Ramadan TV offers only rampant degradation and a false image of Egypt

Abdel Moneim El-Mashat, Saturday 19 Jul 2014

Television dramas are creating a dishonourable and inaccurate image of Egyptians, instead of concentrating on building a new national consciousness

Thinking about the multitude of drama television series aired during Ramadan, one question comes to mind. Which genius, may God never forgive him, made a correlation between the holy month of Ramadan on one hand and the flood of shoddy series on the other?

Every Ramadan, I take a look at the dozens of series being broadcast to see whether they express the national spirit, and whether they are connected to the Egyptian and Arab reality.

This year, I am concerned by the appearance of artistic degradation on the Egyptian and Arab screen, a year after the most important modern revolution by the Egyptian people -- on 30 June 2013. This revolution uprooted theocratic authoritarian regimes from Egypt and the Arab world once and for all.

I expected, like many others, that this year art would reflect the potentialities and capabilities of Egyptians, especially Egyptian women, who participated and even took the lead on many occasions in some of the activities of the revolution of change. It is a revolution which established a new regime that will regain the respect and the central regional and international role of the Egyptian state.

I thought, like many others, that the authors and scriptwriters would direct their efforts towards studying the Muslim Brotherhood mindset, and its relation with the forces of political Islam.

On the contrary, degradation was rampant in this year’s series in their entirety. The really frustrating thing is that a limited number of marginalised authors and some minor directors and producers control the taste of Egyptians and shape their false awareness through characters and stories which encapsulated an illegitimate blend of narcotics, cheap sex, domestic violence, deceit, lying and conspiracies.

Let's see the portrayal of Egyptian women, especially poor women, in these inferior shows: she is a woman who lives a quarter with her mind and three quarters with her heart, a woman with no dignity and no personality. She is either running after money by selling her body, which has been historically the dearest thing in her life, or after emotional illusion which is closer to extortion than to refined, truthful affectionate sentiments.

These series depict the Egyptian woman as a worthless entity; even the woman who cares about her offspring is represented as someone who is psychologically sick who needs to see a psychiatrist. Given this, where is the National Council for Women? Why didn’t this fake image of the Egyptian woman anger the council's members and drive them to prosecute the authors, producers, directors and broadcasters of these series?

On top of this, what is the image of the Egyptian man, who stood side-by-side with the Egyptian woman in the revolutions of 25 January 2011 and of 30 June 2013, our hopes pinned on him and on his female colleague to build a contemporary Egypt amid dire challenges?

He was depicted in several roles, none of them honourable; some of the male characters are drug addicts, some are captive to their financial ambitions which can only be fulfilled by conspiracy, violence, corruption and even murder, not to mention deception and violating the rights of others.

If so, where is the Egyptian citizen who is committed to the objectives of two popular revolutions? Where is the image of the Egyptian citizen as a worker and creator who elevates public interests above personal ones? Where are the state authorities that enforce the law and apply the principle of offering reward and imposing punishment? Where is the social value system which reflects the status of Egypt and Egyptians? Are these authors are speaking about a different Egypt, unlike the one which we know, inhabit and adore?

With the beginning of forging a new way of governing that reflects a future vision for Egypt and Egyptians, we definitely don't demand a ban on broadcasting, but we need a committee of intellectuals and independent specialists who revise such writing and decide whether it fits the purpose of building a national consciousness among Egyptians or not.

Undoubtedly, this basic intellectual process, which forms the soft power of Egypt and is one of manifestations of the Egyptian state's influence, rests on the shoulders of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who cannot possibly look with favour on this artistic absurdity which demeans Egyptians.

Such distorted images directly affect the audience. There is nobody in these series, bar a few characters, who represents a respectable role model for Egyptian children or young people to emulate. What their minds store is too negative and needs revision and verification. Moreover, the mental image which these series create among foreigners about Egyptians is also extremely disagreeable.

Despite the fact that governmental/popular TV has moved away from this nausea, the private satellite channels compete vigorously to broadcast it on their screens.

Isn't it high time to totally separate the holy month of Ramadan from this serial degradation? Could it be possibly done in a legal or realistic way? Can't all of us, artists and audience -- and we are all patriotic Egyptians -- join forces in order to enhance public taste and participate in creating a national awareness of the graveness of the current stage in building contemporary Egypt?

Can we join forces in producing a realistic image of Egypt that reflects its potentialities and capabilities, through which we anticipate that Egypt's regional and international role will develop? Can the artists demonstrate their creations which they used before to energise the spirits of Egyptians, as was the case during the building of the High Dam, 1967 defeat and 1973 victory and other decisive events in Egypt's history?

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