We've all seen them: Hollywood superhero blockbusters where the protagonist is a two-dimensional cardboard cutout, a shallow reflection of what makes a real hero a model of inspiration to begin with. All too reliant on presenting a spectacle to dazzle the eyes and the ears, these productions bombard us with imagery, ideas, and mediocre writing - in lieu of a fully drawn character who embodies the virtues, behavior and soul of the archetypal hero. Quite often we don't know what we've been missing in these portrayals until we see one that satisfies on multiple levels. So when we come across such a champion as we have in the Turkish television show Dirilis: Ertugrul (Resurrection: Ertugrul), you know we're going to celebrate it.

In this week's MindMatters we discuss why the epic Resurrection: Ertugrul is not only one of the most successful foreign television shows ever made - but how its protagonist, 13th-century Turkish tribal leader Ertugrul, may be taken as a hero for people of all faiths. Wildly popular in the Muslim world, you don't need to be a Muslim to appreciate or enjoy this mythologized re-telling of the legends surrounding his life. Ertugrul embodies all the traits of a real hero: honor, integrity, justice, intelligence, devotion, compassion, mercy, humility, and overall epic badassery. The show itself portrays traditional values, spiritual realities, universal problems, individual and group strengths and weaknesses - and the ever-present cosmic battle of good and evil. At a time when truly good heroic stories are in short supply we look at why this 'non-Western' story fits the job description that we are looking for in works of fiction.

Running Time: 01:22:06

Download: MP3 — 75.2 MB

Here is the transcript:

Harrison: Today on Mind Matters we're going to talk about stories, specifically modern narratives that we can find in TV movies, novels too. There's a tendency to depict what I'd call the dark aspects of human nature and of course that can provide for some great material but sometimes I think that darkness kind of overshadows the light. What I mean specifically by that is what I see as an extreme cynicism in the portrayal of humans and the characters that we see in the movies. It's not just cynicism and darkness, there's also a trend to what I consider relatively one or two dimensional characters with very shallow emotions, shallow characters and shallow personalities.

This isn't true across the board. There are plenty of great characters if you look for them but still there seems to be a trend over the past five or 10 years, maybe longer, that I think is rooted partly in the attempt for higher and higher degrees of realism because we don't want to present rosy, perfect people. We want to show them with all their flaws and make them totally human and totally relatable even though really most characters that you see in movies and TV shows aren't relatable at all. They're usually in entirely different circumstances and you're looking at some of the most beautiful people on the face of the planet.

So there's a weird kind of disconnect where characters are supposed to be relatable but at the same time there's something about them that is unattainable. On the one hand, they're not supposed to be that one in a million person, what I mean is a hero, a person with a really strong character like one of those people who is the admiration of everyone that knows him or her. That's a very rare person. So they say, "Those people are rare. We don't want to show those people. We want to show real people with very apparent flaws." But they're showing them, again, with a Hollywood actor who is also a one in a million just in a different category.

So you have these primarily extremely beautiful people playing extremely flawed or shallow characters that don't really have much depth to them so it makes for a weird combination. But the main thing that strikes me is those two features. There is a realism bordering on cynicism, that humans are total crap with no redeeming qualities, but when there are redeeming qualities I wouldn't say they're very often redeeming. It's more of the super hero variety where you have a heroic character who has the depth of a shallow puddle you'd step in going to work. Did you want to say something Elan.

Elan: I was just thinking thimble. The problem with the presentation of heroes in cinema and in fiction and in TV shows would seem to be that they are these unattainable figures that are outside of the realm of what we would normally experience in terms of interacting with normal people. By the same token, the hero is this archetype after all and is the hero precisely because this figure or character has aspired to presumably fighting evil and injustice on another level which elevates their being or should elevate their being to our experience of them in the story. If they're not exactly relatable in most of the normal ways then they become these figures to aspire to in their courage, in their perspectives, in their ability to see the larger picture that perhaps those characters that they're surrounded by don't see.

Along these lines, we've not so recently come across a program, a Turkish television show called Dirilis Ertuğrul which is a program that has pretty much taken the Islamic world and Pakistan and other countries of Asia by storm. It's a historical drama, a heroic journey, if you will, that follows this character Ertuğrul who lives in the 13th century and is the head of or one of the heads of a tribe of Turkish nomads and herdsmen who recognizes all of the injustice that's being perpetrated on his and other tribes in the form of Crusaders and Mongols and even characters within his own tribe who are aspiring to positions of power and who are ruthless in their deceptions and in their attempts to gain power at the expense of everyone around them.

We've been watching this program for some time now. It is I think successful in our minds, not because we identify with the espoused religion, Islam per se, but that Islam has become, in the context of this show and the values that are conveyed through it, an almost universal value which is tradition and protecting one's own and serving justice and fighting for those who are being oppressed by these incredibly dark forces that are constantly encroaching on the group.

So that's a little bit of an introduction. We could say more about that and what we like about the show.

Adam: As you were saying, there's a whole lot of good that it does and to go into what Harrison was talking about, as a juxtaposition of Ertuğrul against the backdrop of western cinema, it's very different in a lot of cultural aspects but also just in the value system. They don't go into the cynical - I don't know if it's a postmodernist thing, if that's being the driving influence in western cinema or if it's something else - but instead of having the hyperrealism bordering on cynicism as the backdrop of the story, the story is about truth and it's about seeking truth and staying on the righteous path. That's the whole struggle of Ertuğrul and his tribesmen; trying to stay on the righteous path to relieve the suffering of the oppressed who are being oppressed by these Mongolians and Templars and even other Muslims who are trying to seek power for their own sake.

I like how they do this. Each of the bad guys, each one of them has essentially said, "I want this power" but then they'll also say, "Because it's for the good of the tribe. It's for the good of..."

Harrison: For the greater good.

Adam: "For the greater good, I must be in total power and rule over everyone because I'm great and wonderful and it will be great for everyone" when really it's all about themselves. But they still pay lip service to this greater good, which is what leaders are supposed to be doing, which is seeking to do the greater good. So it's an interesting contract and I think it's really good and it works really well. Like James Corbett was saying, the most powerful weapon in the world is narrative.

I think that's true and I think it really shows through in Ertuğrul because he has this story and narrative of how he really is and he really does believe it, because he's sacrificing his own ego and everything else to do what's best for his tribe and his clansmen and for the greater Turkmen tribes of the area. I think it's great and you should totally watch it. {laughter}

Harrison: Yeah. I want to relate this back to this trend in the western narratives. Like I said right at the top, I don't have anything against the cynicism per se or the hyperrealism. I'd love a show like The Wire for instance. I thought it was really well done. But I think there's an imbalance going on because on the one hand you have this hyperrealism. It's almost like a telescopic or microscopic view of human flaws essentially and all the things that are wrong with us. I think that can serve a purpose and within a story like that where you have these totally flawed characters, when they make a good choice, it's like a mini-moment of heroism and that's a good thing and it's fun to watch, it's enjoyable to watch. There are moments where you experience this inner uplifting and release of emotion that wouldn't happen without those circumstances to set it up.

But on the other hand, I think every culture also needs a highly idealized story. In the western world what we have for those these days is comic book movies with superheroes. Even though pretty much all the big blockbusters are Hollywood superhero movies and dozens of them come out a year it seems like, those are the ones I'd categorize as extremely shallow. Even the heroic characters in them are shells of human beings. They're just placeholders. They're cardboard cutouts.

I might lose some likes for saying it, but I really don't like most of the Marvel movies. I think they're kind of enjoyable, some of them, as popcorn entertainment. But I think most of the characters are total crap except - nerd aside - the ones I do like are actually the comedy ones, the funnier ones like Guardians of the Galaxy. I think those characters work better in a comedic setting because when you try to put them in serious situations, like a lot of the Marvel movies, like the Avengers movies, you have these ridiculous characters trying to act like serious human beings and it just doesn't work because they're ridiculous superheroes and their biggest emotional conflicts are, "Oh, something's in my way and I can't get what I want. So now I'm sad. I'm a sad superhero now and I'm a depressed, sad, mad superhero."

Then the obstacle gets moved away and now they're flexing their arms and they're doing their thing. That's pretty much the extent of the conflict. There are no actual deep, emotional things going on with these characters. They pretty much have some contrived obstacle in front of them and that's their conflict and that's it, which doesn't really lead to that uplifting feeling. The most uplifting feeling I get watching a superhero movie may be a well-shot battle scene - and most of them aren't even well shot - but it looks like a comic book. "Oh they're well framed and they're all moving and doing this choreographed move and it's fun to look at but there's nothing really to it. There aren't really any stakes.

So we have this imbalance with the hyper-focused cynicism and flawed human nature next to this idealized but stereotyped and shallow portrayal of an ideal of a hero and whatever positives in the cynical view aren't balanced out by the positives in the heroic view because the heroes are not really heroes.

Whereas if you look at what I think is one of the greatest heroes in all of literature is Odysseus. Odysseus is a total badass but he's totally human at the same time. You see his flaws but you also see his depth and you see the conflicts and the sacrifices and his craftiness. He's got so many qualities, characteristics and features and at the same time he is a superhero. The science fiction author Dan Simmons wrote his version of the Iliad and the Odyssey called Ilium and Olympos and Odysseus plays a role in there and he's a character. He's just a total badass. He's a great character.

So western civilization has amalgamated and taken over ancient Greek tropes and characters but we haven't really followed through on the promise of that. I'm not saying it's been like that for thousands of years because we have had great stories and real heroes but they seem to be lacking today.

So coming back to Ertuğrul, there's something there that is lacking. We talked about Robin Collingwood in previous shows, a British philosopher, and he's got a book called Principles of Art which I quoted on a previous show. He's one of my favourite philosophers just because he's a great thinker and I like the way he breaks things down. But in his study on art, he wants to define what is and isn't art. After hundreds of pages of hard thinking, he breaks down the categories of what people might ordinarily consider art into different things. One art is of course the one he's defining but he distinguishes that from something he calls magic, I believe. Magic would be fairy tales, myths and legends. That is the category into which I think superheroes should fit but I don't think they're fulfilling the role that they should in a culture.

Then you look at Ertuğrul and I think that Ertuğrul fulfils that. He's kind of like the King Arthur or the Odysseus of present day Turkish culture and I say present day Turkish culture because I'm talking about Ertuğrul in this TV show. Of course there are legends about the real Ertuğrul but no one really knows much of anything concrete about the real Ertuğrul who lived 800 years ago.

Elan: He has been mythologized.

Harrison: Yeah, he's been totally mythologized. So I think the first legends of Ertuğrul were only written 200 years after his death or something like that. And they utilize some of those legends from the official sources from those 200 years later in creating the narrative of the show, but Ertuğrul in the show really is entirely the creation of the writers of the show so they've got a free hand to do pretty much whatever they want with him and create a totally awesome, badass character who checks all the boxes of what a hero should be.

I don't know if that's why we lack a hero. The people who should be tasked with that role in English-speaking culture just haven't managed to do so, maybe because they don't think it's worthwhile. This is where postmodernism might come into play. I'm going to go on a little sidebar here about modern writers.

Elan: Maybe before you do that Harrison, because you made a lot of good observations there that I would just like to flesh out a little bit before the sidebar gets pursued. You were talking about the superhero genre of movies and the Marvel movies in particular and I would just add that it's all about the spectacle. All of the character developments that we see in these movies are all designed or written to facilitate the big action sequence which is fun as far as it goes but has the depth of a thimble. It's like cotton candy. It's good for about three seconds and then the empty calories set in and you can't take much of anything away from it except perhaps the visual or how cool that looked.

You mentioned the Odyssey and the Iliad in particular. One of most impressive features to me about those books is the intervention or interaction of the gods with Odysseus and the main characters. The gods were interacting. Pallas Athena is on Odysseus's side despite all of his travails, and he goes through a number of journeys and struggles. At one point he's on the island - I forget the name of the island - but he's basically seduced by one of the characters there and he's there for TEN YEARS trying to get back home to his wife and son.

But Pallas Athena is constantly in the background doing what she can to facilitate his journey and what's in him to do. Similar to Ertuğrul, something we haven't really gotten into yet, is his fascinating interaction with Ibn 'Arabi. Just an interesting backstory here. When we were researching the Unlimited Mercifier, Stephen Hirtenstein's book about Ibn 'Arabi some months ago, Harrison, you were looking for YouTube information on Ibn 'Arabi and that's how we came across Ertuğrul because there was this little dramatization.

So you have this great mystic, spiritual figure, Ibn 'Arabi, who has no small part to play in Ertuğrul's journey. He is this intermediary, this holy assistant to Ertuğrul.

Harrison: Like his Merlin.

Elan: Yes! That's a good analogy. Through Ertuğrul's humility, through his prayers, through his struggles that sometimes get answered quite directly by Ibn 'Arabi's assistance, through Ibn 'Arabi's prayers, through his asking the universe for assistance to Ertuğrul, there again, like the Odyssey, is this faith in the hierarchy of spiritual value, that there are things above the individual hero that he relies upon for assistance. This goes against a lot of the spectacle that we see in the sense that everything is reduced to the powers and the will that Iron Man has in his costume and his will to do right or any of the other characters. There is no cosmic connection, if you will, that is demonstrated so well and so dramatically in this particular program.

That might be part of his super heroism, the fact that he is willing to acknowledge, has to acknowledge the fact that he can't do it alone, that there are forces at work that he's hoping to be assisted by, that he has put his faith into, that help him to carry his mission forward, which is to fight injustice. It's also one of the reasons why, in the context of the stories, he is able to see the machinations of those around him far earlier and with much greater vision than any of the surrounding characters. And he's burdened with this responsibility but he takes it on because he can't, with his intuition, completely explain how it is that he understands things and the people that are plotting against his tribe and against the larger Islamic world in the story.

But because he's the hero, he will act as much as possible on his understanding, even at the expense of the way that others around him, his family for instance and his tribe, perceive him. "Ertuğrul is off doing his own thing again." The responses, which are quite normal in a sense, if you're looking from a distance at what Ertuğrul is doing and you don't quite understand his vision, his bravery, his intelligence, they're great dramatic devices to convey just one of the many types of struggles that this character has to face within himself as he continues forward.

You might make an analogy, if you will, of anybody who's looking at any of the major kinds of world events and issues that we're looking at today. Of course we have a bias. We think we're right about certain things but I propose that there's a little bit of heroism in anybody who's willing to, in their own way, stand up for truth and understanding in what is a sea, a morass of lies and injustice that's being encroached upon many millions of people right now.

Adam: Not to delay the sidebar, but I think you bring up an interesting point and that is that Ertuğrul is a religious man and that's part of where the calling comes from for him. What's the point of fighting injustice? Who cares? What's the point? It's because it's a dictate from god. God is calling him to fight for the oppressed.

Harrison: He's on a mission from Gaad. {laughter}

Adam: He's on a mission from Gaad. I could be totally wrong here, but it doesn't seem like god exists in western cinema, by and large.

Harrison: Yeah.

Adam: So what's the point? It totally makes sense now why this fervour for truth isn't really seen in the west because god is dead here. I think that's a real shame for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because without god there's no reason to fight for the oppressed and seek truth and justice and so on. So I thought that was a really interesting point to explain why there haven't been really good, deep heroes in the west. They don't have the higher power calling to them.

Harrison: I think that's why Lord of the Rings and Star Wars were successful. They're fantasies but they incorporate that in their own ways. Of course in Lord of the Rings there's a whole mythology that Tolkien created for it and in Star Wars you've got the Force. So just like Ibn 'Arabi might be Ertuğrul's Merlin, he could also be his Yoda, this saintly being that has supernatural powers so bringing in this fantastical element, but which for a religious person is actually part of their worldview, part of their reality, that the supernatural things like this do exist and do happen.

That's of course totally rejected by the postmodernist, materialist mindset that's prevalent today which is a detriment to even our works of science fiction and fantasy where such things can be implemented. Even Dune manages to do it, Frank Herbert, in a manner that's still sciency. It's a science fiction novel but there's this element of otherworldliness to that story.

That will be one of the reasons why Ertuğrul works. That's another thing I want to talk about but first I'll do the sidebar.

I want to talk about the characters in Ertuğrul first of all compared to characters in western media. One of the things that I don't like about most modern western stories is villains, either the villains or the lack of villains. The villains are either boring evil, which is just evil for the sake of being evil but not really scary evil because evil should be terrifying. A true villain should be terrifying, like Hannibal Lector. Hannibal Lector is a scary dude in Silence of the Lambs which we watched recently.

I'll talk about the lack of villains because there's a tendency to portray a character as evil, as a bad guy and then do the switcheroo on you. This happened in the latest season of the Haunting series. There was the Haunting of Hill House and then there's the Haunting of Bly Manner. They portray one character as a really devious Machiavellian guy and then in one episode all of a sudden boom! here he is and here's why he's so bad. Here's the bad things that happened to him. He was so mistreated by his dad and that's what made him this way.

We were talking about it afterwards and how it shows how little psychological insight most people have. Well maybe not most people but how little psychological insight most Hollywood writers have because yeah, a bad childhood can do things to a person and screw them up in many ways, but it doesn't turn them into a psychopath. I'm talking specifically about the psychopath as a diagnosable personality disorder. They have particular personality characteristics that can't be created in a regular abused or traumatized person.

So when you portray a character as a psychopath and then you pull the switcheroo on the audience, it's totally unbelievable. But for a lot of these writers and for a lot of people watching it, it is believable because they only know it from watching TV and from watching movies. They don't know what the varieties of human beings are actually like in the real world or if they do they can see through it because a lot of people have had an interaction with a psychopath. But going back in the other direction again, the negative influence of these dramatizations is that if you have encountered a psychopath in real life now you may be more willing to follow the psychopath's manipulations by believing him when he says, "It was just my bad childhood that made me this way" when really he's pretty much just a soulless individual. There's nothing there. There's nothing that made him that way from his childhood. That's pretty much just the way he was born.

I haven't watched it yet but Jordan Peterson has recommended it so I'm going to check it out, the novel and movie called We Need to Talk About Kevin which is apparently a story about a psychopathic child which of course is a controversial topic. We're not going to get into that. Basically psychopaths are psychopaths since the time that they were children and parenting styles will not make a difference one way or the other. It may influence what kind of psychopath they're going to be, whether they're a street criminal versus a white collar criminal, but it's not going to change their personality structure.

So summarizing that point, when we have an evil character, there's a tendency among writers to give them some depth; the actors asking, "What's my motivation?" "Here's your motivation. I'm going to write you the best motivation" and it turns out to be total crap. Part of that is because who are the type of people who write these Hollywood stories? They're people who are open on that personality dimension on the big five. They've got open personalities. They want to look deeply. They want to find the reasons. They don't want to just see the surface narrative. They want to get into that nitty-gritty so they create these stories. In their imagination, through their creativity they're the ones who will look at a person and say, "Well what could have made them that way?" And they'll come up with a story, a narrative to do that whereas someone who isn't very high in openness is not going to be writing stories because it's a waste of time, at least that's the way they see it and they're going to say, "That guy's just a son-of-a-bitch. That guy's just an evil asshole" and that's that.

So there are benefits to both sides but you're not going to get those guys writing stories. The people writing the stories are the people who are going to be trying to look for the...

Elan: Sympathetic...

Harrison: The sympathetic...what do you call it?

Elan: Wounded child.

Harrison: Yeah, the wounded child within the rough exterior, the beauty in the beast. Oftentimes it just doesn't work. So you've got that. And then you've got the shallow, evil superhero villains who just aren't very charismatic and are just placeholders for "here's your evil supervillain." Those are pretty much your options. There are a few.

Adam: Like Joker.

Harrison: Yeah. The Joker was great. And of course both Jokers are great, but few and far between to actually find those. So when you actually go to a more cheesy format you might say, you can find stereotyped depictions of evil that are actually really good because there are people like that. So that's what you get with Ertuğrul because I'd call Ertuğrul half Game of Thrones, half Young and the Restless {laughter} because it's a family show. It's designed and written to be watchable by the whole family.

So it's PG and it's kind of funny - I guess this is Turkish censorship requirements - almost but not all of the wounds, even if it's just a little cut, the blood is blurred out so whenever there's a wound, I've noticed in recent episodes it could just be blood. Even if it's a bloody dish from the doctor who's wiping a wound, the bloody water in the dish will be blurred out. Or it can be a giant gaping wound or pustule. That's the kind of show you're watching.

So you're not going to be getting gore, the levels of which you'll find in Game of Thrones or something. There's no nudity. There's no sex. It's a family show. So there's lots of fighting and killing of course but it's stylized. It's not super realistic. But there's this Young and the Restless element where you see all the dynamics going on in this tribe. You see the family dynamics. You see the fights and the conflicts in relationships and between people in the tribe.

So you get this entire microcosm of life essentially. That's one of the great things about the show. It's got everything in it. It's got family. It's got conflict. It's got inter-tribe conflict. It's got politics. It's got spies and wars and scheming and conspiracies and all of this stuff.

Adam: And lions and tigers and bears. {laughter}

Harrison: Yes. It's got everything. It's got a hundred bad guys with swords. So it's got all of this stuff and within this, as Elan was saying, you have the villains. You've got either the evil Mongols or Crusaders, but within the Mongols and Crusaders you have some characters where you have that attempt at almost hyper-realism. It's not hyper-realism, it's just realism. You have sympathetic characters in all these camps even if for the most part, the bad guys are bad guys. So you've got the evil crusaders and most of them are evil, some humorously so.

But you do have some complex characters and even likeable and respectable characters even if they're villains because you can see where they're coming from even if you don't agree with them. It's got good characters. But you also mentioned the villains within the tribe. So it's not just baddies on the outside that you're fighting against. Like in any group, you've got the people within who are evil. Again, this is why I praise it for its realism in this department. There's always someone within your own group who's going to be causing trouble, whether it's collaborating with evil people, whether it's just not seeing the situation objectively or whether it's wanting their own gain as opposed to in conflict with the well-being of the tribe. You've got greed. You've got power hungriness. You've got all of these things going on.

Some of these characters, the evil, treacherous bastards in the midst of the tribe are often the worst villains and they are so well done. One of the greatest things about this show is the actors because the actors are so good and the evil guys, the bad guys, you just come to hate these people because they are so evil. {laughter}

Elan: Yes. They lie to your face.

Harrison: And all of the worst aspects of an evil person you find them in some of these guys. That's what makes it enjoyable because these are actually really good villains. Sometimes there's an explanation for it. Sometimes they've been misled or manipulated but sometimes you've just got someone that's pure evil. And those kind of people do exist! That's the thing that open Hollywood writers sometimes forget. There are real people on the earth who are absolute sons of bitches.

Adam: It's just such an uncomfortable fact of life, to know that there are some people you just can't redeem. There are some people you just can't do anything with except put them in a hole somewhere and walk away. That's a really uncomfortable thing because it undermines a lot of positions that people who are open-minded or open, let's say, it undermines a lot of positions or values that they have and ways that they think people should be treated. That might work for a lot of people but not everyone because, like you said, some people are just sons of bitches and there's nothing you can do.

Elan: We recently watched an episode that conveyed a lot of this in one of the evil characters from within the tribe who, after smiling and yessing his superiors who were trying to do the right thing, he goes into a full-blown narcissistic rage. I thought, "That's perfect. That's exactly what we understand dramatically reveals the truth of a lot of people in positions of power who aren't getting their way and whose egos, self-importance and ambitions get threatened with the truth and with the dynamics of healthy relationship building and constructive behaviour. That's how they respond.

But I did want to get back to the drama of the show, as you put it Harrison, because there's so much about family dynamics and even secondary characters and major characters whose very human responses to the drama unfolding makes all of the heroics all the more believable and satisfying once those heroics, those actions, those triumphs, are achieved. The viewer is earning those triumphs with the hero. The viewer is exasperated after many episodes of struggle and real deep internal struggle and strife to deal with the situation on a very personal level. We're talking about tears. We're talking about prayers to do the right thing. We're talking about desperate anguish on the part of many of the major characters as they are facing these scenarios one after the other after the other in some cases.

Adam: It's a level of suffering that you just don't see anywhere else. It seems almost unending, which is pretty real because it never really ends. But you don't see that in superhero movies, in the Marvel movies. You just don't get that kind of deep suffering, that deep anguishing pain of wanting to do good and praying to god to ask for guidance. You just don't get it. But when it actually comes to fruition and it gets resolved, it's so beautiful. There's a particular story arc of a particular person that I'm thinking about right now who, after all of this time of just thinking the worst about this person, oh my gosh they were horrible, there's a redemption story that's so beautiful! It's so amazing and wonderful. I wanted to stand up and applaud at that moment because it was just so great.

Elan: Because the way it's conveyed dramatically, everything is earned. All of her struggles, all of her making amends with all of the family members, not to give too much away here, but when she finds it in her heart - and she too has to draw upon Ibn 'Arabi's assistance - when all of this happens you are in some way experiencing this catharsis and this elevation. That's something I haven't experienced in many shows or movies at all.

Something else I wanted to add is that we were watching the follow up to Star Trek the Next Generation some time back, Picard, and there were some good ideas in the plot and the characters but it didn't breathe. You were bombarded with plot point after plot point and ideas that, "Okay, now this has happened. Okay, now that's happening." Unlike Resurrection Ertuğrul, there's nothing that allowed you as a participant in this drama to breathe, to assimilate the developments that were going on and it became less a journey than it was an effort to convince you that you were being told a good story.

Harrison: Okay, several points I've got to get through. One, nasty women. {laughter} We're talking about the villains? This show has some amazingly nasty women.

Adam: Oh yeah!

Harrison: Just the best women villains ever. Again, I'll contrast this to western narratives. There are some good female villains but what I find in a lot of shows is that, not just women, the characters are portrayed as --I'll use a nice word, I'll just say nasty - nasty but you're supposed to like them. Basically they're unlikable people who are put in the position of being your protagonist. Sometimes they might be redeemed but sometimes that's just the character and you're supposed to like them even though they're pretty reprehensible as people. Again, that might have its place. I can see it working in some instances to get across that point, that there are shitty humans out there.

But in a lot of stories, it's presented as, if not ideal, just as something of a good thing whereas in this show we've talked about the variety of characters. You have characters who you don't like. You're watching it and you don't like this person for very good reasons and then they go through a process and they actually find redemption.

Then you have the out-and-out totally evil characters. Then you have some that are a little less evil who are still bad guys but don't have the same level of mendacity and outright evilness. Then you've got characters who are maybe over-emotional. They've got their own flaws that create conflicts in certain ways and they're frustrating to watch. Those are the most frustrating scenes to watch for me personally. You see someone making a really dumb decision and behaving like a total douchebag.

Then you've got the characters who are genuinely decent people. They might be simple. They might not be very smart. There's one character who's just great who's not very smart but who's just extremely loveable. Then you've got the smart people. Then you've got Ertuğrul who is the hero of the show. He is almost this perfect being but believable at the same time. Maybe perfect isn't the way to put it. He's just the kind of guy that is a born leader and who has a good character and who has all the features of a person that you would admire in real life. He represents that class of people that anyone would admire who is around them or any decent person because there are a subset of people who will hate a person like that and want to tear them down actually because he's such a good person.

So there's a range of characters that you don't find. If you would take a whole number of western shows and put them together, the range in Ertuğrul between the characters is still greater than all the characters in all those other shows. There's just so much more depth.

I'll give one example of the frustration of watching some of these characters. Oftentimes it's a young guy who is pretty much run by his emotions and you can see this and it's really frustrating to watch because the stakes are high because this is 800 years ago. It's a medieval tribe, a very violent society. If you make a mistake or if you just run into the wrong guy, bandits on the side of the road, you're going to get your head chopped off or something like that. So the stakes of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or being accused of something, or being falsely accused of something are very high.

So you see, again, often the young men let their anger get the better of them and almost create a catastrophe because of course as the viewer you know they're wrong. They're making a wrong choice. One of the recurring plot devices or story lines is this person who's falsely accused. Let's say someone dies and even if there's just a small bit of evidence pointing towards someone as the culprit, this guy will latch onto that as evidence and now he wants revenge. He wants to then kill this person who's either been set up or who is just a victim of circumstance.

The actors are great, right? The reason it's frustrating is because it's so real. You can see this in real life, how people get carried away by their emotions. But sometimes they might do bad things but sometimes there might be a redemptive moment where they're actually shown that they're wrong and they have to deal with the fact that they have made this huge error in judgment because they let their emotions get the better of them.

So that's why I'd call this a form of magic as Collingwood called it because there is a moral to the story most of the time. There's a moral to the story. There's something that you can learn from, that kids can learn from that actually form their character from a young age so that they see what justice is. They see what mistakes people can make by taking certain paths, by not looking at the evidence, by letting their emotions get the better of them, by leaping before looking and it can reaffirm those values for someone who's a bit older than being a child.

So there's so much in it that is, I'd say, food for the soul, that is totally lacking. This is coming back to this imbalance. That's what's lacking even in these superhero movies because in the superhero movies there's a little bit of good messages, of something that will actually reaffirm, create or instill the kind of values that go towards forming a virtuous character, forming virtue within one's self. This provides that.

On that subject of the range of characters, I mentioned how this is kind of a microcosm of life because you see everything going on in this tribe, all the kinds of relationships. So one of the great things about the first season, there was a great love story to it. It's not just a great love story but within this microcosm you have all these relationship and you see Ertuğrul and not only Ertuğrul; you see what a real man should be by watching this show and you see how a man can treat a woman in a positive way. You see some really good examples of...

Elan: Chivalry.

Harrison: Chivalry and intersexual relationships. No, I don't mean to imply something postmodern, just relations between men and women, between women and women, between men and men, all different types of relationships. In the show you see how they can play themselves out. You see positive examples of what's going on. And you see family.

When I said that Ertuğrul is the epitome of this show, that he has all the good qualities, not only is he a good husband, he's a good father and he's intelligent. He's insightful. He's got depth to him. Here's one scene, okay? They have a battle, they have a great victory and his troops, his alps, discover a bunch of booty, of gold and they're all happy. They're saying, "This is such a great haul! Look at all this money! I've never seen so much money!" They're all smiling and Ertuğrul is looking at it and he's got this serious face. So they're all seeing the gold and he sees - this is from Ibn 'Arabi. I think when Ibn 'Arabi talks about the left eye and the right eye, how we see in 3D because we have two eyes that are slightly off, looking at things from a different angle and that's what gives depth perception.

But in Ibn 'Arabi there's another dimension to that. So one eye sees the surface narrative and the other eye is what sees the unseen. It sees the hidden implications or the context, or the thing that one eye by itself won't see. So everyone in this scene is happy about this gold and Ertuğrul's got this serious look on his face. First of all he's not letting the emotion of the crowd get to him. He's demonstrating his own individuality, that he's not moved by or controlled by the emotions of the crowd. He's his own person and he's got this serious look on his face and he says, "You know what this gold is? This is the gold that would have been paid to the mercenaries to kill our people, to the assassins and the conspiracies against us."

So even though it's great to find all this gold and it can now be put to good use, he sees what it was for and he sees the unseen. This is an example of the depth of perception that this character has that the others don't. That's why he is the leader. They see that in him too and then he can act as both the lightning rod and as the exemplar for people to follow. He's the one that can set the tone for certain events. So when everyone else is freaking out he can be the one who remains calm and says, "No, let's do this." Or if everyone else is saying "Oh this person's evil" he can say, "No. Let's calm down here and look at the actual evidence."

This is the element of what I'd call the multi-levelness of the show. This is that variety of humans, the depth and the range of human types and human reactions. You have very simple people, very simple reactions all the way up to Ertuğrul who has this ability to see more and to react more and a greater depth of emotion. And then, coming back to the microcosm, this has an effect in his relationships too. He knows how to treat people. He is respectful to his wife. He might tease her every once in a while but he's respectful to her and he's respectful to his mother and his father.

But at the same time, he's his own person. If something's wrong, he's not going to go along with something just for the sake of anything. If he knows something is right or wrong he's going to act accordingly. Also he's a great father. I don't think I've seen this in any other shows, such a positive depiction of fatherhood. Spoiler alert: he does have kids and that's the whole point of the story. I don't think we mentioned at the beginning, Ertuğrul is the father of Osman who goes on to found the Ottoman empire. Again, both of those characters, both Ertuğrul and Osman are historical black holes. No one really knows anything about them with certainty. So again, wide open for interpretation.

In the scene where Ertuğrul first finds out that his wife Halime is pregnant, he's so joyful. You just don't see that.

Elan: He conveys heart. He conveys joy. He conveys empathy. Like you said, he can be the lightning rod, the center of the storm. He's quite often the one who knows exactly what the appropriate response is to a particular struggle or action. It's funny because we've been watching this program with a few other people and if you've been conditioned to have a low attention span and thrive on the spectacle, then many of the reaction shots and the musical cues that enhance the drama of a particular interaction, struggle or a conversation that's got all of this emotional and psychological weight, I've noticed some people get a little impatient with it, but I love it because you're watching the faces of these actors and you're clued in as to what they might be or must be thinking right at that moment.

So there's all this metacognition. They're such good actors that on their faces you know, "That's what they're thinking in response to that character." So you have lines and lines and lines of script, of story, that's just told in how these characters are expressing themselves non-verbally, which is a big distinction. It's a big difference and what the format of the show lends itself to because there are so many episodes.

Adam: We may need to go ahead and just give a warning. If any of you all are thinking of watching Ertuğrul this is a very...

Harrison: It's a lifetime commitment. {laughter}

Adam: It's a lifetime commitment. There's a serious number of episodes. Each proper episode is two-and-a-half hours long and there's something like 30 or something. So it's the entire cinematic Marvel universe, all 23 or however many of those movies, it's like all of those are one season of Ertuğrul.

Harrison: Yeah.

Adam: It's great because it gives it so much room to play with different aspects of things and it gives it room to breathe and to explore different avenues and different things. But at the same time it's not something that you can binge watch, ever.

Harrison: No.

Elan: And the thing of it is, another kind of spoiler but not a big one, major characters die, sometimes tragically. So even if you don't particularly like these characters, if you're even halfway invested in the show, it's painful! More than once I have caught myself going, "Oh my god! This is really terrible!" Because you know that the show is going to go there. You're not just going to see and experience the tragedy but you are going to watch the responses of these very good actors, very realistically convey their utter anguish and the very likely emotions that are going to arise out of it.

Adam: That's a good point because, like you were saying, this is 800 years ago. This is medieval technologies. They're still doing blood letting, which isn't necessarily bad or not a good thing to do, but it's a very primitive thing. So a cut can be dangerous. It can be deadly. Sometimes it's kind of silly the way they go over the top with certain incidents, but a lot of times it is deadly and they don't know if someone's going to make it through. And they do kill major characters. So sometimes you don't know what the show's going to do.

Elan: Well I want to get back to a point you mentioned a little earlier because you said that it is one part Young and the Restless. This is a soap opera in some ways, no question about it, albeit one of the best soap operas I think you're likely to see. But I would add also that in terms of the nasty women, the villains that have been created who are sometimes women, even if it takes the format or the form of soap opera, more than once I was watching the high level of drama and thinking 'Lady MacBeth' because it might not have the literary prose quality of Shakespeare for instance, but everything else is right there.

You'd have to see it to understand, to experience it I suppose, but there is this very high level of drama. You know, we've watched a show and we've joked about the musical cues and the rattling of the rattlesnake tail when an evil character comes into the scene. {laughter} and there are these tropes about the tension being ratcheted up and up. There are conventions that are kind of obvious and maybe even a little hokey, but there's so much else in this program that is of a higher level than you forgive all these things, even the mistakes on the show, even the plot devices that were just like, "Oh my god! What were the writers thinking there?! That was really stupid." {laughter}

But there are enough of these other turns of the narrative and plot developments that are so well fleshed out from scene to scene to scene that you're dazzled a little bit, I think, by the fleshing out of the whole thing. It's refreshing.

Adam: It's refreshing and it's also novel, right? I've never seen a show like this before in the best way. So it is good on those two levels where it's new and it's refreshing and also just on its own merit it's good. It takes what it does and it does it well. It's not perfect. I'm one of the people who was like, "Okay, we get it. You don't have to go through every single person's face three times before you move on to the next scene." But again, even without perfection it's good.

Elan: But you know what Adam? I want to comment on that for a moment because we've all had experiences that were psychologically and emotionally intense, right? We've all had dramas in our lives that forced us, compelled us to face our weaknesses, confront others' weaknesses, situations that seemed a little hopeless and really challenging to us that were novel. What you get with this show with pretty much every episode, is characters who are faced with dilemmas, if not dilemmas that we've experienced personally, but that do convey people being brought to the limits of their being and having to make the choice in the moment of how to respond.

Like we were saying, the actors are so good on this show that you can't help but get drawn in. You can't help watching them cry in slow motion after something horrible has happened and not feel some amount of pain. The next thing you know you've got tears running down your face and you marvel over how much better an experience it is of a hero's tale than what we've been used to for so long.

Adam: I think they all deserve an Oscar.

Harrison: Yeah.

Adam: Each and every one of them. I don't know how that would work exactly {laughter} but they all need an Oscar.

Harrison: We're going to wrap up in a couple of minutes. I just want to make one final comment on Ertuğrul as a character and of course as the actor that plays him. I forget his name of course. His first name looks like Enjin but I think it's Engin or Enyin. I'm not sure how to pronounce it. He's great! Not only is the actor great, but like we've all said, Ertuğrul himself is just a great character. One of the reasons that he's great is because he's not totally emasculated like a lot of the depictions of fathers and men in TV in the west these days.

But he is sensitive. He's very emotional, not hysterical or overly emotional in the way I was describing the young men. He's got a depth of emotion and pretty much all the characters at some point in the show will cry. So he's a well-rounded character. He's sensitive but he's a total man. He is extremely masculine. There are great masculine characters just like there are great feminine characters. So if you actually want to see a show with some real men and real women in it, this show has it.

I was talking about Odysseus and how he's a total badass, well Ertuğrul's a total badass too. This is a whole other subject, but we did a couple of shows on Salafi jihadism and one of the points that a lot of people looking at the rise of hard core Islamism like in ISIS and things like that, is that that brand of religious ideology is filling a hole and it's what you might call a live option for a lot of people that fills a hole that is lacking for a lot of people in western cultures, a lot of Muslims in western cultures. There is and was I'd say actually a toxically masculine element in something like ISIS that is a draw for a lot of young men.

The good thing about this show is that it's not like that. It can fill those holes, those spaces that are lacking in what cultures can and should provide, but it actually puts something good in its place. I think earlier in the show Adam, you talked about how this is a show about truth. This is about truth and justice and goodness and what I'd call universally good qualities, no matter what the culture or what the religion is.

So as a western Christian-raised person I can watch this show and totally identify with the messages of what's going on because there is that element of universality in it, whether intended or not it's there. You can watch the show and totally get behind Ertuğrul just because he is this virtuous badass man. It's got the best of all worlds. If you like watching superhero shows because you like watching badass dudes kicking the crap out of bad guys, you can get that too. But you can get it from a human character that has some depth and something actually worth looking up to and worth trying to emulate in your life, to actually introduce and then manifest those virtues for yourself. That's also why I think it's a good show for young people - it is designed for the family - because it has all of this.

Again, just something that's pretty much lacking in most of the shows that we watch.

Elan: I would just add that it's even on some level consistent with the thinking and writing of Ibn 'Arabi who drew upon the ideals, the being of Christ and Moses and other religious figures. Sufism wasn't an exclusionary idea. Yes, it forged its own path but it wasn't so narrow that it couldn't recognize the greatness of being of other religious figures. There are even moments in this series where Ertuğrul says he doesn't have a beef with Christians per se. He doesn't have a beef with people of other faiths. He just recognizes that his own brand of Islam is his path and would even seek to fight for justice for any of the oppressed in the lands that he is trying to liberate from oppressors.

Harrison: He does think that his religion is the best religion, of course. 'Islam is the truth', but he has respect for Christians. So if he sees Christians being oppressed by other Christians he will sympathize with those Christians. He'll still try to convert them to Islam.

Elan: Yeah. But he's not in a holy war to convert the world.

Harrison: Yes, he is. {laughter}

Elan: Well, ideally he'd like people to follow in traditions that he believes in because it works for him and he does want to unite the tribes and that's correct. For instance, you used ISIS. He's a stark contrast to ISIS.

Harrison: He's not going to convert people at the point of his sword but he is out there to establish a world empire that will rule the world for Islam. That's part of the story. If you were having a King Arthur show, historically accurate even if King Arthur wasn't real, there's an element of 'our religion is the best and we're going to bring it to the world.' There is an element of proselytization. I just say that doesn't detract from the show in any way because Ertuğrul is presented as a just person. So he's not going to forcibly convert anyone. He is going to present Islam as the best path and he is going to get converts from the Christians as he does in the show and as happens with any religion in any historical situation. You have mass conversions going on like that. But he is presented as a person of good character and not as one of those convert or die type people.

Elan: Yeah. And I would just say that that is a version of Islam that we haven't gotten very much in western movies and portrayals of Islam, even though it exists, even though there is a very large percentage of people watching this show and having their natural moral taste buds fulfilled by this vision of a hero. It's like, well what would a hero of Islam really look like? It's this guy!

Harrison: That's another reason I think it's a good show for the Islamic world too because it shows a genuinely decent Muslim hero, not like some - I don't want to swear - some ISIS douchebag that you find spreading this kind of stuff. And Ertuğrul is extremely popular. Just in the last couple of years it was translated into Urdu so it's playing in Pakistan and it's wildly popular over there. Of course it's wildly popular in Turkey. But you will get dumbass imams denouncing the show because maybe the women aren't covering their faces, even though they're wearing headdresses or sometimes they show the women's hair. They've got typically dumb reasons for not liking the show, not realizing that this is probably one of the best things that Islam could do for itself, not only for young Muslims around the world, but for the perception of Islam in the eyes of non-Muslims.

Adam: There was something I wanted to get back to that you were mentioning as far as Ibn 'Arabi and how it incorporates some of what he wrote about into the show. It was something that came to my mind from one of the commenters on one of our other videos who was talking about the evolution of consciousness. It got me thinking about it and there's a couple of different ways you could define what he's actually talking about as far as what kind of consciousness are you talking about - individual or collective?

Then there's evolution and what do you mean by evolution? Do you mean just a change or do you mean an improvement upon? But what I was thinking specifically was how Ibn 'Arabi at several points in the show has mentioned this same story or allegory maybe. It's always in response to Ertuğrul going through some kind of great trial and tribulation, some great suffering that he just can't seem to break free from and can't seem to overcome. He's like, god help me. How do I do this? Why is this so bad?

And Ibn 'Arabi's response is that if you have a piece of iron, it's kind of worthless. But if you take that piece of iron and you throw it into the fire and then you hammer it out and then you throw it back into the fire and then you hammer it some more and then you throw it in the fire and you hammer it out and you just keep going through that process, what do you get? You get a sword, something that can protect and defend. Something that can serve a great purpose but had to go through immense suffering in order to be useful.

So in the same way I think that is what the soul is meant to do. It's meant to go through the trials and the tribulations and I think this show does a fantastic job of hammering that home, of how you should respond to these kinds of trials and tribulations. You shouldn't respond to it by condemning the world and condemning god for it. It's to accept it and embrace it because then you know that it's a lesson that you can learn and grow form. It's telling you what's wrong. It's telling you 'you're a little bit weak here and you need to grow'. Rather than saying, "I'm perfect the way I am," you accept it, as painful as it may be and you try to grow from it. When you do that, guess what? You're not vulnerable to that anymore. Ertuğrul was vulnerable to certain ploys and manipulations in the first season which now he sees from 10 steps ahead. He's like, "I ain't falling for that no more." That's great.

So when people talk about evolution of consciousness and stuff like that, I think this is one of the concepts that would really accurately portray what that really means. It's not smoke a lot of dope and meditate and then you're going to be all happy and perfect. That's not how it works. You have to actually face the suffering. Face the suck and deal with it.

Elan: Yeah.

Adam: Suck it up!

Harrison: Alright. Perfect place to end so check out Ertuğrul. Enjoy.