Mediating Islamic State| The Geopolitics of Television Drama and the “Global War on Terror”: Gharabeeb Soud Against Islamic State
This article examines the television program Gharabeeb Soud (GS), which aired on the Saudi-owned media channel MBC in May and June 2017. Described by MBC as part of a global campaign to counter the group that calls itself Islamic State (IS), GS focuses on the lives of women IS recruits. Analyzing GS’s funding, production, intertextuality, genre, and reception, this article articulates the show as a form of entertainment-education at the intersection of Saudi domestic policy, U.S. foreign policy, and MBC’s transnational market considerations. We find that GS is a new type of “edutainment” that exploits the affordances of television drama to make a geopolitical and multifaceted intervention: The intervention is geopolitical because it targets a transnational nonstate actor like IS. It is multifaceted because it operates strategically to counter the IS narrative, rhetorically to suture Saudi and U.S. agendas, and discursively and affectively in its focus on women. Further, GS highlights the limitation of intentionality in constructing strategic popular communication as the program crosses a red line through its melodramatic portrayal of traumatic, real-world events. The series contributes to communication theory by emphasizing (1) the shifting nature of entertainment-education in the transnational media landscape and (2) the analytical significance of affect in the analysis of popular culture and strategic communication.