This blog post is part of an exchange between students at Stanford University and at American University in Cairo.
“Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.” This Egyptian commercial shows a typical conversation between parents and their son. The mother starts by showing us how she is disappointed from her son due to his carelessness in studying and suddenly the mobile phone of the grandmother rings in a special tone and she answers in a funny and surprising way.
Have you ever seen a grandma-playing billiard? That was the ending of the commercial; she was holding a billiard stick and doing a gesture with her hand like punks or rock stars do. This comic effect in particular arises from both speech and action; it is inconsistent for an old, conservative looking, grandmother to have a ring tone like that. It is also inconsistent for her to answer the phone the way she did, usually most grandmothers, not only Egyptians, speak in a soft tone.
The Egyptian audiences can laugh at the commercial because in Egyptian culture its weird when a grandmother has a mobile phone with ring tone for “Usher” and answers the call with “Yo” and “What’s up”, which relates more to an informal American language and teenagers in specific.
It’s culturally illogical for the audience that an Egyptian grandmother has a ring tone for “usher” and answers with “Yo and wasp”, while the whole family is trying to re-construct the manner grounding for the grandson and the grandmother is the one who needs it! It is unexpected and un-realistic to find a grand mother talking like how rappers do because it’s unacceptable in our culture to have an old woman speaking in such way.
In conclusion, the Egyptian picture of a grand mother or even a mother is the following: conservative, protective, strict, old fashioned, with ethics, and manners. When an Egyptian ringing tone commercial comes and presents the total opposite of that to its audience then there will definitely be surprise and incongruity because of the culture aspect. It may be a little bit expected in another culture, but in ours there is no way to have a grand mother listening to Usher and putting his song as a ringing tone. It gives us a culture shock!
Seif,Fatima, Alaa, Alia