The Sheikh's Batmobile

The Sheikh's Batmobile

In Pursuit Of American Pop Culture In The Muslim World

Book - 2009
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What happens to our pop culture when it meets another culture head-on - especially one that according to some is completely at odds with our own?

In The Sheikh's Batmobile , pop-cultural commentator Richard Poplak sets out on an unusual two-year odyssey. His mission is to see what becomes of his, and North America's, obsessions - pop songs and sitcoms, Hollywood movies and shoot-em-up video games, muscle cars and punk music - when they make their way into the Muslim world.

Over the course of his journey, Poplak is body slammed by WWE fans in Afghanistan, hangs out with hip-hop artists in Palestine, head bangs to heavy metal in Cairo, discovers a world of extreme makeovers in Beirut, bowls with the chief of police in small-town Kazakhstan, and encounters a mysterious Texan building rocket-propelled batmobiles for a clientele of sheikhs.

With uproarious humour and keen cultural insight, Poplak asks some vital questions- How is American pop culture consumed and reinterpreted in the Islamic world? What does that say about how we are viewed by young Muslims? And can Homer Simpson bridge the differences that are tearing our world apart?

Praise for
Ja, No, Man; Growing Up White in Apartheid-Era South Africa

'Brilliant.' John Allemang, The Globe and Mail

'One of the finest, funniest and most tragic memoirs I have read in years.' Heather Mallick, CBC, Analysis & Viewpoint

'Devastating detail comes via vivid and passionate prose . . . Brilliant.' NOW

Publisher: Toronto : Penguin Canada, 2009.
ISBN: 9780143056553
Characteristics: ix, 389 p. : ill., maps ; 23 cm.


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Feb 22, 2014

It's a pretty good (if somewhat Vice-like) idea: travel to a variety of Muslim countries and find out how they experience American pop culture, from "The Simpsons"(featuring a Homer who doesn't drink beer) to pro wrestling to punk rock. Half-travelogue and half-rebuke to the much-touted idea of the "clash of civilizations," "The Sheikh's Batmobile" is lively, but also a little frustrating. Richard Poplak, a South African Jew, is enthusiastic and a little sloppy, prone to hyperbole like comparing himself to Robert Johnson at the crossroads. Intentionally or not, his you are there style owes a lot to Hunter Thompson, Lester Bangs and Anthony Bourdain. But it's a valuable, sometimes enlightening read about the unlikely things that bring us together. As one person says, "Pop culture is such a stabilizing force." And, yes, there is an honest to Allah batmobile in it.

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