by Paola Cesarini
The story is Turkish, the actors are Turkish, the directors are Turkish, and a Turkish company produced it. However, "The Protector" is a Netflix series with a target audience clearly meant to transcend Turkish borders. By design then, Hakan: Muhafiz not only dilutes several features one might expect from a mainstream dizi, but also brings significant innovations to this genre. It is a tightly compact show containing more action and special effects than traditional Turkish series, but less in terms of character and relationship development. It provides beautiful views of Istanbul and some interesting information on Ottoman history, but it gives relatively little attention to the intricacies of Turkish traditions. Finally, "The Protector" offers the first Turkish language fantasy/superhero cinematic product, but it still features the beloved and familiar dizi themes of honor, loyalty and family.
Some have criticized “The Protector” for attempting to "Westernize" Turkish TV shows. This viewpoint echoes others heard in Europe and elsewhere against the so-called "Americanization" of indigenous cultural production. In this case, however, such criticism is mostly unwarranted. To find inspiration, artists have always transcended political and cultural boundaries. Previous Turkish cinematic productions are no exception. Indeed, what Hakan: Muhaifz does is not very different from what Içerde, Medcezir, Çukur, Cesur ve Güzel, Șeref Meselesi, Çarpișma and other Turkish series have done before. While these take an initial story line from a Western production and expand on it dizi-style, “The Protector” starts with an original Turkish script and develops it with inspiration from classic fantasy sagas such as Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, etc.
True, “The Protector” is definitely faster and shorter than what hard-core dizi viewers would like. And yes, it does in part sacrifice the slow-motion character and relationship development that epitomizes some of the best Turkish series. When all is said and done, however, Hakan: Muhafiz still manages to retain a great deal of Turkish flavor. In addition to offering a glimpse into Ottoman art and history, “The Protector” deals seriously with traditional dizi issues such as: deep family ties, the mixed legacy of tradition, the beauty of innocence and integrity, the complexity of social and generational conflict, the power of love in overcoming adversity, redemption, and even feminine empowerment. Moreover, with three remaining seasons, the series still offers plenty of room to deliver on character and relationship development, as well as tell the full story about Hakan's ancestors, the Immortals, and the Sultan's talisman shirt.
The answer to the original question, then, is a positive one. "The Protector" is definitely Turkish in both content and production. However, it also innovates on the dizi tradition in at least three ways. First, it delivers a Turkish fantasy/superhero series that can withstand comparison with some of the genre's best products. Second, it provides a faster and more compact format, and offers the cast and crew significantly improved working conditions. And third it introduces, in the most authentic way, the wonderful world of Turkish cinema to a sizable global audience increasingly eager to watch good stories from non-Western sources.
@Copyright by North America TEN and Paola Cesarini
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