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Dubai Bling tarnishes the emirate’s shine

Netflix TV show Dubai Bling has attracted viewers and media attention but citizens are less enamoured by its portrayal of the emirate

Dubai Bling Netflix TV show Netflix
The characters in Dubai Bling portray the flash side of the emirate, perhaps to the detriment of its culture

“There’s only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Oscar Wilde could have been speaking about the cast of the latest reality television show to hit our screens: Dubai Bling on Netflix.

Viewers talk about every word, fight and tantrum of the show’s stars, lapping up the drama of these self-styled millionaires parading their lifestyles, walk-in wardrobes and jewellery to a global audience.

Dubai Bling has become a hit since debuting in October, placing second on Netflix’s most-watched, non-English-language TV show.

And it follows hot on the heels of another reality show based in the emirate, The Real Housewives of Dubai.

But while Dubai Bling has been making waves both with Netflix viewers and the media, the emirate’s citizens and long-term residents are less enamoured with the show.

The main criticism is how it portrays Dubai – a show about self-styled millionaires who throw tantrums about not having enough wardrobe space hasn’t been welcomed by those who have spent years promoting Dubai’s cultural industries.

For me, the question is this. Every event and show has to be approved by the authorities, and did those who agreed to the show think that Dubai Bling would be a good promotional vehicle?

Did they realise that the show would be all about conflict and vanity, and is this the reputation that they want for Dubai?

Over the past two decades Dubai has invested in the arts and culture, with more galleries and shows than any other city in the Gulf. The government has also worked hard to attract talented professionals who will use their creativity to burnish the emirate’s economy and image.

Can Dubai have both entertainment shows such as Dubai Bling and also position itself as a hub for artistic talent?      

The success of The Real Housewives of Dubai was short lived, with viewing numbers tailing off. A second season has yet to be commissioned, and hopefully people’s views towards Dubai will not be shaped by the fights and fantasies of the city’s “celebrities”.

The public relations pioneer and showman PT Barnum said, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”, but sometimes you have to be careful what type of publicity you wish for.

Alex Malouf is a marketing communications executive who has spent the past 18 years in the Middle East

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