TV’s Position in Differing Societies

The serial that stood out most to me was Looney Nuna. It’s a more progressive tale about a servant girl named Nuna, who applies the knowledge she learns from the school while working in a house next door. Other dramas like Looney Nuna strongly emphasize an idealized education for all. However, compared to reality, it doesn’t measure up given the little opportunity for those with harsher lifestyles to ever learn and for those who do they have inconsistent attendance and poor quality teachers. What I found that was more concerning in Abu-Lughod’s book was how not fitting the ideal “image” on TV is damaging the esteem of the people within their own culture. Though it might be small issue, I feel it affects the citizens when they think about their cultural and national identity.

The most interesting difference I noted between the role of TV in America and Egypt is its centrality and the involvement of the State in producing the content on TV. In America, I feel that TV is losing its center location in our lives and has been reduced to an accessory of sorts because of our movement away from it and more towards the Internet. Also, TV in America isn’t completely controlled or produced by the government and is mostly in the hands of big businesses. With the Egyptian serials, you’re always aware of an undercurrent because the close involvement with the State is a key factor that carries a framework within the history and conflicts of the state, nation, and people that American TV no longer really has.

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9 Responses to TV’s Position in Differing Societies

  1. The difference between the ideal of developmental television and the reality also stood out to me. It fascinated me that, although developmental television was doing as it was designed to and promoting education, it was not really resulting in the change it was advertising. Even when people accepted the premise that education is necessary for a good life, they were not able to actually acquire that life because of the flawed education system and lack of jobs. Therefore, the developmental television failed, not because of an inability to change peoples minds about television, but because the education system and economy were poor.

    Another difference between American and Egyptian television that stood out to me was their original purpose. It is fascinating that Egyptian television started out to educate people, as I have always thought of television as a purely commercial medium because, in America, it is. Before learning about Egyptian television, I had never even considered that it could be otherwise.

  2. Looney Nuna is a very interesting example of how the state promotes “good values” among its people and how it can be difficult for a citizen to live up to those values. How do you feel about, for example, how American TV shows shape their viewers’ values on education? I have noticed that in shows like The O.C., the characters tend to end up at the top colleges (such as Summer ending up at Brown). Do you think that the difference of who produces the media (state vs independent) makes a difference in how the audience perceives the values and how they feel about themselves in relationship to the values? I thought about this especially since we have talked a bit about satellite TV in Egypt in class. Do you think that the shows displayed on these channels have less of an impact on the citizens, in a more casual “American styled” relationship with the viewers, compared to the state produced shows?

  3. I agree with your thoughts on Loony Nuna. It’s true that the story does not depict a realistic success story in any way and mostly serves to present an “ideal citizen” to television audiences. However, I don’t believe that the false need to live up to this idea is just a “small issue.” The state-perpetuated goal of success through education is not only unrealistic but also damaging to free thought. For example, Nuna runs away from her arranged marriage because she doesn’t want to be stuck in “hardship and mystery.” While it would be legitimate to not want to be marriage in order to learn more, the fact that Nuna, and the author, assumes that life would be miserable otherwise is unfair and an exaggeration. With regards to the realities of education, as Zaynab said, she knows much more than her educated children. This is because the children are taught to think within certain boundaries and are given opinions rather than creating them. It is scary how well this idea relates to America and the anti-Elitist movement happening right now. It is becoming more and more necessary to reevaluate what it means to be “smart.” Can an illiterate man be in Congress? Should he?

    • I don’t know why the beginning of the post got cut off, but here it is again:

      I agree with your thoughts on Loony Nuna. It’s true that the story does not depict a realistic success story in any way and mostly serves to present an “ideal citizen” to television audiences. However, I don’t believe that the false need to live up to this idea is just a “small issue.” The state-perpetuated goal of success through education is not only unrealistic but also damaging to free thought. For example, Nuna runs away from her arranged marriage because she doesn’t want to be stuck in “hardship and mystery.” While it would be legitimate to not want to be marriage in order to learn more, the fact that Nuna, and the author, assumes that life would be miserable otherwise is unfair and an exaggeration. With regards to the realities of education, as Zaynab said, she knows much more than her educated children. This is because the children are taught to think within certain boundaries and are given opinions rather than creating them. It is scary how well this idea relates to America and the anti-Elitist movement happening right now. It is becoming more and more necessary to reevaluate what it means to be “smart.” Can an illiterate man be in Congress? Should he?

      • Although I agree with you that enducation is not as helpful as the developmental shows made it out to be, I think you are taking the idea a bit too far with suggesting the possibility of an illiterate man being in Congress. Currently, most of our collective knowledge is in writing. For example, you can learn much more about history from a textbook than from asking people you know. Therefore, education might not be as important for jobs that you can easily learn by observing, but, for now, jobs like Congress should be reserved for the literate.

        • Haha yes I admit it was a bit of an exaggeration. But it HAS happened before! Davy Crockett was elected to Congress twice and he couldn’t read. He also wasn’t the only illiterate politician at the time. But, of course, that was a different time.

  4. I agree that in Egypt the state plays an important role in the shows that are produced. However American television and films have been controlled since the invention of the camera reel. During the period of Reconstruction white actors depicted African- Americans on camera and negative state sponsored stereotypes were always applied. During the 60′s only 1 African- American TV show existed, Julia Even in todays TV shows certain stereotypes and State sponsored ideas seep through the TV.

  5. I think that it is also important to consider how the historical context plays into show production. If we can take away something about racist discourses during Reconstruction from white actors negatively depicting African-Americans, what can we take away from what is being shown on TV today? While TV may be more privatized in America than it is in Egypt, it still depicts many of the normative social behaviors of our time. I agree that stereotypes and state sponsored ideas are very present in TV production; they are unavoidable and caught in a cycle wherein the media perpetuates conditions in society, while conditions in society perpetuate media depictions.

  6. I think that although American television is not controlled by the government there are several underlying messages that are constantly portrayed that is tied to our national identity. Over the years we can see how aspirations have changed. From the rugged individualism of the Wild West to the sitcom fantasy of the 50s suburbia, television has always been a huge window into our culture as well. Today shows like American Idol, The Biggest Loser, America’s Next Top Model, Extreme Makeover Home Addition, and Who Wants To Be a Millionaire reinforce the hope of the American Dream.

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