06 August 2010

Hunky Turks and Moroccan Housewives

Turks Put Twist in Racy Soaps

Turkish television has given the soap a fresh twist by making the connivers, kidnappers and canoodlers Muslims. And it is Arab audiences, even more than Turks, who have been swept off their feet.

One of my good volunteer friends emailed me this article a while back, and now I want to share it with all of you. I remember first hearing about "Noor" (which means holy light in Arabic, and is also the name of the main female character in the series) during the summer of 2008.

I was visiting my host family in a small town above Fez, and nothing much had happened that day. We were eating dinner, and then suddenly, and seemingly randomly to me, one of the cousins did a little shriek and grabbed for the remote that her brother was holding. He exclaimed the Arabic equivalent of "What the hell!?" and almost didn't give up the remote until she reminded him that Noor was on. He gave a resigned sigh, and she quickly grabbed the remote before he could change his mind.

She flipped to MBC4, a sometimes-English Saudi Arabian channel that shows mainly "women's" programming, and just like that, all the women and girls in the household materialized out of nowhere and sat, quietly and still for a full hour, watching this soap opera, saying only a few things like, "What did she say?" or "When did that happen?" To most of you, this might not be too remarkable, but you probably haven't watched TV with Moroccan women before. They are never quiet while the TV is on, even if they are actually watching the program, and, moreover, before that night, I'd never seen them turn on a specific show exactly when it started. It was so weird, and weirder that they were watching a show the way we used to watch Friends or Grey's Anatomy or something.

I don't know if people still watch Noor with the same dedication, but I did hear that the actor who played Muhannad (Kivanc Tatlitug) has moved on to a new show, grew a beard, gained too much weight in his face, and lost a lot of his female fans. Still, you can see a faded cardboard cutout of his head swinging in some stores, because he was the spokesperson for Head and Shoulders in the Arabic world for while. Equally amusingly is that whenever I told people that I'd been to Istanbul, they asked me if I'd ran into him or Noor herself.

I love pop culture!

1 comment:

J. said...

Actually, the show with Noor is no longer on but for 2008 and 2009, people could take a tour of where they were supposed to live in Istanbul. It was hysterical how popular the show was but the ironic thing was this show was never aired in Turkey. It went straight to the Middle East, kinda of the way some movies go straight to DVD and pass the theater. But great post, heard so many discussions about the Noor obsession, even on NPR.