You might have even thought about it yourself, but then quickly put it out of your mind, “No, I couldn’t do that…I wouldn’t do that…I shouldn’t do that.” But they did. And now we are left with the inevitable, Ahmed & Salim by Israeli creators, Or Paz and Tom Trager, a web sitcom about terrorists. It’s official, no one is safe.
Softening the blow is the fact that the show is animated, so the killing of a Jewish girlfriend coming between brothers Ahmed and Salim is almost funny. Did I really just say that? There is also canned laughter and applause when certain characters like the boys’ terrorist father, Yasser, enters. The animation is decidedly simple, taking its cue from another edgy cartoon known as, South Park, heard of it? (Salim’s character looks like he was stolen right from SP). The dark humor rivals that of its predecessor, with the likes of father and son heart-to-hearts about the virtue of suicide, the aforementioned killing of a Jewish girlfriend, the father’s impulsive killing of one of his wives, etc. yes, the list goes on…and on.
It’s hard to say how I feel. This is one of those things that rides the line between terribly offensive and actually entertaining. I guess the way I feel is, why not? Look, I cringe and wince at least once in each episode (probably closer to five times – one for each minute in these tight three to five minute episodes), but I also usually get at least one good guffaw from them as well. Obviously there is the sticky question of religion and is it offensive to Islam. And I think the creators do a good job of keeping religion out of it for the most part, sticking to skewering terrorists, much like say, The Simpsons, skewers the American nuclear family.
The fact that the show is created by a pair of Israelis definitely deepens the issue and I’m not nearly educated enough, or smart enough to dive into the psychology of this, though it probably could use a little analysis. Paz and Trager for their part address the tension in a couple of episodes, like episode 4 when the boys’ father awakens one morning as a Rabbi and before he can convince the boys that he is in fact their father, Salim shoots him in the nuts, just like daddy told them to. As daddy-as-Rabbi recovers he has an epiphany about Jews and how maybe they ain’t so bad after all, but soon changes his tune when he wakes up from his dream/nightmare, returning to his terrorist self and going on a gleeful killing rampage. Analyze that one, folks.
A milder and decidedly funnier episode addressing the situation comes in ep 2 where pops asks the boys to mind a kidnapped Jew. The boys spend the afternoon playing guitar hero with him until everyone tires and the Jew decides it’s time to go home. The boys happily let him go, with Ahmed capping off the goodbye, with, “Great guy.” When dad gets home, he comically screams at the boys, ending the episode with his titular catchphrase, “Ahmed and Salim!”
As if this even matters considering what you now know about the show, be forewarned that there are a lot of F-bombs and epithets of all flavors throughout the show, which only fuel the humor vs. offense factor of the series. Perhaps obviously, this is not the concern of the thousands of people watching the series on youtube, however, where comments range from the deeply offended to the sublimely entertained. To say that a dialogue is created among viewers is an understatement, which to my mind is a wonderful thing. I like the fact that I’m confused by my own feelings toward the show because it deepens my questions into the thorny issues it brings up. Which is better than not addressing them at all, right?
So far there are six episodes and already in episode six Paz and Trager are going post-modern and addressing audience reactions with a YouTube-centric episode that comically discusses the idea that people sometimes take these little vids a bit too seriously. Take a look at this one where Salim goes crazy with a blender blending everything in sight after watching, “Will it Blend?” It’s pretty funny and gives us a little insight into the fact that these creators are definitely aware of and sensitive to the public reaction to their show.
“When people watch Ahmed and Salim, they already have a pre-existing opinion about Muslims and Jews,” Trager said. “If the person watching it is a racist, then he was already a racist to begin with. We are not changing anyone’s opinions — nor do we try.”
So enter at your own risk, but watch it, for entertainment, thought-provocation and general interest. You can find it on YouTube, www.ahmedandsalim.com, as well as Facebook (yes, they already have a couple of fan clubs). But, as I’ve suggested, this is not for the feint of heart.