Netflix’s first-ever original film in Arabic, Ashab Wala A’azz (Perfect Strangers), was released on 20 January 2022. Since then, it has become a target controversy and remained a hot topic of discussion on social media. It raised many eyebrows, particularly among the Egyptian viewers, for its support of the LGBTQ+ community and open discussions about sexual stuff. Such things are considered highly taboo in most Arab nations, and the involvement of Arab actors has further fueled the flame.
Critics Accuse Perfect Strangers of Moral Degradation
Perfect Strangers revealed one of the characters as gay; an issue Arab cinema never represented before. It has been sparking criticism on social media towards its ideas that Egyptian societies considered inappropriate. The scenes, such as showing a girl taking off her underwear and putting it in her handbag, sparked heated discussions on social media. Some also criticised the scenes of a teenage girl talking to her father about sex and condoms.
Critics remarked that the Netflix show was violating the morals of Egyptian society. Some attacked the actors with homophobic comments and asked them what they would do if their own children turned out gay. Some even blamed Netflix for spreading deviant agendas to normalise false ideas in Arabic cultures.
Society Unable to Accept New Age Stories
Despite the heavy criticism, there is also strong support for Perfect Strangers by some Arab viewers. They thought that the show was a breath of fresh air for showing the issues related to a particular segment of the population. Previously, Egyptian media covered homosexuality topics in hidden innuendos or under the guise of comedy. This was the first time it was happening in the opening, which angered many. Those who liked the show defended it by saying that Arab societies were just scared of this movie because it casually discusses their taboos. Here men and women were playing different roles from the boring stereotypical ones, and gay people were being represented rather than promoting heterosexuality as the only sexual preference.
Cast and Crew
This was an Arabic version of the Perfect Strangers film, which was a remake of the Italian movie of the same name. Lebanese director Nadine Rabakki made the film. It features several prominent Arab actors, including Mona Zaki from Egypt, Eyad Nassar from Jordan, Nadine Labaki and George Khabbaz from Lebanon.