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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Turkish Double Standards

Editorial by Mark Mayhey reporting from London, UK

Grown up in the heathen lands of northern Europe, coming to maturity in the Sodom and Gomorrah-like streets of Istanbul; Tarkan hasn't yet managed a prolonged wow factor on the international music scene, but still manages to catapult legions of fans to converge at his famed live concerts; and worse still to outsiders he possibly reflects the cream of Turkish society.

For those that think this way in the Turkish celebrity press, there is no easier target than Tarkan.

Getting personal

Tarkan satirised on TV comedy show Koca KafalarThe Turkish hunk suffers heavy criticism as a musician. He has been torn apart by critics, satirists and comedians in his home country for his performances that have wowed the millions, until - if you read nothing but the Turkish papers - you'd believe his career lay in tatters. But, trawl through the press junk and you'll find out that's all it is.

One such example is the treatment of his private life. He has been slated for his views on marriage, which in a traditional society like Turkey, he should be applauded for the courage with which he speaks his mind.

Tarkan is probably the best advocate for family planning in the Turkish entertainment industry, yet his relationship suffers the constant strain of press-induced speculations, which are then generated into questions thrown at him to answer when caught by the press.

Similar to Hollywood's Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Tarkan constantly dismisses the fact that he and Bilge haven't yet tied the knot, because as we in the West know "it's very easy to get married, but it's not easy to build a family," (as Ms Jolie reportedly says).

Making the headlines

The Turkish tabloid's dull hammer of injustice comes down on Tarkan continuously, because it can easily be used as a headline grabber. When a fallen Turkish star wants to grab the headlines, there is no "quick fix" more obvious than to take Tarkan to task over something or other.

This can be seen clearly in the latest Tarkan-bashing article to do the rounds, where a Turkish musician is claiming that Tarkan's career is like a "horror story" and he will be wiped away in a few years time.

I just get the feeling that I've heard it all before.

Overlooking Tarkan's successes, while pushing the "perceived" successes of others, highlights the double standard applied to the music artist, too.

While the press stayed silent about the fact that Tarkan had managed to release an album in 2007 that managed platinum sales in seven days (highlighted with crystal-clear clarity in Ali Yildirim's article), when another artist, Ferhat Göçer, reached the same amount over a considerably longer period in 2008, it made the headlines.

That this singer was also once tainted by the scandal of allegedly having purchased a stock load of his own albums to boost his sales has been conveniently forgotten by his domestic patrons in the press. Moreover that Göçer, with the accumulated sales of all his albums to date, has not managed to tally a total to match the sales of even one of Tarkan's previous albums has gone by unmentioned, too.

Ignorance helps

There was a time when fans would be spitting with rage at each ridiculous swipe in Tarkan's direction, but take a wander through the Turkish forums of the Tarkan fan community and even they mock the Turkish pop star, notably for the recent private performances he has given.

Yet, why should this be demeaning to a celebrity? R&B star Usher performed a private gig for millionaire Andrew Michael, where the American singer was paid £50,000 to perform at Mr Michael's girlfriend's 26th birthday at London's Paper club, while British singer Amy Winehouse performed an exclusive gig at a Moscow art gallery for Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich and his girlfriend Daria Zhukova.

As he has always been, Tarkan is just the Turkish example of the way we do things in the West, and most that ridicule him, do so out of ignorance.

Bring on the critics

Screen-shots from NR1TV
Tarkan laid back; during the filming to music video "Arada Bir"
As far as I am concerned, the yellow journalists in the Turkish press are more than welcome to rail against Tarkan.

The reason? I actually think that people who put Tarkan in the firing line are increasingly doing him a favour.

Every little piece of misinformation, every gossip, every detail that's wrong, every manipulation of the truth is now being increasingly processed by a fan community that can get closer to the truth with Tarkan Deluxe.

The Turkish press still pushes out cheap and uncontested headlines - with some journalists even having the cheek to question the star about speculations they've conjured up whenever they get a chance to talk to him at the airport - but with every bit of dirt it throws, it loses a little more ground.

As the fan community becomes more informed, it's increasingly Tarkan-savvy; they will stop taking as read the ridiculous "judgement day" bleatings of the media over the supposed failings or predicted downfall of Tarkan.

Indeed, for the Internet generation this kind of idiocy, and the well-deserved suspicion it receives, does more good to Tarkan (and harm to his critics) than any publicity campaign by the artist's PR team could ever do.

The artist just needs to make sure that his own official channels don't aid in the confusion, but act swiftly to quell potentially damaging rumours churned out by the press.

Information about music video Arada Bir from Tarkan's official siteFor example, the information about Tarkan's third music video "Arada Bir" ran by most press channels was taken from Tarkan's official site, where the press vultures immediately pounced on the part that said Tarkan used a double during filming.

Imagine the headlines: "Tarkan too frightened to film own video, stunt double used". But watch music station NR1TV's Tarkan Weekend programme and the filming to "Arada Bir", you'll know that Tarkan did all his own moves, with a stunt crew there for other purposes.

Tarkan may not use a stunt double, but he sure knows about double standards.

Dealing with double standards

There will, depressingly, always be a market for the sensationalist headline, but increasingly the media are finding that people are less willing to swallow their cheap stories – which means that every time that these cheap plots are used it makes people think a little bit harder about what they believe.

And with Tarkan taking most of the rubbish thrown at him on his well-chiselled-unshaved chin - with a growing level of maturity - it can only make him better.

For the artist has shown throughout the years that music will always be his coping mechanism when faced with prejudice and adversity.

Ultimately he knows that sometimes music is the only thing that makes sense, and to fight his demons, he'll just sing louder.

The views in this article are those of the author alone.
Read more Mark Mayhey articles on Tarkan >>

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