Behzat Ç is a Turkish police drama about the existential crises of a detective investigating murders in the Turkish capital Ankara, which would not seem the usual target for a Humourless Marxist Review, particularly written by an Australian comrade, but here we are, aren’t we?
Why did I spend the past three years learning Turkish through this programme as my only form of international theory or practice, while my only domestic practice, organising fast food workers within RaFFWU, dwindled to nothing? Because the Worker’s Spatula Central Committee ordered me to do so, and if the vanguard of the vanguard of the vanguard of the world revolution tells you to watch some Turkish guy with a messy haircut run around in the dark punching criminals and being sad about it, you fucking do it, comrade.
When [REDACTED] first discovered me, I was just a low-level member of Socialist Alliance trying to organise the fast food workers of Melbourne. Now I speak fluent Turkish and am intimately familiar with Turkish drinking culture, and also I’m on my way to “Angara” to join the (Birleşik) Devrimci Parti’nin saflarına. All thanks to three seasons of a show about a cop.
Obviously, this is no communist show. The hero is an officer of the bourgeois state, after all. But the portrayal of the police in the show is consistently revealing of the limitations of “justice” in class society: driven by an honest conscience, whenever Behzat and his friends try to do the right thing, they are either forced to go against the explicit orders of the state bureaucracy and struggle against the actual forces of the state, or they find themselves undermined, and the unjust order uses the police force at large to protect the bourgeois individuals and class interests which, in the final instance, command them.
It’s easy to miss this theme, even for many critical Turkish viewers. In the service of gaining a more total understanding of Ankara society in all its diverse class and social contradictions than any Turkish person, merely from watching this television show, I have not left the house in the past six months, surviving on cigarettes, tea, and rakı, just like Behzat and his friends.
I’m told that a lot of Turkish “diziler” are fixated on the toiling lower classes, and Behzat Ç. is no exception, with many scenes portraying working class neighbourhoods, and even militant leftist organisations. The portrayal of these groups is in many ways inaccurate, but it is broadly sympathetic, and leftist viewers will certainly be interested in this theme.
The gender politics are also not perfect, as one might expect from a show so dominated by men, but it is interesting to watch how even in this context, men have the ability to show emotional vulnerability and cry, etc. Presumably, this show influenced the US programme Steven Universe, which combines Harun’s love of snacks with the more emotionally healthy and gender-progressive men characters to create the titular Steven Universe, the Ankara cop of Anglo children’s TV heroes.
I have reported to [REDACTED] that I finished this series, and would recommend it to others trying to acclimate themselves with the Turkish language and the Ankara culture; she replied that I ought to write this review and publish it on the Spatula page. She then presented me with a thumb drive full of other Turkish “diziler” which she recommends for my flight to Turkey, including “Masum”, “Leyla ile Mecnun”, and “Şahsiyet”.
When I asked if these series were also about Ankara, or were about left politics in Turkey, she replied “no, they’re just really good for binge-watching”.
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