Saturday, January 13, 2007

Learning with entertainment

Little Mosque on the Prairie
Originally uploaded by Bernard Roth.
Due to my work I attended last year a session where TV professionals discussed the role of humour when showing minorities. They showed clips from different successful programmes from the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany that deal with ethnic minorities.

I knew most of the examples from the UK and have been watching and enjoying shows such as the BBC production Kumars at 42. But I was quite appalled by the German and Dutch programmes. The worst one I saw was a German producion called Turkish for Beginners. As a British playwright Tanika Gupta pointed out in the panel discussion, in the German case one saw that white people were making fun of immigrants where as in the other examples the humour came from within the minority group or was done with people from the minority group. In that sense I think there is no difference whether one deals with gays or ethnic minorities.

A new show has started in Canada which sounds very promising. Little Mosque on the Prairie is a comedy series of a little village where the Muslim community lives side by side with the Christian community. The writer of the series, Zarqa Nawaz said this week to Reuters:"It is important to win the prejudice that Muslims are not funny or that they have they no sense of humour or that they do not have similar relations like others." The CBC series has been a success both among critics and the audience gathering 2,1 million viewers on first screening.

The few clips on the site seem funny and I am looking forward to the serries starting in Europe. I believe in the power over non-preaching entertainment in overcoming stereotypes. I just remember the huge impract of soap operas in Finland in issues relating to gays, handicapped people or teenager boys' style.

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