Jordanians spooked by sex, drugs and alcohol in Arabic Netflix original 'Jinn'
Jordanians were over the moon last year when Netflix announced its first Arabic original series would be filmed and set in the kingdom, but many are now up in arms after discovering the teenage drama involved more than they had bargained for.
"Jinn" - a teenage drama meets horror-fantasy - focuses on a group of high school students whose lives are suddenly transformed by the appearance of a malicious supernatural spirit, or jinn.
The series was released on Netflix worldwide on Thursday.
After a student from the elite Seven Hills Academy mysteriously dies on a school trip to Petra, the band of teenagers - with the help of friendly jinn Keras - soon realise that an evil jinn has been unwittingly unleashed and is attempting to harm their fellow classmates.
While jinns are a mainstay belief in Islamic cultures, viewers were shocked to see the teenagers kissing, swearing and even smoking marijuana.
Protagonist Mira kisses her boyfriend Fahed within the first five minutes of the drama, and the gang are later seen discussing sex and drinking in an Amman bar - behaviour that some have described as "pornographic" and a violation of Jordanian "norms and traditions".
The taboo content of "Jinn" has made quite a stir in the kingdom, where even the Grand Mufti has weighed in on the controversial drama.
Mohammed Khalaileh, Grand Mufti of Jordan, dubbed the show a 'moral breakdown that does not represent the habits and morals of Jordanians", adding that it was contrary to "Islamic precepts".
Ordinary citizens have flooded social media with complaints about "Jinn".
The young actors - most of them teenagers appearing on screen for the first time - have also been exposed to harsh criticism and harassment which has been deemed "bullying" by Netflix.
Some felt "Jinn" had disgraced Jordan's "honour".
Social media users felt the need to chime in and say that the show had been in no way representative of the kingdom - and not only because of the presence of taboo behaviours such as drinking alcohol and discussing sex.
Viewers also took offence to the show's focus on the children of West Amman's wealthy elite.
Others posited that the script must have been written in English and then translated into Arabic, as the dialogue did not seem like authentic Jordanian Arabic to most.
While rich kids may not represent all Jordanians, the lifestyle shown on screen was fairly representative of the West Amman teenage crowd, others said.
Many, though, may not have even watched the series, as scenes and information about the show were circulating widely enough on social media to make anyone an informed viewer.
'I think the 30 second kissing scene circulating over whatsapp is what people are ranting about, most people ranting don't even have a netflix account and haven't watched the show," said one Reddit user.
One Twitter user commented on the show after watching a short promo: "I spit on the umma [Islamic community] that has lost itself… and is blindly imitating the west."
Jordan's parliament is due to meet to discuss the controversy on Sunday, according to Roya News.
The Parliamentary Committee of Media and National Guidance will meet with the ministers of culture and information to ensure that films or TV shows that "harm the ethics of our dear Jordanian society" are not again enabled by the government, committee head Mahasan Al Shara'a said on Friday.
The Reform opposition parliamentary bloc has even blamed the "disgraceful" series on Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, with spokesman Mustafa Assaf claiming the government holds "the full moral and legal responsibility" for "Jinn", and Jordan's cybercrimes unit is reportedly attempting to have the show pulled from Netflix in Jordan.
A Netflix spokesman said content removals are rare but the streaming service complies with official requests.
A recent example of such a request was the removal of a Saudi Arabia-focused episode of comedian Hasan Minhaj's "Patriot Act".
Jordan's Royal Film Commission came to the show's defence, pointing out that Netflix was not an open platform and viewers had the right to subscribe or unsubscribe as they wished.
Netflix MENA hit back at the claims in a tweet on Friday, slamming the "wave of bullying" against the cast and staff.
The global streaming service says it won't back down over the controversy and will continue to produce Arabic-language original series, despite the fact such shows may upset viewers.
"Jinn seeks to portray the issues young Arabs face as they come of age, including love, bullying and more. We understand that some viewers may find it provocative but we believe that it will resonate with teens across the Middle East and around the world," Netflix said in a statement.
"We've invested heavily in creative communities around the world… Jinn shows the beauty of Jordan and the wonders of Petra. And we’re excited to bring both familiar and new perspectives to international audiences that may not know much about the Arab world."
The streaming service announced earlier this year that another two Arabic-language productions were in the works.
"AlRawabi School for Girls" will be set and filmed in Jordan, while an adaption of Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik's popular "Paranormal" novels is expected to be produced in Egypt.