Comedy tackles sensitive social issues in Saudi

The director (L) and lead actors of Tash ma Tash, a popular MBC comedy series

Yesterday I was watching an episode from a popular and long running Arabic comedy series, focused on Saudi Arabia, that airs on MBC, the Waleed al-Ibrahim (King Fahd’s brother-in-law) owned satellite channel. This episode featured a Saudi woman who marries four husbands and keeps them all because she can financially and wants a change at home. I immediately thought to myself this is very risky territory, even if this show has a history of taking on tricky social issues.

And so it has proved, Twitter being host to fierce criticism of the show, with both liberals and conservatives united for once in condemnation. The conservatives are obviously upset that the show dared to contradict the established religious law that forbids a woman from marrying more than one man at a time, but allowing men to marry several at the same time. The liberals worry that this encourages Saudi women to adopt some of the more relaxed Western attitudes to relationships. One female Saudi blogger took the opportunity to say that being a woman in Saudi is unimaginable for men, especially with this issue of polygamy.

Above this issue, what fascinated me was that the show was willing to take on such a religious and social taboo, not to attack the religious law or seek to ignore it, but to get men to think a bit more about how hard it is for a woman to be in a polygamous relationship and the way Saudi men treat women in this regard. Going further above the topic of the show, it was good to see the writers using comedy to get the population to think deeper about complex social issues, an excellent method when freedom of thought and speech is restricted, or when socially conservative cultures do not allow direct discussion of such issues.

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2 Responses to Comedy tackles sensitive social issues in Saudi

  1. Hayder al-Khoei says:

    I saw this yesterday too and was fascinated by it. We often make fun of Saudi law but they tackle social issues in a way I have never seen on Iraqi TV. If you watch al-Sharqiya, for example, most (if not all) of the comedy is political satire. That’s not in itself a bad thing, but its refreshing to see tash ma tash tackle these issues.

    • Sajad Jiyad says:

      That’s exactly what I was thinking and trying to hint at, I don’t think Iraqi media has developed enough to be able to take on such issues through comedy and so on. It’s a shame, since we have much more media freedom, but it seems not to have been used well so far.

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