Foreign Journalists, Can You Stop The Cliche & Poorly Researched Articles About Lebanon?

Dear Foreign Journalists,

We, as Lebanese people, absolutely adore the pride booster injections that you give us whenever you write about Beirut or our country.

In other words, the country gets a massive hard-on whenever you take the time to write an article about Beirut, or about how much of an “exotic” destination for tourism Lebanon is. Many of us (not me, to be honest) rise above the cliche of the articles because we believe they serve the greater good: to show the country in a better light, to show Beirut as a cosmopolitan city, and what have you.

But – and to put this gently – there’s just so much that you can say about a city being a party capital and about a people being party-loving before it becomes not only redundant, but utterly nauseating to read à la “oh look, it’s another one of those articles.”

I know that writing those articles gets you a lot of clicks and attention – blame our clicking-loving-Lebanese-fingers for that, but what needs to be said is the following.

Over the past couple of days, an article by The Telegraph by Ruth Sherlock – a foreign correspondent based in Beirut – has been making the rounds, aptly titled: “War is a million miles away when the Lebanese begin to party.” 

The article started off with a picture of a woman drinking champagne, with the caption indicating that the woman was doing so at a recent election, noting that the most recent election we’ve had was in 2009. But that’s not the “best” part about the picture.

Lebanon Telegraph Article

The author naturally assumed that the woman in question was Christian, because sectarian and religious designations by Western Journalists are perfectly fine when talking about Lebanon.

How is that woman Christian? I guess it’s because she’s unveiled? Because as we all know, there isn’t a single Muslim woman in the country who isn’t veiled. I should get the memo out to my friends. Or is it because she’s drinking alcohol? Because, as we all know there isn’t a single Muslim who happens to be female who likes to drink alcohol in this country? I should also get the memo to my party-loving friends; but please don’t get any ideas about writing articles about alcohol-loving Lebanese-Muslim women, I beseech you.

The article then goes on and on about Lebanon’s love for plastic surgery, because this is not new. What is new, however, is that we – as Lebanese – like to throw extravagant parties worth over $200,000 and weddings worth over $300,000.

I don’t know about you but I, as a Lebanese, currently have $30 in my bank account. Not only does my entire worth not equate $200,000, but I’ve never seen such money in my life before. This is to say that when you talk to an event organizer serving the Lebanese 0.3% in order to get an assessment of the other 99.7%, you are bound to – and forgive my French – fuck up. For reference on Lebanon’s distribution of wealth and why the notion of $200,000 events being the norm is completely erroneous, check the following article.

And because the Lebanese cliché is never really fulfilled without mentioning religion a few dozen times in a 500 word article, The Telegraph article made the very astute observation that Lebanese put sect before country, also known as something my not-yet-born cousin would gladly tell you on any of her sonograms.

The religious cliché also needs a good dose of how communities are segregated into East and West, Christian versus Muslim and how they rarely interact, with the occasional sectarian and probably senile man still living in 1965 who thinks those who pray differently are inherently bad people, although I have to admit the notion is not particularly erroneous among many people of the Lebanese populace, but it’s all very “been-there-done-that” topic wise, especially when name-dropping neighborhoods for their sectarian affiliation, and doing so erroneously; as far as I know, Basta is very Sunni.

Do not, however, and I beseech you again, go into how the Sunni-Shiite conflict of the region is having repercussions on Lebanon because that’s another overdone topic or how precious and vital Lebanon’s Christians are for the region because they, out of all denominations in the country, don’t need their self-worth inflamed any more.

Then, because it’s never an article about Lebanon without mentioning power cuts and how we don’t agree on our history post 1943, The Telegraph article aptly drops those, as if they’re coloring by number. Pastel color green goes into box number 3.

When you want to write an article about Lebanon, please don’t interview a party planner for the 1%, a businessman who is among the 1% and an old man who was probably taken aback by the presence of a foreigner, and was more than willing to blurt out anything, pile up the bunch together and call it an “article.”

I understand that Lebanon is not your target audience in such pieces; but we will be reading them anyway. Similarly, I assume you’d also be appalled if I wrote an article about the United Kingdom and mixed up Scotland with England, or if I wrote an article about New York City and I assumed the entire city is nothing more than Manhattan’s Financial District.

The Telegraph isn’t the only publication to do this. The examples are endless, from the Guardian to the Washington Times. It’s always the same topic over, and over again.

As a rule of thumb, the following headlines are so overdone they’re dead: Lebanon and parties, Lebanon and war, Lebanon and religious diversity, Lebanon and electricity &/or internet, Lebanon and the proximity of the beach to the mountain, Lebanon and skiing plus swimming in the same day, Lebanon and the active presence of Christians.

If you absolutely feel the need to write about any of the aforementioned topics, however, please, please do read the other twenty million articles written in the same vein, and try to give a new perspective, one that local media fails to produce because of the toes they’re afraid of stepping on, and one which both your Lebanese and local readers alike will find refreshing.

PS: The picture of the Church next to the Mosque in Downtown Beirut is a big no-no.

beirut-church-mosque

Best,

A disgruntled reader.

 

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Early Reviews For Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

The Harry Potter series is concluded with the last installment in its movie adaptation set to be released in less than a week’s time and with it a great chapter in the lives of many comes to a conclusion. And if you haven’t done so already, check out 13 Reasons to Love Harry Potter.

For those of us who can’t handle any sort of wait when it comes to Harry Potter, we resort to reading movie reviews before we actually get to see the movie. So I’ve decided to make a spoiler-free compilation of what top critics have said about the new movie so far, soon after its premiere a few hours ago in London.

Reuters write that the final movie is a statistical anomaly in the Harry Potter series since it brings its A-game from start to finish. They say if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you will come out of the movie with a sense of catharsis and a slightly damp handkerchief. They wrote that the movie’s running time of about 130 minutes was too condensed to fit everything that it felt sort of rushed and that this was the only flaw in the movie. The actors and actresses brought their game on and screenwriter Steve Kloves wrote a screenplay that doesn’t dwell on explaining to newcomers as much as it delivers to veterans.

Todd McCarthy from The Hollywood Reporter’s review can be summarized by: “An outstanding capper to the most lucrative film franchise of all time.” He commended the series for giving viewers an astonishing, gripping and exhilarating ending. He spoke about Steve Kloves’ very well-done screenplay as well as the eye-popping visual effects that don’t even need 3D to grab you. The performances of all the actors are actresses was described to be top-notch, saying that the movies have always been spot on with the casting department, hiring the best of the best British actors and actresses. Even the trio Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson get to spread their wings in this one and shine.

Variety’s Justin Chang writes in his review that the end surges ahead with urgency, spell-binding spectacles and overwhelming emotions. At 131 minutes, this is the shortest movie of the series. Why the rush, he asks, since such an ending deserved a longer running time for more catharsis. He expects this installment to garner in more revenue than the series’ most lucrative first movie. He complemented director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves for their work in making this movie better than the first part, making for a more exciting cinematic experience. He says the movie builds up to a great moment which he thinks fails since it doesn’t really capture the magic in Rowling’s universe. But he says that everything is taken to an immaculate standard in the movie, making for a highly satisfying conclusion.

Peter Shaw from The Guardian writes that the Potter saga could have hardly ended on a better note. Saying that previous movies had begun to sag, this final piece brings back the magic to the Potter legend. He says it’s even superior to T.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return Of The King. The spectacle is grand, marvelous and dramatically satisfying, justifying the two-movie split. He says he was on the verge of tears in many moments of the movie to show the immense amount of emotions that this finale held. He said the movie reminded him of the thrill he had watching the first movie 10 years ago.

Grant Rollings from The Sun described the movie as too much to bear. In the good sense that is. When their preview ended, people were wailing in the theatre for the end of such an era. He says that our favorite boy wizard gets the send off he deserves and in glorious 3D to top off the magic. He describes the movie as epic, dizzying and thrilling, even before the movie reaches its long-awaited climax. He says the movie makes brought everything out for this final film but said Daniel Radcliffe could have brought his game up. He concludes his review with “a terrific movie and a great British success story.”

The Dailymail’s Baz Bamigboye found the final installment in the Harry Potter franchise to be more than satisfying. He found it to be thrilling. He watched the movie with child-like wonder, taken away by how much the actors and actresses (especially the trio) grew up over the course of the eight movies. He counted over 1132 names in the ending credit. He says they’re probably out of a job now. But “what a way to go.”

The Telegraph commended director David Yates on making the movie a terrifying spectacle where the central trio does not disappoint and nor do any of the other actors and actresses of the movie. They even believe that screenwriter Steve Kloves fine tunes some of what they described deficiencies of the final book, to grasp the epic feeling instilled in the movie. They say this is “monumental cinema awash with gorgeous tones, and carrying an ultimate message that will resonate with every viewer, young or old: there is darkness in all of us, but we can overcome it. This is not an end. How could it be?”

And since I’ve said over and over again that this movie is looking to be a serious Oscar contender, Emmanuel Levy shared my view in his review, in which he gave the movie a grade of A-. He wrote: the finale does justice to the whole series. And even though Academy Award members are known for their short memory, this movie should be in serious consideration for a multitude of academy awards such as best screenplay for Steve Kloves, best director for David Yates, best supporting actor for Ralph Fiennes in his chills-inducing performance of Lord Voldemort and best picture, as well as a nomination in every technical category.

I’ll be watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in an early Lebanese screening on July 13th and I will review it immediately afterwards. When will you catch this brilliance on screen? It will not disappoint you. After all, how many movies with a unanimous critical approval fail to match their hype? This will not happen with Harry Potter.

And for good measure, watch the trio along with J.K. Rowling saying goodbye to the series at the London Movie Premiere.