“If characters kiss, the shows can get hugely fined,” Akhtar said. (Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council can punish broadcasters that show anything it considers contrary to the national and moral values of the society.) “So all the fans put together some money, then contacted the director and said, ‘Let them kiss. We’ll pay the fine for you.’ ”
Bottles of alcohol are usually blurred to avoid trouble with the censors, she added. Murder is fine, though.
Yasemin Y. Celikkol, a doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania who studies Turkish dramas, said some series had proved to have particular resonances in some other countries. A show called “Falling Leaves” was a hit in Bulgaria, she said, because its plot is “about the terrible things that happen to families when they move to cities.” There’s been a lot of internal migration in Bulgaria, and people could see themselves in it, she added.
Dramas have overhauled Turkey’s image in Russia too, Celikkol said, leading many Russians to travel there for vacations, to find husbands or to seek medical treatment. But that seemed to have produced a backlash, she added. In 2016, a Russian television company made a series, “East/West,” about a Russian couple visiting a Turkish fertility clinic, only for the Russian woman to end up as the Turkish doctor’s unhappy second wife.
“It almost seemed like the show was saying to Russian women, ‘Don’t go there, you’ll lose your freedom and have no access to your children,’ ” Celikkol said. A second season of “East/West” was broadcast this year.
Back in London, Akhtar raced through the first two episodes of “The Protector,” pointing out all the differences between the Netflix show and other Turkish productions. A scene featuring a woman in her underwear would definitely not appear on television in Turkey, she said. And there was more swearing than normal. The lead actor also looked more unkempt.