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Geography of Turkish Soap Operas: Tourism, Soft Power, and Alternative Narratives

Necati Anaz and Ceyhun Can Ozcan


As many academics have argued (Graziano 2015; Hudson and Ritchie 2006; Yilmaz and Yolal 2008; Connel 2012; Balli et al. 2013; Tooke and Baker 1996), film-induced tourism, a type of mobility that is influenced by the destination being featured on television, video, or the cinema screen, is becoming a ‘growing phenomenon worldwide, fueled by both the growth of the entertainment industry and the increase in international travel’ (Hudson and Ritchie 2006: 387; Tuclea and Nistoreanu 2011). Parallel to this development, academics’ interest in studying multifaceted dynamics of this sociocultural, political, and economic phenomenon is also growing (Nordicity 2013; Lorenzen 2008; Anaz 2014; Totry and Medzini 2013; Irimias 2015). Although difficult to prove, many believe that destinations represented positively in these types of media can greatly impact the number of tourists visiting those sites (Irimias 2015; Bagnoli 2015). Since measuring the number of incoming tourists is difficult, scholars in the field tend to rather analyze a specific film or TV show that features a certain location or a city. For instance, D’Alessandro and colleagues have studied the possible connections between cinema films, city-branding, and place image in the case of Naples, particularly focusing on changing representations of the city through films (D’Alessandro et al. 2015). Bagnoli, on the other hand, has analyzed how the growth in the number of

N. Anaz (H)

Department of Political Science and International Relations,

Istanbul University, Beyazit Campus, Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

C.C. Ozcan

Department of Management and Tourism, Necmettin Erbakan University,

Konya, Turkey

e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it © Springer International Publishing AG 2016

I. Egresi (ed.), Alternative Tourism in Turkey, GeoJournal Library 121, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-47537-0_15

incoming tourists to Highclere Castle and the Village of Bampton in Oxfordshire is related to the television period drama ‘Downton Abbey’ (Bagnoli 2015).

Fans’ motivations to travel to a specific destination ranges widely and is often unique to the individual, and frequently internalized and ill defined (Roberson and Grady 2015: 48). Still, some scholars argue that the audiences’ interest in a certain place or location can be motivated by well-positioned scenery, storylines events, and actors (Lopez et al. 2015: 20). Moreover, people are motivated to visit particular places and influenced by specific images, memories, and emotional attachments to those places and meanings presented in television series and films (Lopez et al. 2015: 20). Therefore, popularly produced and consumed products become part and parcel of strategic investments to build the image of tourist destinations.

A successful film or TV show can create a positive image of a location and its sociocultural and economic situations, and the location featured may be changed as a result of film-induced tourism. Recent studies have noted a number of cases where screened images helped to significantly increase the number of tourist visits to a location (Lopez et al. 2015). Films such as Braveheart (1995), The Sea Inside (2004), and Troy (2004) have strongly impacted the flow of tourists to Scotland, Spain, and Canakkale (Turkey), respectively (Graziano 2015) (Table 15.1). Other films helped to promote locations of the production as is the case of Malta where some well-known high-budget movies were filmed (Graziano 2015).

Although not adequately researched to date, filmed narratives can significantly impact people’ s perception of a location in a negative way which in turn can damage tourism to the location. One good example of this is Allan Parker’s Midnight Express (1978). The film storylines the character Billy Hayes’s prison time in Turkey and what he went through to get out of the country. Soon after the release of the film, negative images of Turkey began to materialize within the discourse of geographic imaginations of the East (Anaz and Purcell 2010; Yanmaz 2011). While it may be almost impossible to exactly measure how much films such

Table 15.1 Film tourism impacts

Film or TV series


Impact on visitor numbers or tourist revenue


Wallace Monument, Scotland (UK)

300 % increase in visitors year after release


Southfork Ranch, Dallas (USA)

500,000 visitors per year

Mission: Impossible 2

National parks in Sydney (Australia)

200 % increase in 2000

Pride and Prejudice

Lyme Park in Cheshire (UK)

UK 150 % increase in visitors

Miami Vice

Miami (USA)

150 % increase in German visitors 1985-1988


^anakkale (Turkey)

73 % increase in tourism

Sources The table is modified from Simon Hudson and J.R. Bretri Chie’s article (2006) as Midnight Express have influenced the number of tourists who decided not to visit Turkey, one cannot fully reject the potential of such biased entertainment product abilities to harm the image of a certain location and its people. Negative images of a country and its people can greatly impact the actions of prospective visitors. One of the important scholars of ‘Orientalism,’ Edward Said, repeatedly emphasized that Western movies are loaded with negative images of Muslims and Arabs, portraying them as inferior, backward, and dangerous people, living in crowded streets and being constantly angry (Said 1978). These angry Arabs always hate Westerners and their lifestyle and blame the Westerners for their predicament. This kind of sweeping generalizations about Muslims and especially Arabs (many times the two are used interchangeably) causes them become ‘dangerous others’ in the eyes of Western visitors. In this kind of representation of course, one should not expect to see Western tourists visiting a Muslim country or a touristic site. Therefore, it is vital that films and other forms of visual entertainment products carry positive images about a country and its people even when the narrative is, in fact, not about that country, its people, or their culture. These images can easily escape from the first glance but are powerful enough to create ‘common knowledge’ about certain geography and can be the most dangerous ones. Ultimately via these images, viewers will be informed about different people and places. As a result, misinformed viewers will try to avoid visiting people and places they perceive as dangerous.

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