Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oriental Fantasies on video: Haifa Wehbe

Since Edward Said’s seminal book, Orientalism, some forty years ago, it is well known that fantasies about the Orient exist. But what about fantasies of the Oriental people themselves? For Arab women, the Turkish TV opera soap “Noor” (see previous post), featuring the handsome Muhannad, provides may be an answer. And for the men, there is Haifa Wehbe, the “hottest” sex icon of the many videos aired on Arab TV satellites.

Being the target of so many Arab male fantasies at a time of public dispute about the right moral behaviour, Haifa Wehbe becomes, willing or not, a subject of political debates. Regularly, people protest again her coming to their country. It happened in Algeria, in Egypt and, recently, in Bahrein when the pop singer was invited for the celebration of the workers festival (!).

After very “lively” discussion at the Chamber of Deputies (dominated by “islamist” parties), a compromise has been reached: Haifa would come and give her performance, but dressed in a decent (محتشم) way (see pictures). In a rather smart move, the Lebanese singer paid a visit during her stay in Bahrein to some institution for disabled children, a “perverse” way to shut up critics by shifting her public image from the scandalous and glamorous sex icon to the untouchable one of the pitiful mother of sorrow and all pain, a strategy already used in a very successful way with her very ambiguous hit “Boss al-wawa” (with lyrics like "see the owie, kiss the owie, make the owie get better. When you kissed the owie, you made the owie go away. Hide me close to you, cover me and make me warm. Without you I am so cold aahhhh", etc.)

Following that link to the French post, you’ll find a translation to French of an article published in the Lebanese daily Al-Safir by Ahmad Moghrabi. He comments in a very interesting way on Haifa’s latest video which is there for you to… enjoy it!

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