CleanFlicks Syria

American movies and television programs shown throughout most of the Middle East are edited for content (usually sexual content). The censors couldn’t care less about violence or profanity (though they usually clean up the latter in the Arabic subtitles), but anything remotely sexual has to go.

We have three satellite channels that broadcast English-language programming, all of them originating from the United Arab Emirates. The selection of shows varies from non-stop movies (on MBC 2) to sitcoms (Friends, Seinfeld, and a few obsolete programs that America doesn’t show anymore), talk shows (Oprah, The View), and dramas (24, ER) on MBC 4 and OneTV. We recently enjoyed watching Shakespeare in Love – originally rated R for sexuality, in a purely PG format, courtesy of MBC 2’s censors.

But we’ve also noticed a difference in standards between the three channels. MBC 2 and MBC 4 allow a limited amount of kissing. The kiss at the end of You’ve Got Mail was shown, but shortened. They also allowed a couple of pecks to slip by on Titanic. But on OneTV, the standards are stricter. We saw parts of A Walk in the Clouds and couldn’t believe how much they edited it. Even for potentially small kisses, the two main characters’ heads weren’t allowed to come within six inches of each other! Except – we did notice that later in the movie, after the two characters had gotten married, they were allowed a greater degree of familiarity.

The methods for cutting such indiscretions from the film vary. MBC 2 usually puts the preceding or following scene in slow motion so as not to disturb the soundtrack. Sometimes, they focus on a different part of the frame for the duration (in You’ve Got Mail, it was the dog at Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s feet). OneTV, on the other hand, favors a clean cut. They don’t seem to care about the soundtrack at all and just jump to the next scene unceremoniously.

Now, if they could only edit out the violence…

Sasha's first photo op

English muffins and cottage cheese