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March 18, 2005

Comments

Mohamed

I think you're reading too much into that woman on top analysis.

I find the most reasonable comment to be the one accusing the song's producer to be behind this. Or it could be her other competitor singers trying to turn the table on her, although this would probably work in her favor.

I hardly find this clip of her in any way comparable to others by Maria, Pussy, Marwa, Naglaa (have i missed anyone).

the aardvark

But that's the point - the video is far less explicit than any of the ones you mention and then some. So why is it getting so much attention? Maybe you're right and it's just a savvy producer seeking out controversy... but why would people react so strongly to it even so?

Mohamed

Yes, its strange! I'm not following people's reaction on it, but why is that happening only now?! The clip has been out for a very long time now.

Jeff

I hope the book is this entertaining. How are you going to tell us about it without revealing your identity?

And, BTW, how much does a subscription to the Arab satellites run in the US?

Chan'ad

Nice post Bu Aardvark. As one of the commenters noted, this is a change from the hundreds of videos featuring a troupe of women dancing around the lone male singer. This is quite an obvious shift in Arabic music videos in the past few years, where the women plays the role of the all-powerful seductress.

The farmer's daughter seducing the other villagers. The village saleswoman in the bazaar seducing her customers. The girl standing on the balcony laughing at an enraptured passerby. Or, as is the case in a recent video, the schoolgirl dressed in a very short skirt seducing the male teacher.

These all show a shift in power. Even the woman might be deemed to be "slutty" she exhibits a great deal of power over her goofy fumbling male subjects.

Yet I think what raised such concern over the Elissa video was that it was closer to reality than the other videos. The themes mentioned above have some truth to them, but I can't recall the last time I saw a cleavage bearing saleswoman publicly teasing and flirting with the male customers, while singing "bossy bossy", in my local village bazaar. It doesn't happen.

The Elissa video however is quite real. It isn't shot in a public place, but in the private confines of a home, in the bedroom, even the bathroom. And the couple aren't all dressed up to go out... again they are wearing stuff that one would only wear at home... a nightie, pyjamas... even hair rollers. And the video doesn't display flirtation between two random people on the street. It shows the very private interaction of two individuals who are already in a committed relationship, possibly marriage.

So I think it is this reality that raises the flags among some viewers. It is easy for viewers to pass off Ajram/Wehbe videos because they don't portray reality... it's just fantasy and everyone knows it. But the Elissa video takes the viewers in to the most intimate places of the home and the relationship. The boundary between the public and private spheres has been broken, and this is what I believe sparked the controversy.

But anyways, that's an old video... what's new these days? How about Lucy and her bellydancing video?

the aardvark

Chan'ad - thanks, that is absolutely fascinating. Not so much the gender roles, but the realism as the threat - plausible, though I'm still very intrigued by the "woman on top" subtext of their interaction in that video. Maybe I'll write about Lucy next week!

Leila

I just finished reading "The Yacoubian Building" and there's a long section in which a neurotic student who has fallen in with an Islamist paramilitary group (terrorists, ok?) gets sexual advice from his sheikh. They set up a marriage for him with a widow, a woman older than he (but still young!). There's plenty of discussion of their lovemaking and how it goes; she initiates him and encourages him. Meanwhile the sheikh has given him all kinds of information, which is alluded to but not specified, about sex, women's bodies, and lovemaking. The sheikh says this is all natural within an Islamic marriage. The student is touchingly grateful, of course.

If you haven't read this novel, you ought to. Plenty of description of corrupt Egyptian politics and business.

I just wonder how the hell it got published in Egypt at all...

And BTW, the point of the view of the book is not "pro-Islamist", I don't believe. These guys are not nice fellows and things do not go well after the student's sexual awakening.

saurabh

I'd like to point out a parallel to an incident that occurred here in the U.S., where similar puritanical forces are fighting an uphill battle against skin on television. During a "Monday Night Football" show on ABC, a commercial aired for ABC's hit show "Desperate Housewives". In it, star Nicole Sheridan appeared in the locker room of the Philadelphia Eagles and seduced Terrell Owens, who is indifferent to her advances until Sheridan drops the towel she is wearing, revealing her bare back to the camera.

This incident prompted a flood of complaints to ABC; the commercial was "indecent", inappropriate for a family-friendly time slot, etc. Part of the vehemence of the reaction was a result of the recent Superbowl half-time on-screen revelation of singer Janet Jackson's nipple, which resulted in huge uproar.

But anyone who has ever watched football with any regularity knows that it's commercials are a constant parade of highly eroticized female flesh. Frankly they're quite shameless in their exploitation of sex to sell products (beer mostly). In that light, the controversy over one woman's briefly exposed naked back seems excessive.

Perhaps there were other factors in play; a reaction to the implied adultery, misplaced ire against the show itself, etc. But mostly I think the controversy came because these people wanted to make an example of something, marshal their forces behind one incident. It doesn't make much sense when you look at it against the field of all other possibilities, but it's probably hard to pick out the single, archetypal naughty image you wish to demonize, especially if the controversy builds via a snowballing process, as more and more puritans realize that they can make a big deal out of this thing and get other people's support.

Especially weird for me to watch this video after just seeing "Kinsey" last night, which sort of throws all this prudery out the window.

John Penta

Figure I'd jump in from a while after...Jeff, for the record...It really depends.

Satellite in general is about as expensive as cable, but stuff like foreign channels costs extra.

I would be surprised if one had to pay $40/month for the satellite service generally, plus maybe another $10-20/month for Arabic channels?

I've not looked at it for a while, though.

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