Cultural Identity's role in handling Covid Lockdown: Hunter X Hunter & English vs Arabic Pop Culture
Updated: Jan 29
I’m 22 right now, so I was a kid in the early 2000’s-2010s. I turned 18 in December of 2016. Before officially moving to Toronto in 2010, after coming here every summer, I lived in Kuwait. The thing about living in Kuwait, which is also the same as living in Toronto, is that it's basically living in the United States of America. All of pop culture is American pop culture, I went to an American school, a lot of my classmates were children of American diplomats and military personnel, I mainly spoke English, we ate McDonald's, KFC, Chilis', Papa Johns and Pizza Hut, we'd get Nachos and popcorn and watch movies in the movie theatre that were made in Hollywood with Arabic subtitles, most of the references we made were to WWE, Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon shows.
The only apparent difference in pop culture is that some scenes and storylines in movies and shows were cut out in the Middle East. So sex scenes and things that were explicit in nature weren’t allowed on television. But after a certain point we were all on the internet anyway, so we watched whatever, whenever. Yet still, that rigid constraint over content plagues me to this day. For years I didn’t understand the “Draw me like a French girl” meme from Titanic, despite having seen the movie upwards of a dozen times....because I have sisters by the way, I’m not just randomly watching Titanic in my free time... It’s the biggest movie in the world, okay? Fine, I love the movie. Anyway, the broadcasters would cut those promiscuous scenes in editing, and if the content was completely dubbed into Arabic, then the entire storyline changes to reflect the ideals of a Muslim society. Muslim media is very open about operating under Islamic guidelines and wanting to uphold these ideals and their Islamic cultural identity.
When I started watching Detective Conan in English dub as opposed to in Arabic, I found out that Rachel was his girlfriend, not his fiancé. I found out the reason Richard had his cheeks flushed red, and his tie around his head was because he was drunk, not because he ate a lot. Obviously alcohol is haram, so the show refrained from mentioning it, and really convinced me that eating a lot made you get woozy, so I had a bunch of awkward buffet family trips where I was acting a fool because I thought that getting drunk happens when you eat a lot of food. 7 year old me has literally put his tie around his head at multiple weddings, because he ate a lot of rice.
The reason the media outlets did that is because they truly believed the content we consume affects how we operate in a society. So every year, Detective Conan Edogawa, and a host of other anime characters, would wish us a happy Ramadan and Eid, and many of the show’s represented the ideals of the society, its the equivalent of Christmas specials over here. Most of the shows on SpaceToon (the Arab Disney Channel) when I was growing up, were Japanese Anime's about Samurai ethics and morals (like Thunder Jet aka Hazeem Al Ra3d). The theme songs would have profound lyrics that speak of courage, bravery, patience and Islamic morals. They would cherry pick the content to dub, and then rewrite the script to fit the ideals and narratives of that cultural identity, which is something I’ve noticed in the West as well. Except that here the ideals usually upheld by the society are freedom, optimism, exploration, destiny and ambition.
The perfect example of the differences in cultural ideals lies in the lyrics to the Hunter X Hunter theme song, in Arabic and English. These theme songs couldn’t be more different, for the exact same show. Starting from the opening video. The Arabic opening shows the protagonists of the show in nature, practicing the craft of hunting, the song is a slow, poetic ballad, with a slow motion video that shows the characters being patient, wiping away tears, being calm and somber. The English opening is set in a big city, and it begins with the rising sun over skyscrapers, and the main character Gon walking upstairs, through bright doors, smiling, the song is upbeat and speaks of an ambitious future.
Waking up, we tread this wondrous land
Walking on this earth we take a stand
With a smile we open up our eyes
It’s departure time!
When you’re all alone
Never think you’re on your own
You’ll go and find your destiny
Just give it time. Continue to breathe
Filled with tenderness
Thank you, Earth, for my life’s quest
Now that it’s time to leave, wish for the best
You can smile again
Basking in the sunlight
You can fly away
Time to rise up. Shine your light. Show the world you can make the climb!
Waking up, we tread this wondrous land
With a smile, we’re running hand in hand
No matter if we fall, we’ll try again!
Knowing we can win! (you can smile)
Now the journey starts, I won’t give up, I won’t throw in the towel!
Though it’s time to go, I won’t be alone!
His eyes shone with determination, and his right rose up
In the silence of the night
Who is steadfast adventurous in the face of the torrent
Away from his eyes comfort
Challenges an opponent in the arena
It goes on and hits the goals, always striving to achieve fairness
And the imagination of his father in dreams
In the sensitive heart awakens the love of goodness for all people
Whatever the price, the difficulties
He will still be th