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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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