Richard Poplak

Sheikhs Batmobile: In Pursuit Of American Pop Culture In The Muslim World

Sheikhs Batmobile: In Pursuit Of American Pop Culture In The Muslim World

What happens to our pop culture when it meets another culture head-on — especially one that, according to some, is completely at odds with our own?

In The Sheikh’s Batmobile, pop culture commentator Richard Poplak sets out on an unusual two-year odyssey. His mission is to see what becomes of his and America’s obsessions — pop songs and sitcoms, Hollywood movies and shoot-’em-up video games, muscle cars and punk music — when they make their way into the Muslim world.

Over the course of his journey, Poplak gets body-slammed by WWE fans in Afghanistan, hangs out with hip-hop artists in Palestine, headbangs to heavy metal in Cairo, discovers a world of extreme makeovers in Beirut, bowls with the chief of police in small-town Kazakhstan, and encounters a mysterious Texan who builds rocket-propelled Batmobiles for a clientele of sheikhs.

With uproarious humor and keen cultural insight, Poplak asks some vital questions: How is American pop culture consumed and reinterpreted in the Islamic world? What does that say about how we are viewed by young Muslims? And can Homer Simpson bridge the divisions that are tearing our world apart?

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  • I would read Poplak if he wrote about watching paint dry. Dark, funny, self-deprecating and poetic, Poplak is a punk Graham Greene. —The Globe and Mail
  • A heroic feat of research, analysis, and on-the-ground reportage . . . At the very least, The Sheikh’s Batmobile should shatter the Western stereotype of the Muslim world as repressive and stagnant. —Quill and Quire
  • In the riotous, fearless, and very funny tradition of Hunter S. Thompson and Jon Ronson, Richard Poplak takes us through the looking glass and into an upside down, funhouse mirror pop culture universe where Homer Simpson drinks juice out of a beer can, batmobiles are custom-designed in a desert lair and Islamic children spontaneously recreate the video for Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello.’ In the process, Poplak gives us a mantra that unites the West and the East, the secular and the sacred: ‘Fuck you, Shrek, you big green motherfucker.' —Nathan Rabin, Head Writer, The A.V Club, author, The Big Rewind and My Year of Flops
  • It may seem unbelievable, not to say wrong, that a comic memoir can emerge from South Africa’s white-power days. But after a reading of Richard Poplak’s breezy and brilliant Ja, No, Man, you’re more inclined to ask: what better place? No yes man could be this funny, or this wise. —John Allemang, The Globe and Mail
  • A clever young Canadian-South African, Richard Poplak, has written one of the finest, funniest and most tragic memoirs I have read in years, called Ja, No, Man: Growing Up White in Apartheid-Era South Africa. It is a gem, all the pleasure and pain and ruthless observation concealed inside the gleaming jewel of the book. —Heather Mallick, Toronto Star
  • Poplak stitches together the insults and indignities - mundane, suburban, absurd, tragic - of apartheid in its horrible death throes with such skill, such honesty and above all, such drop-everything-and- laugh-out-loud humour that I found myself having to re-read whole passages just to see what they sounded like without my shrieks of laughter thrown in. Ja, No, Man is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to know what it was like to be there and anyone who hopes we never go there there again - in other words, a must-read for everyone. —Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight
  • Poplak’s expertly-researched and beautifully-written The Sheikh's Batmobile is one of the most important documents of the post-9/11 world. —The National Post
  • Whether dissecting Indonesian punk bands or the eternal wisdom of Magnum, P.I., Poplak is everything you want in a cultural interpreter—funny, frank and utterly incapable of spewing mass market pabulum. Poplak gets beyond the cheap, superficial observations lesser writers bring to his subject, revealing himself as a genuine thinker who delivers original insight and laughs in every chapter. —Chuck Thompson, author of Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer