Beware: Saudi pranksters are on the prowl, and they're ready to catch you out

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Saudi twins Mohammed and Murad Salem have accumulated more than 500,000 followers on Instagram through their pranks and comedic skits. Social media
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Saudi YouTube and Instagram Pranksters Hassan and Hussein bin Mahfouz have combined to amass over 1.3 million subscribers and followers between them. Social media
Updated 17 April 2018
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Beware: Saudi pranksters are on the prowl, and they're ready to catch you out

  • Pranks were one of the reasons that led us to fame, but we also sing
  • A well-constructed prank is a sort of social experiment on human emotions under the guise of seeking laughter

JEDDAH: Although people have been pranking each other for thousands of years, the age of the internet paved the way for mainstream video-sharing websites such as YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, ushering in a global platform of viewers for pranksters. Famous YouTube and Instagram pranksters are quickly establishing themselves as the new generation of self-made celebrities.
They have built a fan base by creating entertaining user-friendly content, even if at others’ expense.
Pranking is entertaining on multiple levels because it serves to manipulate social power, cultural norms and status hierarchies while initiating strong human emotional responses.
“Not only is a good prank harmless, but like a good story, it reveals an essential truth that would otherwise be hidden,” said American author Mac Barnett. “It is a great way to indicate the underlying absurdities of the world.”
There can be a lot to learn about human responses through this sometimes-cruel engagement. Since pranking is heavily influenced by societal and cultural norms, they function as a release of pent-up societal tensions.
Confusion, embarrassment, flattery, fear and ultimately laughter are sought when individuals are being pranked.
That feeling of losing control or being rendered powerless in a situation can illicit powerful human responses.
A well-constructed prank is a sort of social experiment on human emotions under the guise of seeking laughter.
Saudi Arabia, too, has a culture of pranksters to contribute to this trending industry, in Mohammed and Murad Salem, and Hassan and Hussein bin Mahfouz.
The two sets of twins have garnered nearly 2 million subscribers and followers combined on YouTube and Instagram by uploading entertaining skits and pranks in the Kingdom and abroad.
“Pranks have been our hobby long before social media. Now with social media, the idea has become more of a prank war between us as twins,” the Salems told Arab News.
“In Saudi Arabia, pranks are far from dangerous or intimidating. They rely on public embarrassment. We find they’re usually popular among most society groups, especially youngsters, and although not everyone will like our pranks, most encourage us to keep doing them.”
But it is imperative to not just look at pranking through rose-colored glasses, as it can deeply affect and emotionally scar some victims.
Since pranking can often involve social humiliation, a three-way relationship between the one who humiliates, the victim and the witness can create a helpless power dynamic for emotionally sensitive individuals.
“The reaction we often get from friends and family is positive,” the Salems said. “Although we don’t always agree on how bad the pranks should be, we make sure not to cross any red lines, as certain pranks have led to serious confrontations.”
Saudi prank culture has always existed, but it is only now starting to garner exposure and attention via social-media platforms. An added incentive is the potential income these content creators can accumulate via advertising revenue.
But the Salems aim to use their fame from pranking as a stepping stone to much bigger ventures. “We want to expand and enter the fields of media and acting,” they said.
“Pranks were one of the reasons that led us to fame, but we also sing. We’re currently studying some ideas to create sketches that portray everyday situations in a comedic way.”


Pressures and pains that tear a couple apart

A still from the film.
Updated 19 July 2018
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Pressures and pains that tear a couple apart

DENVER: Like a gallery wall-sized enlargement of a microscopic image, “Scenes from a Marriage” is all about size, space and perspective.
Directed by Ingmar Bergman — whose birth centenary was marked this week — at 281 minutes long, its unwieldly length presents an intimidating canvas, yet the claustrophobic intimacy of its gaze is unprecedented: The two leads are alone in nearly every scene, many of which play out for more than a half-hour at a time.
Premiered in 1973, the work is technically a TV mini-series, but such is its legend that theaters continue to program its nearly five-hour arc in its entirety. A three-hour cinematic edit was prepared for US theater consumption a year later (it won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but was ruled ineligible for the corresponding Oscar).
Not a lot a happens but, then again, everything does. Shot over four months on a shoestring budget, its six chapters punctuate the period of a decade. The audience are voyeurs, dropped amid the precious and pivotal moments which may not make up a life, but come to define it.
We meet the affluent Swedish couple Marianne and Johan — played by regular screen collaborators Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson, both of whom clocked at least 10 Bergman credits — gloating about ten years’ happy marriage to a visiting reporter. This opening magazine photoshoot is the only time we see their two children on camera, and inevitably the image projected is as glossy, reflective and disposable as the paper it will be printed on.
The pressures, pains and communication breakdowns which tear this unsuited pair apart are sadly familiar. The series was blamed for a spike in European divorce rates. It may be difficult to survive the piece liking either lead, but impossible not to emerge sharing deep pathos with them both. Sadly, much of the script is said to be drawn from Bergman’s real-life off-screen relationship with Ullmann.
It’s a hideously humane, surgical close-up likely to leave even the happiest couple groping into the ether on their way out of the cinema.