AlRawabi School for Girls: Controversy Amongst Arabs
ALRawabi School For Girls. Photo: IDBM
By: Anthony Bayyouk / Arab America Contributing Writer
The new Netflix series AlRawabi School For Girls nicknamed the “Arab mean girl” is about a prestigious school in Jordan. In the school, there is a group of mean girls that are always bullying their classmate Mariam played by ( Andria Tayeh) who is the main character. Eventually, Mariam has had enough and needs to get revenge. The series focuses on Mariam and how she ruins her bully’s life possibly leading to death. I don’t want to spoil anything but Mariam does get her revenge.
The writers of the six-episode series Shirin Kamal and Tima Shomali, focus on honor killings and violence against women in Jordan. Shirin Kamal has most notably written and produced AlRawabi school for girls. She has also written other famous Netflix series for example Kamal was on the writing team for Madam President, An american Netflix series about a woman president. Kamal is known for working on shows about women’s struggle and empowerment.
The plot of the series focuses on bullying and the reaction it can cause, it also focuses on how women are treated when it comes to relationships with men in the Arab World. The girls in the show are forced to lie to their parents and teachers about their whereabouts. If these girls were caught they could face physical abuse from their families. The series also ties this into family prestige, and how families in Jordan try to keep their reputation pure. They don’t want any family issues to be talked about amongst the community.
School life in the Middle East and America can be very similar. This is shown through one similarity, bullying. Layan the bully, is always getting away with what she does, because of who her father is. Which is also a very big problem in the Middle East. Family name, prestige, and money sometimes take precedence over what is right. In the show, the principal does nothing to stop Layan from bullying because her father is an important man in the community. Critics of the show challenged this because it made the Jordanian people look corrupt and immoral.
Since the release of the show, there has been a lot of controversy about the way Jordanian culture, costumes, beliefs, and women’s rights are represented. This is not the first time a Jordanian Netflix show has been criticized for its display of Jordanian society. In 2019 the Jordanian Netflix series Jinn, which revolves around the life of students in Jordan. In the show, the students take a trip to Petra where one of the students is possessed by a jinn ( demon ). And the whole series is about trying to free their friend from the jinn and it also includes high school drama. The controversy is about one charter being shown kissing two different guys in separate scenes. The series was not approved for a second season because of this.
It is not wrong to say the people of Jordan are religious and modest. All over the Arab World, each nation holds modest values and it is part of the Arab culture. The Arab World is modernizing and changing to be more open to new ideas. The people who regulate what can be seen and not seen on TV want to preserve those old values. That is why shows like Jin and AL Rawabi do not see a second season.
One line that stood out to me holds a lot of weight in the Arab world for women. When one of the charters is caught sending a picture of herself without her headscarf to a boy. Her mom tells her “A girl’s reputation is all she has,” “It’s like glass. If it breaks, you can’t put it back together,” I feel this does not only pertain to Arab women but to all the people in the world. Our reputation is fragile and even if you fix it after it’s been broken it will never be the same.
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