Arabic culture: how exposed are my kids to it?
Hardly at all.
We have satellite TV, so we get Disney, Animal Planet, Discovery Science, etc. A few channels broadcast American TV here: Oprah is here, but not Jerry Springer. We get "Law & Order" but not "The Shield." The filtering system seems to be a little inconsistent, though. The kissing scenes in Disney animated movies are cut, but flip through the channels and you'll find plenty of non-animated kissing (American soaps) and swear words, their Arabic translations subtitled. Haven't seen any sex scenes yet. Haven't been looking. Honest. As a matter of fact, if we ever move off of "Boomerang," it's a rare occasion. (How can I deny my children reruns of "The Jetsons" and "Captain Caveman," "Deputy Dog" and "Mighty Mouse"?!)
Our first week here, before we had satellite, I was mesmerized by an Arabic station one afternoon . . . honestly couldn't tear myself away from it. The show had a mustached man singing in Arabic, a single guitar player backing him up. It was a fairly upbeat song, but nothing I was ready to run out and buy. He looked bored, as though singing himself to sleep. But then the cameras panned around the studio and you could see men lined up against the walls, a few in thobes, but most in casual Western dress. And two Arabic women, the only two women in the studio at all, were dancing along to the music. One was wearing jeans and a black shirt, nothing remarkable--looked like she had just walked in to deliver lunch to her husband or something and got recruited to dance. She was probably about 40 or so, very soccer-mom looking. But the other woman dancing is the one that confused me the most. She was likely around 20, had heavy makeup, long hair in cornrows, alternating blond and brown. Her clothes were even more bizarre: knee-length shorts with suspenders, a tight low-cut, midriff t-shirt, and knee socks with high heels. Whereas the soccer mom (excuse me: "football" mom) was dancing more traditional Arabic dance, the other was dancing like she was hoping for tips: shimmying, spinning in circles, lots of hip gyration and thrusting, whipping her hair around like Bo Derek had she been in "Flashdance." Just. Bizarre. And again, they all looked bored. After about 5 minutes or so, I realized I would never figure out what was going on, and by then the older boys were watching as well . . . and laughing. So we moved on to good old American TV, where you can at least expect low brow and not be confused by it all.
As for the Arabic cartoons the kids have caught split seconds of? I'm guessing cartoons are the same all over the world: slapstick. Unless it's Bugs Bunny, you don't really need to know what they're saying anyway. And then you just have to hear the dialog, don't you?
Only one radio station here is English speaking, and the variety of music annoys me so much I would rather listen to the little guy's "Lion King" cd over and over again. One song will be Greensleeves, the next techno dance, the next hard rock, the next punk. And then Alicia Keys to top it all off. The Arabic stations play only Arabic music, which doesn't interest me. I can't say I can imagine ever developing an ear for it either--no more so than I will ever develop an ear for Black Sabbath or Britney Spears.
Speaking of which, I do love that when the TV is on and happens to somehow slip past Boomerang, it's a beautiful thing to not be blasted with stories of what's going on in Hollywood, what star marriage just ended, who just had botched plastic surgery. If we ever give up the television entirely, our return back to the states will be the perfect time.
But don't expect me to actually do that. I readily admit to a lack of culture, especially when it comes to certain "variety" shows that will go unnamed . . . lest I embarrass my family.