Cinema and television series outrank almost all means of social engineering. Cinema was initially considered solely as a means of entertainment. In time, as its ability to easily and quickly influence the masses through its images and language was discovered, it turned into a means of education, with the capability to control culture change, and was even sought as a means of establishing hegemony.
Especially in our bipolar world, U.S.-made films on the one side and Soviet-made films on the other impacted the world by carrying to the stage the power that could not be shown on the ground during the Cold War. Europeans supported local cinema in their colonies as a means of facilitating the administration of those lands; and as a result, gaining the admiration of the communities they colonized, they found the opportunity to continue their influence in even the post-colonial era.
Parallel to the development of technology, cinema, which supposedly established a universal discourse – yet in reality, it was an imperial discourse – directed the masses. It made them believe in things they could not even imagine. Through big and expensive productions, it detached the youth, especially those who were just starting out in life and expected to build the future, from reality. It shaped the way they dressed, their behavior, their joys, sorrows, and even their loves and loathes. In summary, with its inevitable influence – in addition to certain positive contributions – cinema haunted us all.
In the late 1990s, cinema was gradually replaced by television series, which used the same language with even greater impact. The growing interest in television series was the equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall for cinema. Much like the multipolar inclinations in governing the world after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, regional TV film/series productions were propelled into a cutthroat competition against each other. Series, that are a product of an artificial mind and represent no culture, roamed continents and dragged communities behind them.
Eventually, Turkish TV series also joined in on the competition. The Arab market, which initially steers away from series representing Turkey, peaked more so with Kurtlar Vadisi (Valley of Wolves), an action-crime drama series popular mostly among the sub economy class.
After a while, the audience began to tire of the scenarios they started to internalize. As watching political conspiracies similar to those in their country began to bore them, they discovered historical/period dramas. Such series would be broadcasted in both the Arab world and Turkey as entertainment during the month Islamic fasting month, Ramadhan. Egypt and partially Syria were quite successful in such series, and they had control over the entire Arab market. Turkish history films or series that were economically produced, largely remained within Turkey’s borders.
As Rande Atiyye, writer for Nun Post, says: “Resurrection: Ertuğrul became a milestone in this field. With its launch on Arab channels in 2014, Ertuğrul completely changed the concept of period dramas. The television series that long charmed Arab viewers drew great appreciation. This interest was directly related to Turkey’s image, rather than to the strength of the production. As a rising power, Turkey’s history also started to garner great attention. The Arab audience’s historical perception of Turks and the Ottomans, a product of the colonial mentality, was beginning to alter thanks to these successful series.
However, the developments that took place after 2016, the problems faced by Turkey and particularly its attitude toward Gulf countries’ embargo against Qatar, led some groups to take action against Turkey in the cinema/television series industry – as in many other fields. Just as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spent millions of dollars to restore his image after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and activated social media, he also announced he would dabble in the film industry as well. Saudi Arabia, though devoid of experience in this area, has no other intention than to start a new war using the impact of cinema/television series.
Through expensive productions, action has been taken to hinder the ever-growing popularity of Turkish TV series which could not be done by Islamic scholars, politicians, social scientists, communication specialists, among many others. More precisely, a new psycho-historical attack has started in the Gulf. Hence, a new TV series is set to air on Nov. 17 on the Saudi-backed MBC channel to this end.
Trailers of the $40-billion-budget film shot in Tunisia by a UAE-based production company, and directed by “Hannibal Rising” director Peter Webber, show that the film is quite ambitious. The series titled, “Mamalik el-Nar,” or Kingdoms of Fire in English, tells the story of the battle between Ottoman Sultan Selim the Grim and the Mamluks and Egypt entering Ottoman territory.
The subject and timing are indicative that the series is being produced against Turkey and to serve as a tool for propaganda. Following amendments to the education curriculum in Saudi Arabia and Egypt to portray Turkish history in a negative light, this is a new initiative being launched in a popular area. Time will reveal the results of both attempts.
Eastern communities are still sentimental. When they sense a game, they will side with the victim – just as the Turks ran to the aid of Arabs upon seeing the defeat of Muslim Arabs’s fighting against Chinese tribes in the Battle of Talas, also known as the Battle of Artlakh; just as the Seljuks came to the rescue upon seeing the caliphate starting to fall in Baghdad; just as Sultan Selim ran to Egypt and and just as Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent ran to the Persian Gulf upon seeing the Portuguese threat around Haramayn, the two holy cities in Islam, Mecca and Medina.