I have been coming across her image on huge billboards along the sideways, on the public buses and on the facade of high rise buildings for the last few months. She was looking straight into our eyes with a seductive smile and slightly parted lips lying on her side with a package of potato chips in her hands. The slogan was “bir atımlık çıtır” in Turkish which can be read in a double meaning, one as “one shot of crunchy roll” or with an intended sexual innuendo as “a girl (‘chick’ actually) for one night stand”. The girl on the billboards was Beren Saat, the actress who got famous with the last season’s TV hype, Aşk-ı Memnu. Initially I thought she was just cashing in on her part in the serial with that 750 thousand dollar worth of chips commercial. But I was wrong. The entertainment industry obviously could not get enough of her.
This television season’s big hit is “What’s Fatmagül’s Fault?” (Fatmagül’ün Suçu Ne?) airing on popular TV channel, Kanal D. Guess who the leading character is. After being presented as the one night stand chips girl for months, there she was in a role where she was being gang raped. In fact the powerful script about the class and gender issues and about how rich kids can get away with rape belongs to Vedat Türkali and adapted to screenplay in 1986. At the time, the movie version, played by Hülya Avşar and directed by Süreyya Duru had got good reviews. However, this time the script and the image of Beren Saat were in the hands of the greedy television producers where ratings meant everything to them.
The ratings of the serial hit the ceiling especially with the gang rape scene at the end of first episode. After airing on television, hundreds of thousands of people clicked on and watched this scene on the Internet. The scene was long (4 minutes), disturbing and quite graphic for the television. In my opinion, the problem with this scene is twofold. First, this horrific act was portrayed and sensationalized as a way of normal sexual relationship. In this way, it fed the rape fantasy of our already sexually-starved male population. The print and visual media had already created a hype about the rape scene weeks in advance. They even compared the “acting performances” of Hülya Avşar and Beren Saat in that scene. In other words, this important social problem lost its significance in the midst of a media circus. The scene was repeated over and over again without any context on television turning the sexual violence into a profitable act getting commercials in between. Overall, the scene was used as a satisfaction of a sick male fantasy instead of highlighting a repulsive criminal act and its social consequences and as a result the whole issue became hollow. Secondly, the voyeuristic urges of the Turkish men who watched the gang rape scene on the web as pornographic material should be discussed from a sociological perspective.
Anyway, I wonder what would Beren Saat’s next television or commercial project be. But on second thought, I really don’t want to know.