget about the historical dichotomy of Turkey and Europe and all those slogans, such as “the clash of civilizations”. Perhaps they shall keep boycotting the series, just because it is the equivalent of a mediocre Mexican or Brazilian TV series; not because they see a UFO in it.

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