“The Simpsons” comes to the Middle East

Attracting the Adults

As the threat of terrorism, too often conflated with Islam itself, continues to dominate Western consciousness, it is instructive to note instances in which US, and Arab culture overlap. One such instance is the Arab television network MBC’s plan to popularize the classic US cartoon The Simpsons in Egypt. The idea of marketing The Simpsons to an Egyptian audience presupposes a certain shared sensibility between US and Egyptian television audiences. It also speaks to the widely acknowledged potent appeal of US popular culture around the globe, which becomes particularly meaningful given current tensions between the US and the Arab world. Iran’s new hard-line government, for example, has recently banned foreign films, stating that it must ward off an invasion of “corrupt? Western culture. The Iranian people themselves, however, have for years been exhibiting a strong desire to consume Western culture, and the new regulations will likely be widely disobeyed. Part of the appeal of a show like The Simpsons is the window it provides the Arab audience into US culture, humor and mores, and the opportunity it affords for the audience to draw its own conclusions and make its own judgments. Just as important as exposing Egyptians to these aspects of US cultural identity, however, are the alterations MBC is making to the format and content of The Simpsons to ensure its success in the Arab market. The very idea that a classic US sitcom could even be translated into terms designed to achieve mass appeal in Egypt is itself a powerful lesson about the potential for dialogue between the Western and Muslim worlds. – YaleGlobal

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Filed under Media, Middle East & Muslim World, Society & Culture

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