We’ll know the region is a truly different place when we see an Iraqi Idol being crowned, but in the meantime the success of SuperStar, the Arab world’s answer to American Idol on Lebanese satellite channel Future TV, is a pulsating arrow pointing in the right direction.
For where a silly, shallow, modern singing contest can thrive, with aspirants seeking so temporal and decadent a thing as stardom and an audience of over 30 million going nuts over the process, there is hope against the deadening strictures of political and dogmatic religious oppression. It is also extremely significant that the results on the show are in the voting hands of the viewers, and the influence of this normative expression of unfettered democracy on the greater culture should not be underestimated.
On last night’s show, Tunisian Aymen Lasseeg was eliminated by the voters, leaving a final showdown looming between Shahd Barmada from Syria and Ibrahim El Hakmi from Saudi Arabia, but many are the cries and large is the controversy!
Tunisian blogger Subzero relates that “Lasseeg thought of withdrawing today after he got feedback from Tunisia that people were not able to vote all night long yesterday and early today. He only cooled down when he heard that the [phone] lines were opened at around 11AM today.”
But he still lost – sound familiar?
Note this unfailingly polite but adamant comment from one “wafaa” on the blog: “I pls u to read this for all world at future tv next week, Aymen (future programe attendant) pls read this for all, the vote this week didnot show the truth. I am very sorry to see the nice programe to miss the correct way by avoiding the star of this year (Aymen) we believe the email voting is not the only governing rule used in selecting the winers but we are quite sure the programe commetee has a strong role in geting Aymen out and leaving the unqualified persons proceeding wich made the programe out of taste.”
“Out of taste,” to be sure! How many voters feel the results on American Idol aren’t strictly kosher either, with certain phone lines being suspiciously and strategically down at just the wrong times?
Feel the anguish in “Love you Ayman’s” voice: “Even though i´m soooooooo upset right now and i still can´t believe that the best STAR in the show had to leave all I can say now is that this is not the end ya ayman … you´ve been a STAR in my heart from the first time I saw you and heard your voice!!! You amazed me with your wonderful voice and your angelic smile!!! I´ll always love and support you ya Ayman Laseek and to all the ppl out there that are happy about Ayman leaving the show, I just wanna say that this wasn’t fair cause many ppl in different countries weren’t able to vote for the best contestant Ayman and some beautiful day you´ll see that he was the only one who deserved to win this!!!”
And yet “ZlatkoT” replies, “Ibrahim’s line wasn’t working for a while either!!!! I thought it was just because I lived in Australia but this happened to him as well! AND I can tell you Future didn’t show all the voting numbers for him either! I am happy with the result, but not under these circumstances!”
Where is the room for jihad in minds so occupied? Nowhere, my friends, nowhere.
And so it’s down to the final two, months after 100 contestants — recruited from Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Jordan and from among expatriate Arabs in the US and Australia — were pared down to 21 by a panel of four judges before viewers took over and reduced them to a final 12. The finalists have spent the past three months in Beirut being agonizingly winnowed to two. The winner gets a professional record deal and many a hearty ululation from supporters and well-wishers alike, but those seeking moderization, liberalization and democracy in the region win big as well.