Egyptian television programming is about to get a robust injection of testosterone in the form of a new, all-male soap opera, "Coffee Shop."
Yes, in an interesting and extreme move that is perhaps inspired by Elizabethan-era dramas, where Shakespeare's maidens were played by not-so-macho men, a small group of Egyptian Islamists are bringing back the all-male cast.
Taqieddin Abdel Rashid, the deputy head of the Al-Hafez channel where Coffee Shop will be broadcast, says that the show simply represents a logical answer to the public's demand for clean (and apparently manly?) television programming.
“Everything is about supply and demand and currently there is a demand for this type of cleaner art in our society,” says Rashid.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Al Hafez television is one of Egypt’s new Salafi television channels, devoted to promoting an austere version of Islam that seeks to imitate the lifestyle, and even the dress, of the Prophet Muhammad and of early Muslims.
Though they make up only a minority of Egyptians, Salafis have exercised more political clout since the toppling of former autocrat Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Salafist parties won more than a quarter of the vote at the country’s last elections.
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For ye of little faith who think that producing a 15-episode comedy show with no female roles represents a narrative challenge, worry not.
Rather than dealing with pesky gender problems head-on, the promoters of Coffee Shop have instead side-stepped the more evident issues by — as the title implies — setting their new drama in one of Egypt’s traditional cafes, which tend to be all-male hangouts. How convenient!
Promoters say the show will be filmed entirely in the cafe and will deal with culturally sensitive and gender-appropriate themes such as Egypt’s transition to democracy.
“It is so easy to produce 15 episodes that feature a coffee shop in Cairo, which is not a very common place for women,” said Rashid.
Rashid went on to explain that Coffee Shop will not feature women characters because its producers simply respect women too much to subject them to the tawdry trivialities of TV:
We are not discriminating (against) women. Our policy in the channel is that we don’t show women at all, as an honorary gesture to (women), as Islam dictates. Women have been disrespected in art and shown as a commodity everyone can look at.
Respect, huh? We at GlobalPost might have to stick with Aretha on this one.