It’s Tyrant season again! I’m already having to play catch-up (for those waiting on my Entertainment Weekly Community Blog recaps…just give me a second), but I thought that until I give my opinion the Season 3 opener, I’d jot some quick thoughts down about something that’s troubled me a long time; the popularity of one of my Tyrant articles, “Tyrant Season Two Quick Thoughts: Sex Scenes + an Ahmed Shout-Out.”
The article itself isn’t the problem. In the article, I use a quote from my EW Community recap for one of the Season 2 episodes. The quote focuses on how uncomfortable I was with the show giving us a sex scene between Leila and Jamal, a scene which seemed to be misogynistic and exoticizing at the same time.
Did we need to see the sex scene, though? I know I’m a prude about some things, but did that [sex] scene really illuminate any kind of character beats? Or was it another way to objectify Middle Eastern women (particularly since we mostly see Leila’s face, not both of their faces)? I leave that as an open-ended question, since having sex really had nothing to do with the conversation they had about Bassam’s death later on. It’s strange pillow talk, at any rate.
This article is consistently one of the top articles on my site. Usually, I’d be glad about an article doing well. But in this case, I’m a bit disturbed. Why, out of all of the articles I’ve written about Tyrant, and out of all of the articles I’ve written in general, is this the one that becomes popular?
You could say I’m over-thinking this and am blowing things out of proportion, but I’m of the mindset that this article is popular just because it’s about a Middle Eastern woman having sex on-screen.
The fetishizing of non-white women, in this case Middle Eastern women, is nothing new. It’s been used in movies and television over and over again. Increasingly, such fetishizing is being used in basic news narratives, particularly when it comes to hijabis; there’s usually a narrative of how “restrained” they are and how they need “saving,” so to speak, which is usually a Western and/or white feminist code for losing identity and becoming a product for someone else’s enjoyment, whether that means adhering to white feminist rhetoric or taking on some other, more sexual mantle. It would appear the same thing happens in Tyrant from time to time.
The scene I wrote about had camera angles that were specifically showing a male voyeristic view of Leila’s part in the sexual episode. It focuses primarily on her and her body, not Jamal’s. The blatant objectification of Leila in the throes of sex leaves me feeling uneasy. Here we have a character who is already saddled with the pressures of being an object for a monster of a man, a man she doesn’t love. We already focus heavily on how her expensive wardrobe is an extension of her glamourous prison of a palace. Is it then necessary to then show Leila a prisoner to the camera as well? Hasn’t Leila been exploited enough?
To that end, I’m not exactly sure who is reading the aforementioned article, and why they are reading it. Most of the traffic for that article comes from people specifically looking up “Tyrant” and “sex scene.” As to why someone would want to watch a sex scene between a prisoner (because that’s basically what Leila is) and a rapist (because that’s definitely what Jamal is) is beyond me. Thus, the only reason I can come up with is that there must be some fetishizers out there. I know I’m baiting the folks who look up “Tyrant” and “sex” by writing this article, since some of the same tags will be used to define this article. But hopefully, this article gives me back some of the ownership over the Tyrant conversation as it relates to sex and fetish. I felt like I needed to interrupt the cycle.
But, my view of why the article is popular could be absolutely wrong. What do you think about this? Give your opinions in the comments section below.