×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Arab TV Works to Counter Isis and Stereotypes with Satire

As Isis, the fundamentalist Islamic group that has claimed swaths of Syria and Iraq as an independent state, continues its advance in the face of U.S. bombing, televised satire, with regional prejudices at its center, is being used in the Arab world to counter the group’s messages.

In Iraq, Al-Iraqiyya TV on Sept. 9 aired “The Superstitious State,” a ragtag musical comedy in which a character in a devil suit weds a Jewish princess (complete with a Star of David necklace and cheap drugstore tiara). The pair discover that their spawn — hatched from a giant egg  — is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed leader of Isis. Supporting characters in the cast include a whiskey-swigging American cowboy who serves as matchmaker.

The program has aired several times a day since its debut. It’s being squeezed onto crowded Iraqi airwaves that now feature a slew of anti-Isis satirical cartoons, in which bumbling animated terrorists misfire their weapons or run scared through the desert with Iraqi security officials at their heels. Think the antics of Wile E. Coyote, but with more sand, much higher stakes, and not a roadrunner in sight.

It’s not just Iraqi TV that’s using satire in an effort to sway its citizens against Isis. Similar tropes have played out on Lebanese TV, where the “Saturday Night Live”-style Ktir Salbe troupe has mocked the group, and on programs across the Palestinian territory.

A June 29 episode of the hit Palestinian satire show “Watan ala Watar,” carried by the Palestinian Authority’s Al Falastinia TV, shows a group of bored Isis soldiers setting up a checkpoint and interrogating, then gunning down, everyone who tries to pass. Everyone, that is, until an Israeli man shows up. Then the Isis sentinels step aside and let him walk through.

Satirical videos are an attempt by the nations of the Arab world to provide a boost in morale in the face of Isis’ ever-encroaching onslaught across the Middle East, says Yigal Carmon, president and founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute, which monitors and translates media coming out of the region. “They’re building on the most basic feelings of hate,” he says.“It’s what they need to lift themselves up. Suspicion of Zionism and America — this is the most influential mythology.”

Actors and directors of anti-Isis videos say they hope their programs will help counter extremism. “These people are not a true representation of Islam,” Nabil Assaf of Lebanon’s Ktir Salbe troupe told the Associated Press. “And so by mocking them, it is a way to show we are against them.”

More TV

  • Mandy Moore

    Mandy Moore Opens Up About Her Marriage to Ryan Adams: ‘I Was So Sad’

    Mandy Moore opened up about her marriage to Ryan Adams on Monday’s episode of Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. While the interview was taped before the publication of the Feb. 13 New York Times report in which multiple women, including Moore, accuse Adams of sexual misconduct or emotionally abusive behavior, she speaks freely about the “unhealthy dynamic” in [...]

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • Desus Nice The Kid Mero

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Feb. 18, 2019: Academy Awards, 'Desus & Mero'

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, the Academy Awards air and Desus & Mero make their debut on Showtime. [...]

  • WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01

    BBC Takes Stake in New Company Set Up by ‘Luther,’ ‘Bodyguard’ Exec

    BBC Studios has taken a minority stake in Firebird Pictures, the new drama indie being set up by BBC execs Elizabeth Kilgarriff and Craig Holleworth. Kilgarriff’s credits include “Luther,” “Poldark,” “McMafia” and upcoming Richard Gere-starrer “MotherFatherSon.” She commissioned breakout drama hit “Bodyguard.” Holleworth will be the new company’s COO, having run business and operations for [...]

  • Punisher Jessica Jones

    Marvel's 'The Punisher,' 'Jessica Jones' Canceled at Netflix

    The last of Netflix’s Marvel shows are officially ending. “The Punisher” has been canceled after its second season, and the upcoming third season of “Jessica Jones” will be its last, Netflix confirmed on Monday. The announcement comes after Netflix gave the ax to its other Marvel series: “Daredevil,” “Iron First,” and “Luke Cage.” “Marvel’s ‘The Punisher’ will [...]

  • SND Boards Comedy Series 'Family Shake'

    SND Boards Comedy Series 'Family Shake' With 'Desperate Parents' Producer

    SND, the commercial arm of the French TV network M6, has acquired worldwide distribution rights to “Family Shake,” a comedy series written by Baya Kasmi and Michel Leclerc. SND is the latest vertically integrated French film group to start handling live-action series, following TF1 Studio, Studiocanal and Gaumont, among others. Produced by Gaëlle Cholet at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content