Melodrama and the Revolution
9:00 am Cairo 2/2/2011
As I sit and write this on the morning of February 2nd, 2011, the Egyptian television is spewing very painful coverage of the revolution.
A huge number of callers are calling all the morning talk shows, to declare their love for the president. The tone is nauseating melodramatic. I was teaching a course on melodrama last semester and I can detect the signs. Callers say how much Mubarak cared for us and how much he loved us as a people, and invariably all of them tend to use that air in their voice, for maximum effect, and almost choke with their passion and love for the president.
Now the caller is young woman from the fancy suburb of Maadi, she said it’s unfair what “they” are doing to him. “They” are the demonstrators we’d have to guess. She pleaded in an accent that shows subtle hints of foreign education that don’t we have corruption or famine, and added that we are going to be like Iraq and other countries.
I know that most of the calls that appear on air are scripted. And as I writer and a director I feel that the writers are very sloppy. One of the worst problems that Egypt is facing is Corruption, capital “C”. It’s a huge problem, in every level of administration one can think of. There so many examples, it deserves a list of articles. It is so widespread that is considered part of daily existence, those asking for bribe do it as an acquired right and most people know they simply have to accept it to get things done. The writer of this call was really off to bring the “C” word to the conversation. But at least the caller didn’t give the audience the standard choking voice from the overflow of emotions.
Right now this Egyptian guy, calling from Emirates, is talking about his enduring love for Mubarak, that if he has his phone number, he’d come back and bring his kids and wife and sit under the president’s feet. I don’t get the connection between getting the president’s phone number and sitting under his feet. But that guy does not tell the audience why is he in Emirates. I suspect that he, like many young Egyptians, can’t find a decent job in Egypt and managed to find work in one of the gulf countries escaping the grueling economic situation. His melodramatic performance is so effective that the TV announcer has tears in his eyes.
I taught my students that melodrama’s high days were in the 19th Century, and it continued in the Egyptian movies till mid 20th Century. But I am forgetting the hundreds of sloppy soap operas that plague all the Arabic TV channels, almost 24/7.
The next call was the funniest. The voice of a young child is calling to say that she wants it all to end, in order to go back to school. This I have really never heard of before. A child is wanting to go back to school.. during midterm vacation. I’d have understood if the sweet voice of this girl said, “I want to go out to play” or “I am tired of the curfew, and I want to leave the house”, but to “go back to school”!! This scriptwriter should enroll in a better writing class.