210803 Rashash
The teenagers repeat Rashash's words in certain scenes on social media. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Shaggy hair, a hoarse voice, and a shemagh or headcloth placed on the shoulder. This is the style in which many Saudi teenagers imitated the character of a notorious Saudi Arabian criminal in the 1980s in the real-life TV drama Rashash, currently being streamed on Shahid VIP.

The teenagers repeat Rashash's words in certain scenes on social media. They tweet:, “I am a machine gun, if you are truly your father’s son, catch me” and “It’s a booby trap tea mug, you damned.”

The series tells the story of a convicted murderer and drug trafficker, who was finally caught by police in the late 1980s. It centres on a young police officer named Fahd who makes it his mission to arrest Rashash.

The show — partly shot in Abu Dhabi with support from local media hub twofour54 — features an all-Saudi cast in the lead roles. The actors underwent special weapons training prior to filming, trained by special armourers flown in from India.

Umm Badr said she recently noticed that her 15-year-old son began to adopt the Rashash style, whether in choosing clothes or speaking in his own way.

She expressed fear that he will fully assume the criminal character and consulted a number of specialists who advised her to take care of her teenage son, and follow up on his behaviour.

Umm Khaled said: “I am afraid that the tradition of dress will be followed by imitating behaviour,” citing the series of lootings, thefts and killings, especially after the teenage segment was affected by the violent character.

However, Um Fawaz was optimistic that her son imitated the officer, and became inclined to wear police uniforms, influenced by the character of the officer Fahd.

Dr. Hoda Bashir, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, said television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behaviour. “Unfortunately, much of today’s television programming is violent. Studies of the effects of TV violence on children and teenagers have found that children may:

a) Become “immune” or numb to the horror of violence;
b) Begin to accept violence as a way to solve problems;
c) Imitate the violence they observe on television; and
d) Identify with certain characters, victims and/or victimisers,” Bashir said.

She added extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness. “Children who view shows in which violence is very realistic, frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see. Children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence. The impact of TV violence may show immediately in the child’s behavior or may surface years later. Young people can be affected even when their home life shows no tendency toward violence.

Bashir suggested parents can protect children from excessive TV violence in the following ways:

a) Pay attention to the programs their children are watching and watch some with them;
b) Set limits on the amount of time they spend with the television; consider removing the TV set from the child’s bedroom;
c) Point out that although the actor has not actually been hurt or killed, such violence in real life results in pain or death;
d) Refuse to let the children see shows known to be violent, and change the channel or turn off the TV set when offensive material comes on, with an explanation of what is wrong with the programme;
e) Disapprove of the violent episodes in front of the children, stressing the belief that such behavior is not the best way to handle a problem;
f) Help with peer pressure among friends and classmates by contacting other parents and agreeing to enforce similar rules about the length of time and type of program the children may watch.

Bashir added the amount of time children watch TV, regardless of content, should be moderated because it decreases time spent on more beneficial activities such as reading, playing with friends, and developing hobbies.