By Samia Buhulaiyem
LAU Tribune staff
It was seven o’clock when Manal Birjawi silenced her BlackBerry and unplugged the landline phone as she anticipated the start of the last episode of thLe fifth part of the Turkish soap opera, Al-Awrak Al-Mutasakita (The Falling Leaves). She was joined by her daughter who was equally excited about watching the final episode of the series which has been broadcast on MBC Drama for more than two and a half years.
As most viewers in the Arab world identify themselves easily with actors, the setting and the Syrian dialect used in dubbing the series, Turkish soap operas have quickly gained great popularity in Lebanon and the Arab world, shortly after making their way into Arab TV stations.
However, Turkish drama has caused plenty of commotion, particularly as some believe they have shaken the foundations of the Arab world’s social structure.
According to Dr. Majid Kanj, a psychiatrist, Arab viewers are fascinated by Turkish soap operas as they try to fill their “emotional emptiness.”
“For some, it is an escape from daily routine,” Kanj said. “We, Arabs, are pitiable and miserable people, who suffer from defeat; we are oppressed losers. Our lives are messed up; people try to fill their emotional void and emptiness through watching such programs.”
Hana Rahman, who runs an Arab entertainment blog, says that most Turkish soap opera viewers are females.
“Women become attached to such programs because they constitute an escape from boredom and the emotional deprivation and absence of romance in their lives,” Kanj added.
In addition to the psychological point of view, sociologists say women are impressed with the equality underlying the romantic relationships in these series.
“Arab females might find in those programs an element of egalitarianism between men and women; an element missing in our patriarchal society,” Maha Fanous, a sociologist, said.
The different soap operas, which include Sanawat Aldayaa, Noor, Al-Ishq Al Memnu and Fatima, have provided an alternative version of an Arabic speaking man whom women find much more appealing than their husbands.
Al-Arabiya television station mentioned that “the Turkish soap ‘Noor’ broadcast on MBC has caused a rash of divorces in countries across the Middle East because women compare their real-life husbands to the TV heartthrob.”
“A Saudi husband from Dammam divorced his wife and threw her out of the marital home because he got fed up with his wife’s obsession with Muhannad and persistent complaints that he should be as romantic as the TV hunk,” Saudi newspaper Al-Yawm reported.
According to Morocco World News, 85 million viewers across the Arab world watched the final episode of the Turkish soap opera Noor.
“I never miss any episode of these series. At home, on Thursday and Friday, when they do not broadcast new episodes of Al-Ishq Al Memnu, we feel like living in a real void and emptiness. I prepare mixed nuts, chocolate, coffee, and juice, so we do not have move from our places for two hours,” Pascal Tabet, an English language teacher, explained.