I had been in Dubai no more than 12 hours. I was sick as a dog in my hotel suite somewhere close to the MOE (Mall of the Emirates) and I was pretty certain I was going to die a slow painful death in the desert! I turned on the tube to try to ignore the fever and there was Grease in bold living color on to make me feel better.
But it wasn't just Grease...it was UNCENSORED Grease! I mean every single idiom and dirty joke was presented for the Arabic and English-speaking cultures of the UAE to hear and absorb. In the States Grease, shown most often on TBS, is always very strongly censored. But not there! Rizzo, Danny and all the others were truly living up to their less than squeaky clean reputations.
Casually I mentioned this to a colleague several weeks later once I had acclimatized to my environment and actually felt like a human being again (that jet lag is ridiculous...especially if you had a lengthy visit in Moscow!)
The gentleman I mentioned it to was both surprisingly and not surprisingly schooled at MIT. Not surprisingly because why not? He was from Pakistan but that certainly did not mean he could not be schooled at MIT. Surprising because he had lived in the US and learned at least some American idioms and he never equated anything he heard on the version he was watching in Dubai as something that perhaps should not be for broad very conservative public consumption according to their moral and social customs and religious teachings.
The most embarrassing thing about this situation was that I then had to explain the idioms and phrases that were quite shocking and when I did he was of course, shocked:) How can you not be when you are suddenly confronted with the specific phrases of Greased Lighting (the double entendre AND the blatant lyrics.)
Once I explained it all, he said, 'Wow. I am gonna talk to my friend at the TV station about this. He works with the censors.'
And that was that...or so I thought. Only about a month and a half later, I happened to have one night completely free of networking events, work meetings or business dinners and I turned on the tube and there it was again, Grease...CENSORED!
Ok so am I the reason Grease was censored in the UAE? No. But do I think its possible my observation of an uncensored Grease on a shy, unknowing public told to one guy could have resulted in their taking a closer look, realizing what they were presenting to the UAE and perhaps neighboring Qatar and Amman and enacting change? YES! ABSOLUTELY! Did I mean to do that? NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT!
What I hope in sharing another little experience turned adventure is that we can find a way to never commit to censoring ourselves or others, especially those we care about. It was justifiably pointed out to me recently that I have censored myself (sort of) and on reflection, two people, not one I know, for my own convenience. We are all guilty of that. But that is not truly the way I want to live my life. If that were the case I would have been happy to stay in Dubai and watch censored Grease every six weeks or so.
Maybe I should have been outraged at the TV station in Dubai censoring Grease given this new lease on life I want to embrace but that was then and this now. And while maybe I should push back and fight for freedom of speech and expression everywhere, do I think that the UAE is going to suffer for not having the full experience of Grease uncensored? No. Do I think that censorship was challenged and lost in this instance? Not really. MENA has its own beautiful culture and traditions that don't require a censored or uncensored Grease to make it complete.
So I will maintain my newly non-censored but still respectful, kind and graceful self for the States and those around me willing to help me create uncensored personal and professional adventures, moments, shows, art and films, dance and music, food and culture. If they and I are really willing to commit as much as possible and censor as little as we can of ourselves, all any of us need ask is...