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Deconstructing Essential Representations and Nationalist Narratives in "Ertugrul"



The popularity of the historical drama series "Ertugrul" soared in recent times when PM Imran Khan issued very important national instructions to the whole country during COVID-19, captivating audiences worldwide with its compelling storytelling and historical context. However, it is imperative to critically examine the show's representations, particularly in terms of essentializing cultural identities, promoting nationalism, invalidating other identities, oversimplifying complex narratives, and its potential impact on identity within Pakistan.


"Ertugrul" may contribute to an essentialized understanding of cultural identities, including within Pakistan itself. The show's portrayal of Turkish and Muslim identity as a unified and homogenous entity may inadvertently influence viewers to view their own cultural and religious identities through a similar lens. This essentialization can lead to a narrow and exclusionary perspective, limiting the exploration of the diverse experiences and beliefs that exist within the Pakistani context.


In Pakistan, which is a culturally diverse country with various ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups, an essentialized understanding of identity can hinder intercultural understanding and contribute to the marginalization of certain groups. It is essential for viewers to recognize and celebrate the multiplicity of perspectives and experiences within Pakistan, fostering a more inclusive and harmonious society.


The promotion of Turkish nationalism in "Ertugrul" can potentially impact viewers' sense of identity, particularly within Pakistan. As the show glorifies the Ottoman Turks as righteous defenders, it may inadvertently overshadow or invalidate other cultural and historical identities present in the Pakistani context. This emphasis on a singular nationalist narrative can create a conflict between viewers' sense of belonging to Pakistan and the romanticized portrayal of Turkish identity.


The perpetuation of a dominant nationalist narrative, such as the one presented in "Ertugrul," can give rise to an identity crisis among viewers in Pakistan. They may find themselves torn between embracing their own unique cultural heritage and ideals while simultaneously being influenced by a foreign narrative that resonates strongly with them. This conflict can lead to confusion, internal tensions, and a struggle to reconcile their personal identity with the idealized identity portrayed in the show.


Additionally, historical dramas, such as "Ertugrul," often simplify complex narratives to fit within the constraints of a television series. While artistic license is expected, oversimplification can lead to a distorted understanding of history. "Ertugrul" often presents conflicts and power struggles in a black-and-white manner, without delving into the intricacies and nuances of historical events.

For example, the show simplifies the dynamics of the conflicts with the Byzantines and Mongols, reducing them to a struggle between the virtuous Turks and their antagonistic adversaries. Such oversimplification neglects the complex political, cultural, and social factors that shaped historical events, potentially perpetuating biased narratives and distorting historical understandings.


Personally, while it is understandable that the antagonists in "Ertugrul" may be portrayed as "evil" for dramatic purposes, the underlying concern lies in the potential consequences of perpetuating such narratives. In the context of class discussions ideas on stereotyping and the "permanent otherisation" of groups, these portrayals can lead to the creation and reinforcement of stereotypes. By consistently depicting certain groups as inherently villainous or inferior, the show runs the risk of solidifying these stereotypes in the minds of the viewers - especially viewers who may not critically consume content. This "otherisation" not only perpetuates biases and misconceptions but also hinders the possibility of nuanced understanding towards those groups. It is crucial to critically examine the impact of such representations and strive for more inclusive narratives that challenge stereotypes and foster a more empathetic and interconnected world.


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Ertugrul" often presents a romanticized view of history, which can be problematic. It tends to simplify complex historical events and individuals, favoring a black-and-white narrative that reinforces nationalistic sentiments. Historical accuracy and nuance can be sacrificed for the sake of creating a heroic and heroicized national narrative.

It is important to approach shows like "Ertugrul" with a critical lens, recognizing that they are fictionalized accounts of history that reflect specific cultural and political contexts. Viewers should seek a balanced understanding by engaging with diverse sources and perspectives that challenge essential representations and nationalist narratives.

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You made a really good point, I think ultimately, critical thinking and a willingness to engage with multiple perspectives are key when consuming historical dramas like "Ertugrul." While they can be entertaining, it is essential to remember that they are fictionalized adaptations of history and not definitive accounts. By being mindful of these factors, we can appreciate the entertainment value of such shows while still maintaining a critical awareness of their limitations.

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A very relatable read! The blog provides valuable insights into the potential impact of essentialized representations and nationalist narratives within the show. It is crucial to critically examine such cultural productions, as they can shape viewers' understanding of identity and contribute to the marginalization of certain groups, considering that "Ertugrul" was considered the Leader of the Ummah by the Pakistani uncles during covid. The conflict between embracing one's own cultural heritage and the influence of a romanticized foreign narrative is a pertinent issue to explore. It raises questions about the complexities of personal identity and the potential internal tensions faced by viewers. While reading this, it reminded me of the importance of critically consuming media content and striving for more…

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The conflict between embracing one's cultural heritage and the influence of a romanticized foreign narrative is indeed a complex and relevant issue. It highlights the challenges individuals may face in navigating their personal identities within the context of media influence. It's essential to recognize that cultural narratives are multi-dimensional and diverse, and they should be explored with a critical lens to avoid perpetuating stereotypes or marginalizing certain groups. Indeed, media consumption plays a significant role in shaping our worldview, and it is our responsibility to strive for more inclusive narratives that challenge stereotypes and promote understanding. By embracing a broader perspective, acknowledging the complexities of cultural identities, and encouraging empathy, we can create a more interconnected world that celebrates diversity and…

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very insightful! it's interesting how you took an analytical view , dissecting the underlying cause and political motivation behind the show and the impact it had on the audience. it is even more surprising how the show was nowhere near popular in turkey itself but took Pakistani audience by a storm. pakistanis in general hold turkey in high regard and as you mentioned, they particularly grew a cultural crisis where they identified themselves with turkish which is problematic as they ertugral was a reflection of the present state of turkey which is far from actuality. I would find the comments made by pakistanis on ertugral's cast like "are you muslim?" "please dont dress like this haleema baji" and whatnot absolutely…

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Yes I also recall these comments and such comments like the ones you mentioned, such as questioning the religious beliefs or criticizing the attire of the cast, highlight the extent to which pakistani viewers may become emotionally invested in fictional characters. While it is understandable that people develop strong connections with the stories and characters they admire, it is essential to maintain a distinction between fiction and reality. This is why I feel there has to be a certain sensitivity when developing and/or showing these shows with religious themes so deeply entrenched. Becuase that adds crucial context as well as relatability with the audience that can impact viewers such deeply.

It wasn't just these comments. A whole movement also…

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