Reality TV in the Middle East


Henry Jenkins has published a fascinating interview (part one, part two) with Marwan Kraidy, author of Reality Television and Arab Politics, about the ways "reality television has been a key vehicle through which the Arab world has been negotiating a range of social, cultural, political, economic, and technological changes." An excerpt:

Reality television crystallized a festering Arab malaise exacerbated by the Iraq War, Abu Ghrayb, the Danish Cartoons, the plight of the Palestinians, and an existential crisis whose scope is truly all-encompassing—ideological, social, political, economic, religious, etc. Clearly, reality television did not trigger all the above on its own, but the intense controversy it created, because it was public, transnational, and involved many sectors of society, gave many Arabs a language and a platform to voice their anger, fears and aspirations. Reality television's claim to represent the real fomented the polemic by compelling many social groups to advance multiple Arab realities. Some said: "This (young men and women living together for four months and competing for viewers' text-messaged votes) is not our reality. It is a reality imposed by the West." This prompted other Arabs to say: "In fact, some aspects of our reality are much more similar to the social interactions we see on reality shows than the reality that you–conservatives speaking in the name of religion–are in fact trying to impose on all of us."

Related reading in Reason: Charles Paul Freund's classic articles on Arab music videos and the power of pop vulgarity.