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From reel to real

Qatari parents are now naming their children after popular characters in TV soap operas.

April 5, 2009 12:27 by

The influence of popular soap operas on viewers in the Arab world is taking a new dimension, with parents replacing traditional Qatari names like Fahad, Fitais and Smaikh with the names of famous TV characters.

“Traditionally Qataris used to name their children after their parents and relatives. But it seems that parents have been impressed by the famous characters in some recent Turkish and Arab soap operas and started to name their newborns Mohanad, Lamis, Rahaf who were very famous characters in the series. Even some tribes started to choose from these new names,” Zekrayat Al Mohannadi, the head of the Births Registration Department at the Ministry of Public Health, told Gulf Times. “When you go through the records, you will find that these new names account for 25 percent of the names currently used by parents,” she added.

According to a list of names given to newborns last year, 84 babies were named Lamis (Arabic for soft) after the female lead character in the soap Sanawat Al Dayaa.

The trend reflects the increasing role TV soap operas play in the Arab world. Last year, dubbed versions of Turkish soaps like Noor and Sanawat Al Dayaa widely popular in the region, with women swooning over Muhanad, the male lead in Noor, played by actor/model Kivanc Tatlitug. Reports said that around three to four million viewers tuned in to Noor every night, and that female audiences even began to demand attitude changes in their husbands after watching it.

“I told my husband, learn from Muhanad. Look at how he treats her, loves her and cares for her,” Heba Mandan, a young housewife told Doha-based daily The Peninsula last year. She also told the paper that the show inspired her to go out and look for a job and to feel self-reliant.

Reports also said that some men were driven to divorce their wives because of the latters’ obsession with the show.

In July last year, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia condemned the Turkish soap operas, saying that they were malicious, and that they spread vice in the society.

“It is not permitted to look at these serials or watch them. They contain so much evil; they destroy people’s ethics and are against our values,” the mufti said. “Any TV station that airs them is against God and His Messenger (peace be upon him). These are serials of immorality. They are prepared by people who are specialists in crime and error, people who invite men and women to the devil.”

But the popularity of the soaps is unmistakable. Most reports attribute the success of these shows to escapism, a chance for many to live life they way they have always wanted to.

“Our men are rugged and unyielding,” a young housewife told Reuters last year. “I wake up and see a cold and detached man lying next to me, I look out the window and see dust. It is all so dull. On Noor, I see beautiful faces, the beautiful feelings they share and beautiful scenery.”

Perhaps women hope that by naming their children after the characters in their favorite TV serials, their children may have a better chance at a fairytale life.

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