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Scheherazade as a Social Nexus in the Iranian TV Series Shahrzād (2016-2018)

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paperpeer-review

Published
Publication date17/08/2018
<mark>Original language</mark>English
EventTwelfth Biennial Iranian Studies Conference - University of California, Irvine, Irvine, United States
Duration: 14/08/201817/08/2018
Conference number: 12
https://associationforiranianstudies.org/conferences/2018

Conference

ConferenceTwelfth Biennial Iranian Studies Conference
Abbreviated titleAIS Iranian Studies
CountryUnited States
CityIrvine
Period14/08/1817/08/18
Internet address

Abstract

The Arabian Nights is a composite work consisting of popular stories originally transmitted orally and developed during several centuries and ever since its translation into European languages in the 18th c. or perhaps even before, it has been adapted and appropriated into different forms and mediums and thus has reached the different corners of the world. The medium that this paper is concerned with is the screen adaptations of the nights into film and television. Among the earliest popular albeit free adaptations of 1001 Nights stories we can mention Douglas Fairbanks’ silent Hollywood golden era swashbuckling film The Thief of Baghdad (1924) or Bugs Bunny's 3rd movie 1001 Rabbit Tales (1982) and of course Disney’s Aladdin (1992). The popular Turkish TV series, Binbir Gece (2006-2009), rose to global fame and offers very interesting parallels to Shahrzād. Analysing the common features between these two monumental series will help to identify the tales and motifs that lend themselves well for contemporary screen adaptations in the Middle East and beyond.

What has inspired this project is the popularity or the level of popularity of 1001 nights or the Arabian Nights in the world today. Although only a very little number of people might have read all the tales, we can safely assume that most people do have an idea of what the Nights are. And a few could even name one or two films, series, or cartoons that they think are based on the Nights. Indeed, only a very limited number of stories included in editions of the Nights have been adapted for films or TV series.

However, there are two main characteristics to the Nights that help identify adaptations and adoptions in popular culture: embedded storytelling using a frame tale, and the ‘feminist’, emancipating heroine Scheherazade. The popular Iranian TV series Scheherazade (Shahrzād 2016-2017) that this paper focuses on, does not only make use of these two popular features. It also offers a fresh and contemporary adaptation or appropriation of the frame story set in Iran of the 1950s and 1960s as well as adapting elements from many other tales from the Nights such as emphasising the importance of education for women or the evil of cunning women, etc. After analysing the degree of adaptation of the frame story in this series, the paper will also discuss how the message of a mediaeval literary canon such as the Nights can still be relevant today.