Shams’s Parody of Bush: Video Clip as Resistance
When I hear Bush and Cheney keep talking about “getting the job done” in Iraq, the thing that most amazes me is that they don’t know they are laughingstocks in the region. It isn’t just that they are widely hated, or distrusted, or viewed as failures. It is that people are laughing at them. No surge can fix that.
The Arab singer Shams shows her disdain of George W. Bush in an MTV-style video clip that is popular in the Arab world these days. She says, “Hi! How are you?” as a cardboard Bush smiles and raises his shoulders idiotically. “No one is like you,” she adds, “and there certainly aren’t two of you.” She shakes her head in front of a White House stage prop.
Abu Sinan’s reading of the video.
‘I had even forgotten your features, where you had come from, your look. You remind me of some guy I haven’t seen for two years.
I’m not your relative, I’m not your sweetheart.
My aunt and your aunt [women who often arrange marriages in Arab society] have quarreled/become separated. Whether you’ve been hurt by my heart or you’ve fallen in love with me, I refuse you in both cases.
Go buy yourself and get away from me’
Thanks to Natalie for joining in!
As she implies, some of the video is a critique of Westernizing Arabs who go in for superficial imitations of the American lifestyle and ruin their own beauty and authenticity in the process. This kind of parodic critique of the Westernizer is at least 140 years old, going back to comedic dialogues in newspapers of the 1860s. Shams is aware that she could be accused of Westernizing herself, and shows her veiled “double”, presumably authentic self, in a prison mug shot (implying that Bush would lock up any authentic Arabs). There is also a scene where it is implied that the Arab governments are puppets of Bush, and Shams takes delight in snipping the strings.
She sings in front of a sign that says “Democracy.” She chases away confused US troops. She mugs for the camera and does a little belly dance. She has the statue of liberty lady join in the dance. She lies down on the word “Guantanamo,” referring to the allegations of the use of torture there, a counterpoint to the block letters “Democracy” earlier.
It is the oddest thing, but certainly a “resistance” video of a sort.
What is most striking of all is the tone of familiarity and intimacy along with the contempt. Bush has become an Arab leader, like Mubarak or Asad, and is subject to all the same parodying and jokes that they are in the Arab street.
Another straw in the wind is that Shams is Kuwaiti, and Kuwaitis were for a long time the most pro-American Arabs, grateful for having been rescued from Saddam in the Gulf War. Some Kuwaiti op-ed writers have taken strong exception to the video.
And, on the other side of hybridity (all-mixed-up-ness), she has signed a $2 mn contract with an American production company called “Surprise,” after she was abruptly and mysteriously dropped by Rotana.