Reinforcing the symbiotic nature of TV and culture, Aslan’s Roar positions present day media narratives and TV fiction amidst powerful trends influencing popular culture. Nowhere is this fact more visible than in the content of Turkish drama series which appear to be challenging the popularly accepted western template of the ‘hero’ by placing Muslim masculinities center stage in narratives ranging from the political to the romantic.
In its examination of the present day volatile political situation within Turkey itself, Aslan’s Roar offers the possibility of a ‘third way’ to Muslims pursuing modernity. Incorporating history, sociology, cultural studies, literature and contemporary media practice, the book studies masculinities and the development of the concept of the Turkish ‘hero’ against the backdrop of the historic demise of the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of the Turkish Republic.
For the aspiring media practitioner, the book offers a detailed study of the literary sources that inform contemporary drama narratives such as the poetry and works of Nazim Hikmet, Orhan Veli, Seneca, Shakespeare, Freud, Fromm and Faiz; even as it examines the Turkish TV Industry and the new directions it is presently exploring in terms of recently established digital platforms and foreign investments impacting the country’s economy.
Title: Aslan’s Roar: Turkish Television and the Rise of the Muslim Hero
Author: Navid Shahzad
Number of Pages: 419
About the Author:
Navid Shahzad lives in Lahore and has taught English literature at the graduate level for a number of years at Pakistan’s premier University of the Punjab. Paralleling her academic pursuits as Associate Professor; has been a hugely successful career as a TV, theater and film actor, director, writer and poet. Pioneering the country’s first liberal arts university where she is designated Distinguished Professor of Performing Arts; she worked as Dean, School of Liberal Arts for a decade and set up the first Department of Theater, Film and TV. Presently, she works as Academic Advisor to one of Pakistan’s largest school chains where she oversees the Literature in English and Media Studies programmes.
Ms. Shahzad is a recipient of the President of Pakistan’s Pride of Performance Award for Literature and has been awarded gold and silver medals by the Government of Pakistan for her contribution to Pakistan TV. She is also a recipient of the Fatima Jinnah Award for Artistic Excellence bestowed upon her by the Government of Punjab. Along with contributing regular columns to daily newspapers, she holds workshops on Aspects of Drama for young actors under the auspices of her company Theaterwalley. This is her first book.
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Momina Hafeez (verified owner) – August 28, 2019
This book roughly follows a tripartite structure – introduction, analysis chapters (comprising several essays on a a popular Turkish TV show called Olene Kadar), and conclusion.
In the introduction, the writer investigates the reasons for the growing interest in the Turkish tv shows by the international audiences. These audiences belong to several different countries having very distinct cultures in some cases. She’s of the opinion that this growing popularity of one of the most coveted Turkish products is probably due to the fact that these dramas present a very unique view of a Muslim society that happens to be Islamic but at the same time moderate in its nature. She thus believes by presenting such a nuanced view of Muslim society, these dramas have, consciously or unconsciously, undertaken the herculean task of remodeling and reshaping the image of a Muslim hero for the international viewers.
What I found most interesting was how the writer elaborately links this reshaping of the Muslim hero in Turkish literature to Turkey’s recent history as a newly born republic under the leadership of Kemal Attaturk after the disintegration of the Ottoman empire. She points out that an obvious effort may be observed to rid the new state of all kinds religious influence by Attaturk which led to the need to draw a yet new national identity for the Turkish people as they had been systemically deprived of their older Islamic and imperial past. This, however, is not to say that the public did not embrace this change of policy towards their past with open hearts. This new Turkish national identity engendered a very masculine, militaristic and modern kind of a male hero. Women, on the other hand, were also encouraged to break away from the chains of household restrictions and join the venture of nation-building as Attaturk’s daughter. The writer points out that this change in the general public sentiments and the political political is reflected in and endorsed by Turkish literature as well, and can be clearly witnessed in the dramas produced during that age.
The book then covers the political and ideological shift evident in Turkey’s government policies towards its lost Islamic past in the recent years. It seems like, the writer argues, that Turkey no longer feels the need to collectively deny and suppress its almost forgotten Islamic past and has now embarked on a new journey to rediscover and rebrand its national history. This shift is also very apparent in the new dramas (Dirilis: Ertugrul being one of them) that are being made and sold in the international markets via Netflix etc. This also shows how the medium of drama is used as an ideological tool to influence public opinion about Turkish identity inside the country and also on international levels.
The chapters dealing with the analysis of the drama Olene Kadar also make an interesting read. However, I think a person who has actually watched the drama would enjoy them even more. Nonetheless, these chapters do lend one useful insights into the Turkish drama industry by analysing this drama from various different perspectives.
In the conclusion chapter, the writer discusses how the Turkish drama has now found a middle ground for its national history and is attempting to perpetuate a very balanced view of Turkey’s history and national identity.
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Nayab Malik (verified owner) – September 5, 2019
I settled in to read ‘Aslan’s Roar’ with anticipation, but also a nagging fear that I might find myself yawning every couple of pages. Non-fiction has never been my strong suit, you see, and I was fully prepared to have to pinch myself to wake up and read on. Or at the very least, re-read sentences until the point hit home. What I did not anticipate, however, was the story this non-fiction narrative had to tell, and just how much it would get me interested and involved in Turkish/Muslim history.
Navid Shahzad’s narrative is intelligent, compelling and intriguing. This much you probably know already. However, it’s not the point she makes, but how she makes it that reveals how completely she dove into Turkish dramas and their impact on the world of entertainment to produce this book. Her thesis is simple: she argues that Turkish TV dramas – the Turkish TV industry being the second highest grossing in the world after the United States – have breathed new life into the traditional male Muslim protagonist.
Shahzad’s protagonist, or rather, the one that she has observed and pulled straight out of popular Turkish TV dramas is “a man decidedly less authoritative than the patriarch of old, and far more demonstrative towards his wife and children than traditional fathers/husbands had been.” This is a man that’s ready to take on the modern nee Western world, while also keeping his Muslim ties in mind. Shahzad comments that this modern Muslim man is one that combines the “tougher traditional (defender, caretaker) characteristics with modern softer feminine qualities…tenderness and compassion, in the pursuit of unconditional romantic love and marriage.” This is a brilliant and deep insight into how, through such a widespread and popular medium as TV, Turkish TV dramas have managed to introduce and even romanticize the ‘perfect’ male in so many respects, all the while making him Muslim, an identity that has normally been associated with bearded, backward and conservative men across Western media.
But why Turkey? That was one of my first questions and Shahzad addresses this in Chapter 5, ‘History and the Imagined Past,’ where she takes the reader on a romantic journey through Turkey’s history. She particularly references Ataturk aka the ‘father of Turks’ and how he turned patriarchy on its head when he came to power. Not only did he impose more Western customs, but he also sped along Turkey’s modernization process by a good half century or so. Uncomfortable or not, Turkish civil society managed to evolve along with it, producing beloved TV dramas showing lush lives lived by real, modern and educated Muslims.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Shahzad’s witty arguments and the subtle shade she threw at the Western world with said arguments. She ends her narrative with, “in the construction of a formidable new image of the modern Muslim hero racing to overtake time tested market leaders, Turkish drama series appear to have reversed the rules of the hunt,” making it clear that Turkish soaps have successfully paved the way for a new version of storytelling about the Muslim community.
This was an important piece of social commentary and anyone who is interested in sociology, current affairs or entertainment should definitely pick this one up!
kanwalasadaltaf (verified owner) – September 13, 2019
Aslan’s roar by navid shahzad discusses the world wide phenomenon that is Turkish drama which has not only added to turkey’s economic and tourist stats,but also is providing a counter narrative against vilified, demeaning representation of Muslims and specially turks in western media. Turkish drama has captivated audiences in other Muslim countries because they endorse the same traditions, family values,and give a hope of a ‘Middle way’ which means coexistence of Islamic traditions and modern social, economic and political growth.
Author looks at the variables that defined musculanity, an abstract concept but considered essence of heroism(I wish there was more of this part) . musculanity is a fluid concept being established since the nation’s own advent and being redefined through out history,the kemalist regime relabelled it as unyielding,dignified, a warrior for life, yet maintaining a tender human side.this same concept is propagated by Turkish drama a tragic hero who is compassionate about his family,believes in unconditional love,justice and has a militaristic approach towards difficulties of life.she also talks about a kemalist feminism, dichotomy of this feminism and also the presence of women in Turkish media industry.
Author has used olene kadar as a specimen to explain in detail the Turkish hero, it’s more fun to read if you have watched the drama, but you do see some interesting parallels she draws between the drama’s characters and some classic literature, and off course if you do not like engin ayruk already expect to fall hard for him now. This part has a lot to offer to media or literature students.
Finally she discusses how the Turkish drama is also helping etch a new selective conscious which fuses past glory and modern values to create a redefined past which was once cut off to achieve the westernised progress.
The book is beautiful,thought provoking, only problem I had was, narrative was often a bit too acedamic(beautifully poetic sometimes) ,could have been rather simpler,would have loved a tad deeper plunge into the research or simply a tightly roped narrative.
komal_hashmi (verified owner) – September 16, 2019
While I was growing up, my mother always talked about the very decent Navid Shahzad & her shows, so it was quite natural that I would read her book ASAP. Seeing her play the role of a cruel matriarch in “Pukaar” was another reason. Now, to review Aslan’s Roar is a real-life equivalent of “دریا کو کوزے میں بند کرنا” as it was enormous when it comes to its content. It reflects the immense effort put into the writing & despite its complexity, the book impressed me with its attention to detail. The writing style is eloquent, poetic & filled with many ornate references (enjoyed the essays the most). Highly recommended if you enjoy history, non-fiction (similar to a case-study method) & want to know about Turkey. It shows the literary prowess of the writer as she connects the present with the past works in the fields of TV, film, drama, literature & history. It takes you on the roller-coaster ride of Turkey & its entertainment/ TV industry down to its smallest details (ratings, influence, stories, shooting, actors, directors, writers, revenues, increasing pressure & demands, future prospects, viewership, advertisements & exports) & its immense popularity over a short period of time, both locally & internationally. The transformation from an empire to a republic over the years along with the rich history (discarded as well as accepted one) of the country with its roots both in Europe & Asia is beautifully expressed. It focuses mainly on the critical breakdown & analysis of “Ölene Kadar (Until Death)” which aired for one season (13 episodes) only & ended early due to low ratings. The emphasis on the actor “Engin Akyürek” playing the role of a tragic hero ‘Daghan’ with his life story & the crucial role of other people in his life have a gripping effect on the reader (the fangirl inside me was satisfied to no bounds). The tragic ending left a huge impact. However, it also talks about the other series & their influence on the thought process of the viewers. It throws light on the captivating modern concept of a ‘True Muslim Hero’ & a good man with all the masculine qualities along with the feminine traits of love, tenderness & kindness clarifying numerous wrong perceptions about Muslims. The resemblance of this true hero with the characteristics of a lion (Aslan) was perfectly explained. It clearly states the agenda of Turkey being a modern/ liberal/ educated country with due significance to the majority being a Muslim. The unbiased analysis of the positive as well as negative aspects (sometimes repetitive) of these dramas, the involvement of politics, abuse of power, more opportunities for women, strong female characters, flawed men & women as no one is perfect, changing standards of masculinity & patriarchy, importance of “family”, sacrifice, injustice, friendship, loss, betrayal, love, redemption, death, workings of the mafia, conspiracies & tragedy on the whole along with all the countless themes provides an enlightening reading experience.
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