By Mohamed Mifdal - El Jadida
By Mohamed Mifdal – El Jadida
As Ramadan was approaching, Moroccan people certainly remembered the unprecedented success of a comedy series during last year’s Ramadan, namely L’couple and looked forward to watching its second edition.
They seem to agree on the exceptional quality of the series and often wonder about the reasons behind this exception. A lot of writers and critics have attempted to give plausible accounts of the success, each from a different standpoint. This article contributes to the ongoing debate about the quality of comedy series and sit-coms in Ramadan by focusing more on the cultural and aesthetic aspects of comedic productions. This focus might provide plausible reasons for the success of L’couple by bringing to light related hidden factors that are deeply embedded in our Moroccan identity and culture.
Most critics agreed on the following points:
1- The series owes basically its success to the idea of the series, the scenario and the performance.
2- The subject of the series is realistic as it gives a true representation of an existing (unequal) social relation between a domineering sly husband and an intelligent patient wife in an original rural setting.
3- The comedy in the series is light, funny, accessible and enjoyable.
4- The comedy in L’couple is of a better quality than other series and sit-coms which, it is claimed by most critics, produce cheap banal laughter.
Other factors can also be added to the list like the short (three-minute) running time of the series and the good reputation of the two actors. By and large, L’couple has been described as a “respectful comedy” producing “real laughter” and dealing with serious topics. This popular and critical acclaim was thoroughly deserved; the series hit the headlines for some time and was watched on You Tube and Facebook by millions of people. Moroccan people embraced it with relish, including may-be those who are potential targets of the series. This article examines the success of the series from a cultural and aesthetic point of view.
From a cultural perspective, the series draws on the stock character of the rogue to represent and criticize the patriarchal system and its abuse of power against women. The figure of the domineering husband represented by Kappour is set against the figure of the subordinated wife represented by Chaaibia. Cunning, sly but funny, the character of Kappour is delineated in a way as to highlight the abuse of social power he represents and pillory it via a string of humorous situations. The intelligence Kappour displays is the intelligence of the common man who tries to keep the woman subjugated to his power but fails to manipulate her to that end. Chaaibia adopts a survival stance and accepts her status as a housewife; however, she resists Kappour’s manipulation, lies and tricks and fights back by exposing and poking fun at them.
The couple represents original types in the Moroccan traditional society where the man holds authority over the woman and makes her systematically disadvantaged and oppressed. Women internalize patriarchal values and accept subordination but their instinctive intelligence tells them that something is wrong with this system. Chaaibia plays this enlightening role of resistance and critique and gains much sympathy from the audiences thanks to the intelligent humor that the series generates and shares with the public.
The overall feel of the series is humorous and critical as it satirizes the inner workings of the patriarchal system through the portrayal of the daily life of a Moroccan elderly couple in a rural context. Many of the best jokes or funny situations in the series come from the sort of the relationships that might crop up in any Moroccan family. Because the target of satire is the system that Kappour represents, his character is delineated as roguish, manipulative and absurd. The humor derives from the mockery of his everyday behavior and conversation with his wife. He produces a hollow absurd discourse that fulfills a desire to talk for the sake of talking rather than promoting communication or generating meaning. His continuous search for a plausible reason to have a medical operation, though he is not ill at all, is a case in point. Another example is his hypothetical talk about irrelevant issues which shocks and perplexes his wife. The absurdity that characterizes his daily talk serves to deride a system that supports the inequality within the family and the whole society and forces the woman to endure male domination that the series describes as unjustified.
Nevertheless, the character of Kappour is humorous and funny, which makes him a sympathetic figure. The humor that the series generates and uses for critical ends is not exclusive but insists on correcting the system rather subverting it. It can be argued that this inclusive humor is a kind of critique of the culture we live by, and it is thus a corrective self-mockery that includes everyone in the laugh. As for Chaaibia, her humor is light, intelligent, purposeful and at times indignant. She is more concerned with exposing Kappour’s absurdity, roguishness and manipulation. Her resistance to male domination is done through a daily disillusioned comic reaction to the Kappour’s absurdities. She reacts, for instance, to his lies to his daughter to get more money from her, namely his urgent need to have his ‘mouth’ (dentures) fixed by a dentist, by telling him: “you don’t need to have your ‘mouth’ fixed but you have to keep it shut”. Chaaibia seems intent on curbing Kappour’s tendency to fully exploit his authority as a male over herself and their daughter.
What is so striking about this series is the gender identification of the audience with the two characters. On the one hand, the blind solidarity of the male audience with Kappour cracks under the subtle power of humor and is converted gradually into a critical dialogue with the self and the culture that supports male domination over women. On the other hand, women stand by Chaaibia and enjoy laughing at Kappour because humor releases the inhibited feeling of resentment towards such domination and relieves them of the related tension.
L’couple has been a success because its humor is inclusive, self-mocking, and corrective, and uses different modes of derision, mostly wit, irony, pun and parody, which appeals to audiences from different social backgrounds.
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