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How a Movie effected naming behaviour of a nation

From “Inek/Cow Shaban” to a society without Shaban
Docent. Dr. Bilal Yorulmaz Marmara University / Faculty of Theology Lecturer  

One of the negative effects of cinema on religious education is observed in the presentation of religious connoted names. Religious connotation here means the names of prophets, their companions, holly days, nights and months. These names which are used by religious people are mostly given to the characters such as janitors, villagers and workers that are accepted as the low classes of the society or to naive, illiterate, clumsy characters in the mentioned movies. The names, which do not have any religious inspiration, are preferred in characters that are socio-economically and socio-culturally in high classes of the society.   It is not very possible to examine all of these names taking part in Turkish cinema. For this reason in this article I will dwell upon the Shaban character as being the most famous example and millions viewed the movies with Shaban character.

During the era of Rasulullah (pbuh) the most effective arts were poetry and oratory. For this reason Rasulullah kept poets Hassân b. Sâbit, Ka´b b. Mâlik and Abdullah b. Revâha and orators such as Sabit b. Kays with him and utilized them. These companions of Rasulullah functioned to demoralize disbelievers and polytheists and supported the army besides they conduced people entering in Islam. Tribe named Temim came to Rasulullah (pbuh) and wanted to compete with their poets and orators. Prophet assigned poet Hassan b. Sabit and Sabit b. Kays against their poets and orators. After listening these two companions Temim tribe was affected and whole tribe accepted Islam and became Muslims.[1]

Prophet (pbuh) stated “There is (beautiful and effective expression) magic in speech”[2] and highlighted the effect of verbal arts on human beings. The effect of oratory and poetry that is used by Rasulullah in religious propogation nowadays strongly exists in cinema. Cinema in addition to words used by oratory and poetry benefits from the images and music and increases the magic. Movies produce fake realities and put the people in a magic atmosphere and affects their stances, behaviors and decisions.

All cameras are objectives. However none of the cameras is objective in the hands of human beings. By all means it contains an ideology. Camera records the reality in the exterior word as it is. However none of the films presents the reality of the world we live. All of the movies re-produce the reality in the direction of their producers’ ideology. Finally the cinema step by step makes the re-produced reality accepted to the society. “Movies put forward some thesis by selected and united components in order to form a designed format instead of reflecting any situation; and while doing this it inspires a certain perspective or a situation to the viewer.”[3]

Movies mostly do not reflect the national culture. They manufacture fantasies which are accepted as reality at the end.[4]
Cinema affects the society slowly and deeply. Never makes a revolution. It does not change the culture with a single movie. However it can assure this change in years by hundreds of movies, which deal the same topic. Cinema first of all accustoms the society with its messages. And later on these messages are not rejected because of constant messages and finally these messages are seeded in the society.
The word of “When a scholar wears silk cloth, the people condemn and gossip about him, however gossiping is a bigger sin than wearing silky clothe”[5] expresses this situation very well. Wearing silk by a scholar is rare situation and attracts reactions, however gossiping became as a habit and is not perceived as a sin.
Cinema in this way destroys the values of the society by forming customs.
Instead of using art of cinema as an effective tool in conveying the religious messages to the society, it is used mostly in a negative direction. Cinema is used as an instrument, which is inhibiting and complicating religious education. There are some samples in this subject: “insulting religious people and clerics or exhibiting them as bad figures”, showing Islam and Muslims terror related people”, giving false information about religious issues”, “giving negative subliminal messages”, “having wrong and false messages in subtitles” etc.

One of the negative effects of cinema on religious education is observed in the presentation of religious connoted names. Religious connotation here means the names of prophets, their companions, holly days, nights and months. These names which are used by religious people are mostly given to the characters such as janitors, villagers and workers that are accepted as the low classes of the society or to naive, illiterate, clumsy characters in the mentioned movies. The names, which do not have any religious inspiration, are preferred in characters that are socio-economically and socio-culturally in high classes of the society.   It is not very possible to examine all of these names taking part in Turkish cinema. For this reason in this article I will dwell upon the Shaban character as being the most famous example and millions viewed the movies with Shaban character.  

Shaban is the name of the second month, which is accepted as a holly/sacred month by all Muslims. The names of the other two months -Rajab and Ramadan- are also given to children by Muslims. As a matter of fact religious Muslims generally use these names. Therefore the characters having these names must be characters representing religious people. According to the date we have obtained, the first movie having Shaban named character is “Shaban among the Gypsies” recorded in 1952. After this 18 more Shaban movie was made. In 14 of them the Shaban character was starred by Kemal Sunal.[6] Furthermore there is also Shaban character in Hababam Class movies. Shaban in these films is; sometimes is clumsy, inelegant person (Shaban the son of Shaban-1977), sometimes poor and broke man (Middle bracket Shaban-1984), sometimes rude and brutish rich man (High Society Shaban-1985), sometimes a henpecked husband (Happy widower Shaban-1985), sometimes a pansy man (Shabaniye-1984). Sometimes his nick name is cow (in Cow Shaban series-1978) and sometimes moron student. (Moron shaban-1980). But the only unchanging thing is Shaban is a character that no one wants to be in his place. Because the name of Shaban is subjected to an intensified insult started to remove it from the society.

The people started not to use this name in order not to be subjected to be insulted because of the Shaban character’s bad reputation. According to the data provided by Turkish Statistical Institute[7] 658 babies born in 1923 were named as Shaban. The name of Shaban were used the most with 3365 babies in the year 1960. Afterwards Shaban name gradually decreased. The number was approximately 1642 in 1970’s, 1289 in 1980’s and 225 in 2008 and finally only 133 babies named as Shaban in 2009. 
There is an increase in double names, which have Shaban name. The least preferred year which Shaban was given as first name is 1936; ant the most preferred year is 2007. In 1936’da 14 babies, in 2007 126 babies were named as Shaban for first name.  The least preferred year which Shaban was given as second name is 1940; ant the most preferred year is 2003. In 1940 5 babies, in 2003 77 babies were named as Shaban for first name. Indeed families want to name their children with Shaban name but carrying the worry of “others will joke and laugh at my child”; for this reason they give this name as a second name. And Shaban name is not used by the owners of this name in daily life.

The usage of Shaban name which constantly showed an increase till 1960; after the emergence of the Shaban character in movies started to decrease. And after the widespread of  TV in 1980’s and often releases of the films very dramatic decreases were observed in the usage of Shaban name. Despite the first Shaban character occurred in 1952, the decrease started to be seen after 1960, because in those years cinema was not widespread in the country and the effect of cinema on the society was slow. The number of people who changed their Shaban names by court decision increased just after the Shaban movies. Till 1960’s averagely 2-3 people were applying to court to change their names, however this number constantly increased and 107 citizens changed their names by court decisions. After this date a decrease is observed in the number of people applying courts. Anyhow this decrease is normal because the ones who carry the Shaban name is very rare.
The disgrace of the religion connoted names means the disgrace of the religious values and figures represented by them. Especially the children who are more open to the society even confronts to their own names and prefer different names and try to rescue themselves from these negative “name callings”. Particularly the ones who have double names prefer not to use their religious inspired names. This situation causes people to have negative stances and behaviors against religious concepts and names. The people who have negative perceptions against religious concepts, religious people, and religious values close themselves to religious messages and for this reason their religious education and training become harder.
We must not neglect that the cinema which has a destructive power in erasing a common, widespread name from the memory of the society has also the constructive and fixing power. The production of movies which will help the religious training and fix the ongoing destruction must be supported. This is because, the destruction caused by cinema can be again fixed by benefiting from the power of cinema.  

[1] Muhammed Hamdi Yazır, Hak Dini Kur’an Dili, Akçağ Yayınları, Ankara, tarihsiz, C.6, s. 520-522.
[2] Sahih-i Buhari, Tıp 51.
[3] Ryan M ve Kellner D, Politik Kamera, Elif Özsayar (çev.), Ayrıntı Yayınları, İstanbul 1997, s.8
[4] James Monaco, age, s. 250.
[5] Ebu Hamid Muhammed b. Muhammed el-Gazali, Kimyâ-i Saâdet, trc: A. Faruk Meyan, Bedir Yayınevi, İstanbul 1990, s. 309.
[6] http://www.sinematurk.com/search.php?action=goToResults&src_opt=1&ara=%FEaban ; Erişim: 22.10.2009
[7] 14/04/2009 Tarihli Bilgi Edinme Başvurumuza İlişkin T.C. Nüfus Müdürlüğü’nün Cevabı.