< SWITCH ME >

Can Turkey become part of Europe? Or is it already European? If you turn on your TV, you might find that Turkey has found a new way of affirming its European identity: the telenovela. But do these programmes show the real Turkey? That's what Suphi Yalçın Akyol asks himself, as a Turkish student living in Germany...

The Rise of the Turkish Serials

On a Monday evening, around ten o'clock, I am preparing for the highlight of the day – a Turkish TV series named Ezel. It is a programme which has achieved great success for two seasons on Turkish television and is now having a similar success in Romania and Hungary. In the next few days, the new episode will be one of the topics in my Skype sessions with my friends from Turkey.

yaprak_dokumu
Photo: Wikipedia (CC-SA)
The cast of Yaprak Dökümü

"My mother hates Ferhunde" my Bosnian friend says. Ferhunde is the villain in a Turkish telenovela named Yaprak Dökümü (The Fall Of Leaves), a series which is among others celebrated in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. "My mother hates her, too" I reply "but it didn't keep her from watching all five seasons". As we continue to talk about the plot and characters, I am astonished that my friend remembers the names and the events far better than I do. As somebody coming from Turkey and having lived the greater part of my life in that country, I feel like I should be more proficient on Turkish matters.

What might look like fragments from the boring life of a student, are in fact indicators of a phenomenon which developed during the last couple of years in Turkish television and is becoming more and more of an international issue. An issue which some Turkish intellectuals call "The rise of the Turkish serials". I call it international because the scope of these TV serials, originally a product for Turkish media in Turkey, is no longer restricted to their country of origin nor to their original language being Turkish. In many Balkan countries these serials are broadcasted on major TV channels. But also for the rest of Europe where these serials are not aired on national televisions, satellite TV and internet have sufficed to reach a significant number of viewers. And not only Europe; Central Asia and the Arabic world are the other geographies in which the number of these serials are still increasing.

But how to interpret this new emergence within the European context? Is it a backdoor through which Turkey, the cultural "other", can show that it after all belongs to Europe?

But how to interpret this new emergence within the European context? Is it simply a commercial success? Is it a backdoor through which Turkey, the cultural "other", can show that it after all belongs to Europe? Is it an expression of the unique position of Turkey between the East and the West? Is it a facet of the new Turkey which strives to become a regional power? Is it an outcome of a state policy of the current conservative government?

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