Maraşlı- A Modern Tragedy About Men of Anatolia
There is a misconception about the Anatolian man (Anadolu erkeği) in Turkey. He is considered to be a stereotype, almost an opposite to the metropolitan man. First let me ask, do you know where Anatolia is? Anatolia is the name of the Asian part of Turkey, referred to also as Asia Minor. If you decided to read a bit more into the history of Anatolia, you’d find out that it goes way back to the prehistoric period. Many civilizations have been born on this land.
The prejudice about Anatolian man is not something I can accept. Because anyone who knows a bit of history would know that Anatolian man is not just an uneducated macho guy with a mustache and an accent. Anatolian man is also a great storyteller and a poet. Long before Anatolia was home to Turkish people, it has been home to great civilizations like Greeks and Romans who have raised some of the most influential philosophers and storytellers. Anatolia has been the home of many great men, and women, emperors, poets and writers.
Diziland’s new show Maraşlı, is an action packed drama. The protagonist is Celal Kün ( Celal means great in Turkish and Kün comes from Arabic and means to be, so Maraşlı’s name translates to BE GREAT) who is called Maraşlı by everyone because of where he’s from. Maraş is short for Kahramanmaraş, a city in the southeast of Turkey. He is an Anatolian man at first sight. As I said, the Anatolian man today in Turkey, is a stereotype (almost a caricature). People from Anatolia are seen as honest people (because they haven’t been corrupt with the metropolitan values). This goes back to the conflict between small town (Anadolu) and big city (İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir) values. Maraşlı fits into this Anatolian stereotype and because he is also a retired soldier from special forces, his image is strengthened by this “strong guy” identity.
Here is a great edit I found on Youtube, check it out after you finish reading.
What I like the most about the show is the many references to songs, literature and philosopy. Celal is abrupt, doesn’t care about being kind and yes he’s brutally honest. But he also cares about music, books, poetry. Even though it’s an action packed show, we get more literary references than any regular romance show. All references fit perfectly into the Anatolian man persona who is either a poet, a folk singer, or someone who really appreciates them.
The metropolitan (big city) men in the show are portrayed as successfully as Maraşlı. Aziz, İlhan, Necati, Savaş, Ozan are all corrupt in one way or the other. None of them are pure evil, they are all thinking and doing what is right for them or for their loved ones. Even Savaş as the villain has his reasons to avenge the Türels. Ozan looks mostly selfish but he is probably sick and tired of being in the shadows all these years while İlhan was collecting his father’s compliments.
So if the Anatolian man is such a good influence, why is Maraşlı doing something that will eventually really hurt someone as innocent as Mahur is? That’s probably because I think Maraşlı’s story is structured as a tragedy. What a way to use a literary device that goes back to ancient Greeks and Romans, right? Tragedy as you know is a form of drama which is based mainly on suffering of humans. It is always about “great” men never about commoners by the way.
In tragedy there is always a main character who does all he can to change something or fix something but we as the viewers know (or we are left clues) he can’t or he won’t be able to. There is always a conflict between 2 sides who are both right in their own ways. The audience can’t decide which one should win. Tragedy has some “must have” elements and also different stages. Maybe further into the story it would be fun to go back and see how much of those apply on Maraşlı.
Needless to say, tragedies always end sadly. There is one thing that made me sure the writer is completely designing the story of the show as a tragedy and that is the Oracle. Every tragedy has an oracle or a prophet who makes sure the audience stays curious but at the same time does not completely understand what’s going on. Who do you think the oracle in Maraşlı is? Of course it’s Necati with his kitchen talks. Who else can it be if not the nihilist, alcoholic, philosopher himself?
As he introduces himself to his audience in episode 1, he says,
“ What is the meaning of life? Why did God create us? He created us to question our existence. Why does man, even though he knows he is mortal want to live?” In episode 2 he talks about the shadow. He refers to Platon’s cave. This is known as Platon’s cave metaphor. Platon questions the idea of freedom.
Platon says that in life we are like in a cave and in chains and because of the chains the men in the cave can only see the wall in front of them. After some time some people succeed in moving a bit to see what’s happening on their right and left or on the back so their view changes. They notice that what they perceived as reality before was just an illusion. Somehow they succeed in getting off the chains and to leave the cave but because the outside is very bright with sunlight they become temporarily blind. Then slowly they start seeing things and the shadows created in sunlight. This brings in their minds that there are still people in the cave and they need to get back to them.
What is Necati trying to tell us here, what did Platon mean? Unfortunately we are never free and we never can be. What we perceive as reality is what we choose to believe. The real truth is not something we can really accept to live with. We will always choose to go back to the cave.
Necati here also makes a reference to Karagöz and Hacivat. They are the 2 main characters in a Turkish shadow play. It was very popular in Ottoman era. They used puppets who were being moved behind a paper which created shadows. These 2 characters were very opposite to each other and argued all the time and this led to great comedy. It was also called Shadow Play. Somehow, I think Necati is telling us, we are God’s puppets and he’s the puppet master. We may think we are free but we are not. Celal may think he’s free and deciding on his own will, but really he’s a puppet of God as well as any human being.
Below is a video that explains the tradition of Shadow Play.
This discussion doesn’t end here, Necati continues on this in episode 6 and asks directly if human beings have free will? He says. “Today’s subject is fate and coincidences. Who believes them?” Then Necati raises an egg above his head and drops it on the counter and it breaks.
He asks, “what does this have to do with fate, the egg broke because of my own will, I dropped it. What does fate have to do with this? Or if breaking the egg is my fate then do I have free will? Did I tell this to you as a coincidence or is this our collective fate?”
In Islam fate is God (Allah)’s will. One of the five pillars of Islam is having faith in fate. This means that all that is good and is evil happens according to God’s will. Necati’s question is a very bold one because questioning one’s faith in fate is like questioning one’s faith in God. Of course he’s a Nihilist (they reject all moral and religious principles) so he doesn’t believe in anything, or at least he wants to keep himself at a distance from all traditional beliefs. His questions and this discussion of fate is proof that he is our Oracle in this story. As the story unfolds we understand that Maraşlı thinks that he is on a mission to unveil the Türel family and to find out how they relate to his daughter’s shooting. He is actually on a tragic journey which we will watch as he walks to his fate.
Another thing that convinces me that Maraşlı is a tragedy is the opposing side. If Maraşlı is one side of this coin, who/what is on the other side? As I said tragedies have 2 sides who are both right in their own ways. I think that second side is Savaş. Although he is introduced as the villain of this story, I think he will turn out to be a lot more than that and episode 8 was proof of that.
Just as Maraşlı, Savaş also thinks that he’s out to take revenge for what has been done to his father (while Maraşlı wants to avenge his daughter’s shooting). However they are both just being used by something much bigger than them. Their desire to take revenge is being used against them, hence all the philosophical and religious discussions on free will.
In Turkish culture there is also a concept called “alın yazısı” which can be translated as “written on one’s forehead”. It is believed that even before you are born, your whole life story is already written by a divine power. Mind you this is even before Turks accepted Islam. Maraşlı makes us question this fate concept a lot and in the upcoming episodes I think we will get a lot of parallels to these discussions as the oracle Necati is preparing us for what’s to come.
Before I say goodbye, let me tell you who my favorite Anatolian man is. My father, who sadly passed away in 2018. He was from Gaziantep, which is right next to Kahramanmaraş on the map. We have been living in Istanbul for years now but I know he always missed his land. He always donned a mustache and used to love reading and writing and was a great poet. He was an honest and kind man who set an example for everyone who was lucky to have known him.
I have a lot more to say about Maraşlı but it’s time I wrap this one up. Next one will be more about the literature, poetry and song references. Maraşlı script is beautifully written, rich with a lot of references to other Anatolian poets and folk singers, who interestingly enough all have tragic lives. Is that a coincidence, I belive it’s not! But we’ll get into that later :)
Thank you for reading so far. Let me know what you think about this piece and Maraşlı in general on Twitter, I’m @edsavaseri there and you can follow me for updates. On this blog I also write articles on Sen Çal Kapımı, you might want to check them out. I’m leaving down some links for further reading for those of you who might enjoy that. I’m sending you good vibes from the Anatolia land. Have a great day wherever you are in the world right now.