The Past as a Spectacle: The Magnificent Century

The Past as a Spectacle: The Magnificent Century

Selin Tüzün (Marmara University, Turkey) and Aygun Sen (Marmara University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6190-5.ch011
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Abstract

Television plays an important role in shaping our perception of the past. Popular television fiction selects, alters, and reinterprets the past in order to appeal to a broad audience. The Magnificent Century (2011–present) is one such television drama, which unfolds during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. The show, which is the most expensive Turkish television drama to date, promises its audience a spectacle. It has proven a huge success domestically and as of 2013 has been syndicated in 46 other countries. The show's success has been commodified both officially and unofficially. However, this is not to say that it receives unanimous acclaim, even in Turkey. It has provoked controversy due to the representation both of the period and of Suleiman himself. This chapter reflects on the implications of a historical-fiction television series for the contemporary social and political spheres.
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Introduction

The Magnificent Century (2011– present) is a television drama that unfolds during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. The show, which is the most expensive Turkish television drama to date, promises its audience a spectacle. It has proved a huge success domestically and as of 2013 has been syndicated in 46 other countries. However, its representations of a past epoch have proved controversial. As Douglas Kellner notes, “cultural studies as a diagnostic critique not only engages in ideological appraisal of the texts and spectacles of media culture, but analyzes how they put on display social content, such as hopes and fears, circulate ideological discourses and political positions, and allow a diagnosis of contemporary pathologies, anxieties, political contestation, and ambiguities” (Kellner, 2003, p. 28). As a serialized prime-time drama marketed to a diverse audience, The Magnificent Century selects and alters the past, turning it into spectacle for contemporary viewers. This article explores this transformation and investigates how a piece of popular television fiction has been woven into ongoing public debates about Turkish national identity.

Key Terms in this Chapter

National Identity: A common culture, understanding of the past, and aspiration for the future that binds a group of people together and fosters a sense of belonging to a nation.

History: The reconstruction of past events through the selection, rejection, and interpretation of various accounts that may themselves be in conflict.

Nostalgia: Longing for a particular place or time in the past.

Commodification: The assignment of value to goods, services, signs, etc. according to their capacity for exchange.

Mediated Memory: Representations of the past that are transmitted through media and affect the construction of personal and/or collective memory.

Neo-Ottomanism: An embrace of the Ottoman past that accepts it as a reference point for the present and future. Neo-Ottomanism also encourages engagement with former Ottoman territories to increase Turkey’s political and economic influence in the region.

Magnificent Century: A serialized prime-time television drama, which unfolds during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent.

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