23 February 2018

Random Rants | Culturally incompatible: Reality TV in Al Managil

Man watching TV in Sai Island, Northern Sudan. (Getty Images)

Man watching TV in Sai Island, Northern Sudan. (Getty Images)

The other day I went to sit the IELTS exam. I was doing well in the speaking test until the examiner decided to ask me a difficult question. What is your favourite show on TV? I almost had a kidney failure when I heard this question; I don’t watch TV, I don’t even have one, I do everything online, I am an internet guy. I literally said, “I like watching that show where all the actors get stuck on an island.”

I couldn’t tell the Khawaja (Western) examiner that I stopped watching TV because they invented Reality Shows. Which are awkward because someone could be sitting in front of a TV in Al Managil watching someone else in San Francesco named Joe trying to flirt with a girl named Jessica while she brushes her teeth in the common toilet, when her boyfriend Dave comes from Amanda’s room, where he was sleeping, uses foul language with Joe and before you know it Dave starts kissing Jessica. At that moment your sister, or mother, suddenly enters the TV room, sees what’s happening on TV and you think to yourself, “Change the channel, or is it too awkward to do it now?” It’s a dilemma, because to me it feels personal; sometimes I feel the need to apologise on behalf of the actors, thinking to myself, “I am sure they will not do it again.” And the blame is always on the person who’s closest to the remote.

Why should I watch Jessica brushing her teeth? Or a 16 years old girl shouting at her parents because they bought her the wrong Mercedes on her birthday, or a rap artist dancing with almost naked girls, smoking marijuana, shooting at the police and contributing to the demise of the Oxford English Dictionary. Sometimes it gets even worse, when headlines such as “Joe Peterson’s girlfriend’s dog (Sandy) dies in a horrible accident,” pop up as breaking news. I personally believe that the brain has a specific capacity, and news like this occupies space that could otherwise be occupied by useful information like a phone number or where to buy the cheapest onions. So too much useless information and the brain will eventually start lagging. I often get the feeling that learning about the sleeping patterns of Amazonian butterflies or any other 5 minute dose of National Geographic is more useful than 10 hours of useless TV.

We are gradually being desensitised to things that were considered taboo in the past. Hugs and kisses were a big deal, they were almost a sin. Now, however, a leaf covering the genitals is OK. The lack of alternatives plays a huge role in this issue as well. International news is dominated by death counts, and Sudanese channels are all about singing, regardless of the time of day. The time allocated for science, history, literature, sports, medicine, religion, geography and other non-musical programs accounts for more or less 9% of the total air time. There are no other options. So, technically, I can’t really blame the current generation of Sudanese boys out there fusing English with Arabic by saying Warap (what’s up?) and girls bellowing OMG or Oh My Gad (Oh My God) in irritating attempts to reach the optimum state of coolness possible as defined by TV. As a rule of thumb, if it’s not “Grendizer,” or an Arsenal game, it’s bad TV.

4 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply to yasir Cancel reply

  • alphabeta
    23 February 2015 at 11:51 am - Reply

    It depends on what you watch. Most of what you describe seems to me like MTV type shows. There is quality programming around the clock. You just have to look for it. As much as I liked Grendizer, I could also write an article about how useless cartoons are, occupying precious space in our brains. The same thing goes for football.. Talk about a mass diversion? An arsenal game is the last thing I would watch and there are so many issues with organized sports, especially mainstream games/teams. So I guess what I’m saying is, you are taking issue with what people choose to watch for entertainment and the same could be done for you with the two things you mentioned. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying OMG or whaddup in an attempt to be cool. That’s okay. That’s how culture spreads.

    • yasir
      2 March 2015 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      well, yeah cartoons are useless, was just an example. and yes i was mainly talking about the incompatibility of reality shows. i still disagree that spreading western vocab increases “coolness” and finally, thanks for the reply, glad to hear your opinion 🙂

  • sajdamohamed
    3 May 2015 at 10:10 am - Reply

    hey yassir, its always joyful to read ur pieces, u seem to always put a smile on my face while stating good points in the process, i do agree with you, mostly the time i spend in watching TV is just a time wasted i’m full aware of that and thats exactly why i do it lol, i take it as a de-stress mechanism i watch a movie so i wont have to think about anyyyything in these two hrs,, its like going to an entertaining nothing box, Though i disagree with alphabeta in what he/she mostly said about coolness ( NO saying Oh Mah Gad is NOT cool) but i do think maybe there are sum useful shows out there, in historym geography and national geographic kinda they are usually entetaining. Last thing you reminded of that joke talking about shows says something about watching a sea show all about fish and everything is innocent but as soon as ur parents walk in fish start kissing and matting rituals among wales are shown or sumthing like that, #SoTrue lol !

  • Hala
    25 October 2016 at 9:20 am - Reply

    OMG Grendizer!! #BlastFromThePast
    As always, great post Yasir. I’ve been reading them for a while so thought I’d comment today. I’ve stopped watching TV a while back too. It began with soap operas, then Saturday night shows followed, then all evening shows. Now for me to watch anything it has to have been reviewed by someone else and recommended.

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