My father-in-law is from a region of Greece that felt the after-effects of Ottoman rule long after the Greek Revolution of 1821 and the end of World War I, where the Ottoman Empire finally fell and Greece and Turkey engaged in a massive population exchange (not to mention a war that Greece lost, with bloody atrocities on both sides). He grew up speaking Turkish as his first language (he still speaks some), remembers a bit, and in his lifetime there were old-timers whose grandparents actually lived under Ottoman occupation. Therefore, he has somewhat of an interest in Turkish culture, and has found a Turkish historical drama called Resurrection: Ertuğrul, which is about the 11th century Turkish Bey Ertuğrul, the father of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. There has since been a new series all about Osman.
Ertuğrul, it could be said, is the grandfather of the Ottoman Empire, Turkish national hero, and for a people with such a long history, that’s saying something that he’s still remembered with such reverence nearly 1,000 years later.
The show is well-acted, the costumes and settings are fantastic, and it’s very dramatic. Like, every single scene is fraught with tension and really intense music. There are fights, though none too bloody despite the show being nicknamed “The Turkish Game of Thrones.” There is also no sex or nudity, perhaps owing to Turkey’s strong Islamic identity which is still a huge influence despite generations of Kemalist attempts to secularize Turkey. There are also some storytelling differences between it and a Westen made show. For example, much of Resurrection features people standing around talking, interspersed with action scenes. However, there are some episodes where the same characters are in the same setting talking for the entire episode. There is also a lot of people getting ambushed in the wilderness.
Anyway, a little research into the show taught me that it was incredibly popular in Turkey and most of the Muslim world, though not necessarily in the Arab world, where it was banned outright in some countries for seeming to promote the redrudescence of the Ottoman Empire.
I don’t watch it regularly, just here and there when my father-in-law has it on. But one thing that strikes me about this show, and I contrast with Western entertainment, is how much it reveres its title character, his faith, and what it stands for.
In Resurrection, Ertuğrul is portrayed in only a noble light. His tribe guards a trade route and bazaar or something, and he treats everyone–including the hated Christians–with respect. The Muslim faith is taken seriously by all and is never mocked or its adherents belittled. Even Ertuğrul’s fellow Turkish rivals, some of whom are his brothers, are not caricatures or hypocrites. And Christians, whether they be Venetians, Templars, or traders, are mean, nasty, vicious, bloodthirsty, and bigoted.
And while I find myself rooting for the Templars whenever they appear, even though I know they’ll all die–seriously, in one episode something like 15 Templars waylaid five or six Turks, and not a single Turk died–I understand this. Because the Turkish makers of this show have a strong confidence in the goodness and rightness of their culture and their religion.
Imagine a Western-made show about, say, the Reconquista. There’d be a gay priest or three, or at least some sort of gay subplot (and the gay priest would be the only good priest); the church hierarchy would be venal, corrupt, and hypocritical; the fervent Chrisitans would all be easily duped and bigoted rubes; the only good priest or Christians would be the ones who don’t really believe in all of the religious stuff anyway; the Moors would be viewed as sympathetic; Christian characters would openly express admiration for Islam, and wish that Christians could be more like Muslims; some bad-ass female would be the real hero, winning sword-fight after sword-fight against evil Spaniards; a Spanish woman would have a steamy love affair with a Moor, and the Reconquista would happen despite our hero’s best efforts. Ultimately, the message would be that Europe is worse off for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella having reclaimed their land, there’d be lots of foreshadowing about how this would lead to entirely justified Muslim violence against Christians in the future, and that the Reconquista was, ultimatley, a horrible atrocity.
You know I’m right. These are 21st-century American pop culture trusisms.
Or to think of another potential western-made historical drama, how about one chronicling the Siege of Vienna of 1683? You know John Sobieski would either be gay or a bad guy (never both); the Ottomans would be sympathetic heroes only looking for a better life; the Hapsburgs would be the real badguys, along with the Catholic church; there’d be a strong, bad-ass female Winged Hussar who manages to convince the Ottomans to retreat (becuase no way the Europeans would actually beat them, ha ha); and there’d be some relativistic “We’re just two sides of the same coin (but Christendom is really worse) moral equivalence nonsense or other as the denoumant, followed by myriad Golden Globes.
Our entertainment is so boring, predictable, and harmful because our storytellers are people who hate us and our history, culture, and faith. The most frustrating thing about this is that they got into these positions of power in the first place because we were all blinded by both our decency, our upbringing in a high-trust culture, and the fact that for a long time economic conditions were so good we were willing to accept anything as long as we had shiny new toys.
The biggest problem with the Western world is Westerners. We have lost our cultural confidence, the faith that made us great and allowed us to build this civilization in the first place, and the ability to recognize objective truth, speak it and point it out, and live according to it. Whether this started in the stories we tell and it trickled into our philosophies, or it started with the philosophers and trickled into our stories, I don’t care. All I know is that my hat is off to Turkey for maintaining true to its history and culture and not force-feeding its people horrible degenerate slop designed to make them feel horrible about themselves and who they are.
This is why I’m convinced there will still be a Turkey 1,000 years from now, but I’m not sure there’ll be a United States.
If you want stuff that doesn’t hate you, your culture, your history, and your faith, you need to look at independant art. I’m doing my part. Check out my sci-fi novels here.