Academics gather to discuss the increasing popularity of historical TV series in Turkey, noting the distinction between fact and fiction is often misunderstood by audiences. “The fictional side needs much more work because no one knows how a sultan approaches his wife,’ says an academic.
It is important for television viewers to understand that historical dramas, such as the wildly popular “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” (The Magnificent Century), are fictionalized accounts of the lives of sultans rather than historically accurate documentaries, according to academics.
“Turkish people confuse the idea of TV series and documentary. A TV series is a different thing than a documentary,” said Erhan Afyoncu, a professor on the board of the Atatürk High Institute of Culture, Language and History, as well as a former consultant for “The Magnificent Century.”
Some have issued criticisms of historical series, Afyoncu said during a recent symposium in the northern province of Tokat, but added that it was difficult to produce such series.
“Historic TV series have a reality side as well as a fictional side,” the former consultant said. “The fictional side needs much more work. You have to create a fiction. You know the political events from history and you stick to this reality when making a TV series. But no one knows how a sultan approached his wife or how he behaved in daily life. This is why you have to fictionalize it. We did it in ‘Magnificent Century.’ There were discussions about sending Süleyman the Magnificent on journeys in the TV series. But I added these journey scenes to the series. But it is interesting that the series had lower ratings in these episodes.”
Afyoncu said state-owned television channel Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) had made historic TV series but that they had not attracted much public interest.
“TRT made TV series without women and their intrigues. People criticize other TV series but do not watch these ones. This is what I don’t understand,” Afyoncu said.
Secrecy of privacy
Fictionalization is occasionally necessary when there is a dearth of historical documents, said Professor Ali Açıkel, another symposium participant and a historian at Gaziosmanpaşa University, but added that these dramatizations should not contradict historical facts, general customs, traditions and law.
Scenarios set in historical times should not be infused with the perceptions of the present, Açıkel said, adding that ethical values should also be reflected in perceptions.
“The secrecy of private life should be respected. Otherwise, it is disrespectful to the private life of the Ottoman sultans. TV series are based on fiction when documents and information is insufficient. Documentaries aim to inform people according to a chronological order. There is no fiction in documentaries but some parts of TV series are fictional.”
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Reported by Hürriyet Daily News