Recurring themes in Gulf Arabic dramatic television
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As citizens of the Arabian Gulf states struggle to maintain identity and heritage in a swarm of economic boom and social modernization and mobilization, they are bombarded with media messages which conflict with the essential tenets of modernization and development: individualism, economic independence, freedom of expression, and elevated social status for women. The largely popular Gulf Arabic television miniseries genre is an important vehicle for those conflicting media messages, presenting stereotypical and simplistic representations of family life, the divide between good and evil, and prescribed gender dichotomies. Those messages which idealize traditionalism and conservative belief systems are crafted and informed by those who dominate the media apparatus in the Arabian Gulf: the ruling, male, Muslim, hegemonic elite. The miniseries genre keeps audiences glued to the television in the month of Ramadan, a time at which Muslims throughout the world are at a heightened sense of religiosity and devotion to family and are thus more susceptible to the persuasion of media messages related to religion, faith, virtues, and morals. This research examines the themes of patriarchy, gender dichotomies, family values, and the omnipresence of Islam in the genre and the relationship of all of these themes to the value and belief systems of the ruling hegemonic elite and audience members alike. The research is based on a data pool which includes 152 episodes, totaling roughly 101.5 televised hours. The data also include the results of a survey about audience interaction and interpretation of the genre. The survey is comprised of 35 questions to which 56 participants responded. It discusses the implications of the messages contained within the genre and communicated through the aforementioned themes, and examines the potential for them to influence audience members’ outlook on society as seen through the lens of relevant media theories.