x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Soaps present UAE families as happy

Arab media study finds that Emirati family unit is the best portrayed in TV serials and soap operas and reality programmes.

If you have ever watched an Arabic soap opera, you know the people portrayed on them go through an awful lot - betrayals, broken hearts, even murders. According to a new academic study, however, Emirati families are generally depicted in a more positive light in the programmes than those from any other country in the Middle East. For her PhD thesis at Cairo University, Lubna al Kenani rated the portrayals of families of different Arab nationalities, based on a score of 100. Her research showed the typical Emirati family was shown in a positive way 62 per cent of the time. Its nearest rival was the Tunisian family, which scored 54.9 per cent.

In most soaps and reality shows, the Emirati family was portrayed as having strong and solid relationships, abiding by religious and social values, and living in a country where the government was "keen on providing welfare for its citizens", the study states. The research also found that such values were emphasised 85.2 per cent of the time in Emirati soap operas, compared with 69.2 per cent in those set in Egypt, 67.6 per cent in those in Syria and 63.8 per cent in those set in Tunisia.

Whenever an Emirati family on such programmes did encounter troubles, said Dr al Kenani, the issues were dealt with more often than not within the family, as well as with the help of their relatives, friends and neighbours. She found that most TV programmes portrayed Emirati women as being well taken care of by their communities. Indeed, Dr al Kenani noted that "the reality of Emirati woman's occupational status is even better in reality compared to what is being shown on the TV".

During her research, Dr al Kenani met Sheikha Ayesha al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's royal family, who told her that the foundation set up by Sheikh Zayed, the late founder of the UAE, ensured the Emirates Government supported women, particularly those who were divorced, widowed or orphaned. Dr al Kenani said Sheikha Ayesha told her: "They were given farms with seeds, fertilisers, workers and free marketing of their products through the agricultural shopping centres spread across the country."

Dr al Kenani attributed the UAE's superior TV image to its modernity, world-class infrastructure and oil resources, the profits from which, she said, went back into the community. She contrasted this with other countries in the study which, as they were portrayed on television, had bureaucratic hold-ups, weak infrastructures and problems in education and health. @Email:hkhalaf@thenational.ae