Lebanese Marwan Youssef Wins Star Academy; Arabs Have A Meltdown About It

As blogger Anis Tabet wisely put it, “the year is 2050, and Star Academy is still on TV.”

Yes, it’s become increasingly redundant and unwatchable as it faces competition from more “appealing” shows as The Voice, but here we are and the Lebanese contestant Marwan Youssef just became the second Lebanese to win the show after Joseph Attieh, arguably the show’s most accomplished winner and graduate.

From the town of Obeidat in Jbeil, Marwan is an USEK student in his twenties, and even though I haven’t watched the show, catching up with what he presented over the season on YouTube has shown me that he is immensely talented, and can seriously sing (as can the other 3 finalists).

And since the country had nothing else to worry about over the past week, the ministry of telecommunication slashed voting prices (link) and radio stations as well as LBC led a campaign encouraging people to vote. He ended up getting around 55% of the votes, facing 2 Egyptians and a Tunisian:

But then the drama started.

I inadvertently clicked on the hashtag of the show soon after the announcement of the results only to be inundated by conspiracy theories, a slur of racism, accusations of cheating, mocking of Lebanon and a bunch of other hilarious offerings.

First up there was the news channel speaking about “actual” voting results, except math died in the process.

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 1

What’s sadder is the amount of people believing the numbers and resharing them.

Then there was the Egyptian who knows about our political problems and who figured Star Academy would be the best way to use them:

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 18

There were also those who had a problem with the country to begin with and couldn’t wait for such a thing to happen to express their #TeamAntiLebanon attitude:

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 21

Some were also very confused:

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 7

Egyptian journalists with verified twitter accounts were also not that happy:

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 20

It’s safe to say a lot of people were not happy at all:

There’s a whole lot of those where they came from.

Leave it to a talent show to show exactly how fond Arabs are of each other. We’re all good at playing nice with each other as long as no one’s beating the other country’s participant at a talent show. If that occurs, claws are out. Be afraid Israel, be very afraid!

If a useless singing show on its 11th season can elicit such a reaction, what have we left to the things that actually matter? I almost forgot we are dealing with a thing called the Arab Spring/Winter, and that there’s a little thing called ISIS that exists among us.

In the spectrum of Arab priorities, clearly the participant coming from a small country winning a talent show is ranked up high. It is then that they cry foul and cheating. But when their governments do it to them daily, everyone just hits the snooze button and goes about their days daily. Perhaps we went about these revolutions the wrong way? Maybe the best way would have been to hold a phone voting competition and be done with it?

One thing is clear, however: better math is needed in the land that invented algebra.

Middle Eastern Talent Show Overdose: Star Academy Is Back

Star Academy Arabia

Just when you thought saturation was reached with Arabs Got Talent, The Voice, X Factor Arabia and Arab Idol, Star Academy decides to return to the singing show scene after a two year hiatus, fully-rebranded as Star Academy Arabia.

Casting for the show has started in Jordan and will continue across countries of the region. Lebanon will have its share next week at Monroe Hotel. And to re-assert itself as the most popular of the bunch, its Facebook page – started less than a month ago – already has north of 50,000 likes (link).

A source has told me the show will start this coming October on a yet-to-be-chosen TV station although I think we can assume it won’t be MBC who should have its hands (and schedule) full with both The Voice and Arab Idol. Dutch company Endemol is currently at the helm.

Toni Qahwaji has been tipped off to direct the show. He was a regular when the show aired on LBC in 2011 and earlier.

So in case the other twenty three talent shows weren’t enough to satisfy this apparently incessant need among the public, another one will be launching yet another “winner” to forget about.

I, for one, had thought Star Academy decided to call it off – similar to what happened to the French version – after its last lackluster season. I figured people may have gotten tired of it. It seems I was extrapolating based on what I felt towards these shows now that I’m not thirteen anymore.

I bet these shows have lost track of the participants they can’t wait to make millions off then forget about the moment the season wraps.  I don’t know about you but I’ve lost track after Joseph Attieh.

The Voice is Coming To The Middle East: The Voice Arabia

I spotted the following poster while walking in Gemmayzé yesterday.

Yes! Another talent show imported to the region for insatiable crazed fans.

The Voice, originally a Dutch TV show, was taken up by the US and then many other countries followed suite. Now it’s the Middle East’s turn.

Because between Star Academy, Arab Idol, Arabs Got Talent and many other talent shows that I haven’t heard of, we still have a shortage.

The concept of the TV show from what I gathered is the following: it starts with blind auditions whereby candidates sing to judges who have their backs turned to them. If only one of the judges likes a candidate, he would choose for this candidate to be on his or her team. So each judge builds a team and then the teams go head to head against each other while people vote, obviously.

I have mentioned The Voice on my blog before when I spoke about a Lebanese contestant on the French version of the show. He ended up losing around the quarter finals.

Will you be watching this? Because I surely don’t have time for it.

Star Academy 8: The Season Of Gossip

I am not watching Star Academy 8 and nor do I want to. I watch the occasional prime on a Friday night but that’s pretty much it. The show is now in its eighth season and has been dragged for far too long. Many of the winners have gone into irrelevance, let alone some of the contestants. The show has become a vehicle for those running it to make too much money out of people “voting” and TV ads that bring in millions.

However, it looks like this latest season of the show has one thing that didn’t happen as much in previous seasons: gossip.

It looks like everyone’s talking about everyone else behind their back. How do I know this? Well, last Friday, I was home with my mom when a woman visited us and started telling us about the Syrian contestant Sarah: great voice apparently and horribly impolite. How so? she literally talks about everyone. Apparently, she hates Lebanese contestants (no idea why), she talks about them behind their backs, whenever she sees an opportunity to spur something up, she goes for it. She loves to make people hate each other while she stays on the side. And no one is safe from her.

And apparently there’s another contestant, the Palestinian Layan, who started rumors about one of the Egyptian guys, Karim Kamel, to be gay. Karim has withdrawn from the show on Friday with rumors that his family is suing the show. Now I don’t care if he’s gay or not, he’s simply horrible and the only reason he survived on the show was his country bringing him back every single time he was nominated for eviction. But don’t you think it’s horrible to start rumors about someone being gay when millions are watching?

Moreover, the show has been seeing such flagrant voting manipulation that it’s absurd. Since when does a Lebanese candidate beat a Saudi in voting? And not just by a small margin but by a considerable few percentage points! The look on the Lebanese girl’s face when she saw the results was priceless even though she ended up losing a few minutes afterwards. How did she end up losing? the students who vote publicly for the student they would like to keep are seated in such a way that those who have not made up their minds would vote to bring forth a tie, ultimately damaging a candidate over the other. The Lebanese contestants were placed first, the girl was given a lead and then crashed out of the show.

So yeah, maybe Star Academy should simply call it quits after this season. I mean seriously, when a singing TV show reverts to gossip and rumors to increase ratings, you know something’s wrong, especially when they have great talents that they need to focus on, including the Syrian girl Sarah. Until then, the Egyptian guy Karim will have those rumors, true or not, chase him till God knows when and viewers who have nothing else to do will still be entertained by a show getting useless by the minute.

The Nakba

Gebran Khalil Gebran wrote in “The Prophet”:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Imagine this quote being applied to something more concrete than a human soul… imagine this quote being applied to your land.

Your land is not your land. It does not belong to you.

There is nothing harder than having no home – only a transient house, or even a tent, where you sleep the night, worrying what the following day brings.

Some people have been worrying about that issue precisely – where to sleep – for more than sixty years. I am not appealing to any political reason, only humanitarian common sense. There’s a people who has had their land swept away from beneath their feet on the premise that this land does not belong to them, whose homes got ripped to shreds because they were built on a land that was not “theirs” and who are in limbo just because they were the victims of wrong place, wrong time circumstances.

The Palestinian people, and I do not mean its political figures (because those are as rubbish as garbage goes), are a collection of human beings whose lives have been torn apart by years of them being in the middle of a conflict they chose not to be part of.

I shall not go into the history of how they lost their land. After all, the history is well known (Balfour promise, etc…). But the sad thing is how this people is portrayed today: a collection of terrorists voting terrorists to fight those who are good, aka, Israelis.

Sure, the Palestinians have had their share of mistakes. They sought out a country where a country was already built and they have constantly failed to get themselves represented in the best possible way. Arafat? Abbas? Seriously?

But there’s more to the conflict than what ABC, CBS and Fox share with their viewers. There are people who are the victims of massacres against them on daily basis, whose children are used as bullet pillows and whose souls are being hammered with missiles. I firmly believe the holocaust has happened. Whether the number of Jews who died is ten million or one million, it doesn’t mean they were not ruthlessly exterminated at one point. But you’d think going through that ordeal would deter you from wanting to inflict it on another people. Not true, obviously.

I do not advocate equaling the holocaust with what’s happening in Palestine today. But I feel the human life has become of so little value in some areas of the world, it’s sickening.

However, the Arab Nakba (which translates as catastrophe) does not stop with Palestine. Arab countries are infested with dictators who kill their people ruthlessly without caring and who limit freedom, in spite of protests demanding for their basic right to speak.

The Arab Spring, which is also the name analysts have called the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, is slowly turned into another Nakba. Why? Sectarian clashes in Egypt against the Coptic population, just for them wanting to remain Christian in their country. Copts face daily discrimination, having to ask state permission to build churches and must indicate their religious affiliation on their ID cards.  Their schools were nationalized by the government in the 1950’s and over the last several decades they have witnessed terrible massacres. This past weekend witnessed two churches being burned and several dead. And yet, people in the Arab world have turned a blind eye on them and their suffering mean while constantly bemoaning about discrimination against Arabs. Not to mention what has happened to Assyrians and Chaldeans in Iraq, half of whom have fled for their own safety. And no it was not American troops who drove them out.

Add to that rioting in Tunisia that is knowing no end. The Libyan revolution dying a painful and agonizing death amidst an international silence that knows no limit. A Syrian revolution attempt that is the victim of people simply not caring anymore and a Yemeni revolution that’s the victim of them being so geographically distant that they have become also distant from attention.

It doesn’t help as well that the population in the Gulf suddenly got preoccupied with watching Star Academy and counting their oil millions again.

Yes, the Arab Nakba doesn’t stop with Palestine, although they are the bigger victims in it. It’s the story of a whole region of the world that allows itself to be degraded with time by incompetent rulers, indulgent people and hypocrisy without limit. The next time you protest against Israel ask yourself. Do I believe in equality in my own home? Have I treated one of my own citizens differently based on ethnicity or sect? Are people in my own state suffering because they are religiously or ethnically different? Next time you march or protest ask yourself these questions.

And quoting Gebran Khalil Gebran again,

Pity the nation that raises not its voice
save when it walks in a funeral,
boasts not except among its ruins,
and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
between the sword and the block.
Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
whose philosopher is a juggler,
and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.
[…]
Pity the nation divided into into fragments,
each fragment deeming itself a nation.
PS: Thanks to Paul Gadalla for his input in this post.

Some Arabs Need To Get A Grip On Their Egos

I stumbled upon a very interesting article online yesterday, written by Robert Fisk, that discussed mainly how the “Arab Awakening” did not start with Tunisia in December 2010 but with Lebanon in March 2005.

So I shared this article via my twitter page with my friend Ali, whom I knew believed in the idea the article discussed.

Soon enough, I started to receive tweets about how we, as Lebanese, have a false sense of grandeur, how we are “insecure buffoons”, how our pride blinds us, how we claim fake glory, how Lebanon inspires no one, etc…

I wouldn’t naturally reply to such things, but I did reply, only to get even worse tweets about how we, as Lebanese, are basically nothing.

Even some of the comments on some YouTube videos online basically say how ridiculous Lebanon is to run a show like Star Academy while the region is busy running revolutions.

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