Visiting seventeen Muslim countries, Richard Poplak heads out in search of an old Turkish film he’d run across in his youth, all the while wondering how Western pop culture could find its way into the very countries whose governments might otherwise be hostile to the message contained therein. Instead he discovers along his journey that while the West might have helped inspire the creation of similar properties, they are not just imitations, but re-imaginations that speak to some of the very same problems that their societies face through a much more local voice. From the Arabic version of the Simpsons to the Afghanistan kids who love the WWE or the Indonesian death metal scene, the Sheikh’s Batmobile manages to find a lot of humor as it follows the contours popular culture has taken in these countries as people try and express their voices through mediums that reflect their experience. Through this the author’s able to take us into homes that we might not otherwise have access to, and learn about lives rarely seen in Western media.
While his pop culture rhapsodizing can be a little over the top at times, his colorful narrative however is detailed and reveals how mass culture is in fact very malleable, prepared to mutate to the creator’s needs in unexpected ways. Certainly worth the read, even if just to see how the rest of the world consumes their pop culture and what exactly that might look like.