Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The "Banana Song": when the truth is more obscene than the hoax...

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So it was a stunt. A hoax.

The infamous “Banana song” was not real and Zeezee M. doesn’t exist. Shame, I was starting to like her. Her video made me laugh an entire evening. That’s quite an achievement in such dark and depressing times.

During a TV interview with the young actress who “played” Zeezee, we discovered the purpose of that stunt and the message addressed to the Lebanese people: “Bikaffé sakhafé, 3eech el saqafé” --which means “enough silliness, live the Culture.”

Damn! Didn’t see that coming.

How could I? It’s like making a video of a kitten licking itself to stop people from watching videos of kittens licking themselves.

But the real failings of this stunt are elsewhere. When it comes to advocating a cause, it’s not enough to create a buzz (any wobbling tits can do it), that buzz needs to shed light on a uncomfortable or disturbing reality. For the stunt to work, the message has to be anchored in reality and not disconnected from it. Which, unfortunately, seems to be the case here.

The first problem is that most people didn’t watch and share this video on social media because they like this sort of things, but because they were either outraged by it --and by the overall singing bimbos phenomenon in Lebanon, or simply because they found it ridiculously funny.

The second problem is the message itself and what it is actually implying.

Is it asking the people to stop looking at bimbos in ridiculous videos, and go watch a Truffaut or a Pasolini instead, or stop sharing silly stuff on social media and start posting Chagal and Matisse paintings, and, why not, entire chapters of “Les Misérables” and full scenes from “King Lear”?

Isn’t that actually implying that the lack of culture in Lebanon is the fault of the Lebanese people who prefer silly bimbos to true artists?

Following that logic, it must be the people’s fault if TV stations invite more silly bimbos than true artists. It must also be their fault if these TV stations barely, if not at all, broadcast cultural programs, and if they always choose cheap mediocre series over movie classics.

Sure, why not?

Let’s go to the end of that logic: It must be the people’s fault if the Ministry of Culture's annual budget is as thick as a wara2-eshem rolling paper, if filmmakers can’t find money, or so little, to make their film, unless of course they go begging abroad… It must be the people’s fault if old actors die in utter misery. Their fault if the State doesn’t properly mourn the nation’s departed artists, and if there’s no help whatsoever for living artists to create and produce. Maybe it’s their fault too if there’s no decent public libraries in all the land…

Isn’t implying that more obscene than sucking a banana in a silly video? Isn’t that utterly oblivious of the true reasons behind the alarming lack of Culture in Lebanon? Isn’t that a total disregard of the fact that the Lebanese people are the victim here, not the culprit? Isn’t that conveniently forgetful that this culprit can be found in the country's financial and political establishment, and in the media that answer to it?

Culture is a noble cause and a pressing need, and it surely deserves better than this. So to those who created that stunt: sorry, but you seriously need to go back to the kitchen and revise your copy.

In the meantime, I’m going to have a banana and enjoy the video one last time. Then sing: “Zeezee, c’est fini…” 


© Claude El Khal, 2015