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Houz Man, a.k.a Hoseman (Arabic: هوزمان), is the name of a satirical, fictional superhero intended to poke fun at a Bahraini policeman who was featured in a propaganda documentary film produced and aired by Bahrain’s state-run TV station in March 2011. According to the program, the policeman was allegedly captured by pro-reform protesters, but managed to escape by climbing down the wall from the roof using only a plastic hose. Due to the Bahraini population’s overwhelming skepticism towards state-run media, the official’s testimony and dramatic re-enactment of escape quickly became a subject of mockeries online, earning the nickname “Houz Man.”
On February 14th, 2011, an uprising started in the Middle East island kingdom of Bahrain, demanding democratic reforms in the country (2011 Bahraini protests). The government used deadly violence on several occasions, most decisively, on March 16, when riot police backed by military from Bahrain and neighboring Gulf states cleared the Pearl Roundabout of thousands of encamped protesters.
Dozens of disturbing and graphic amateur videos appeared on YouTube showing the excessive violence used by the Bahraini security forces on the largely peaceful protesters, resulting in the death of some 20 individuals, and leaving hundreds injured. This lead to widespread criticism of the Bahraini regime’s tactics in the international press.
To counter international criticism, Bahrain’s state-owned television channel BTV aired a documentary (in Arabic) on March 29th, 2011, alleging that a number of policemen had been abducted by pro-democracy protesters and tortured:
In one section of the film, an anonymous policeman gives his testimony of how he escaped from his alleged captivity. With a balaclava over his face to hide his identity, he re-enacts his alleged escape. He demonstrates how he climbed out of the room in which he was being held and then claims to have used a plastic hose to descend from the roof of a two-story building:
The government’s claim was rubbished by many viewers in Bahrain, and on Twitter they instantly began mocking the policeman for presenting himself as having superhero powers in his ability to descend from heights using just a plastic hose. Users on Twitter mockingly labelled the man “Houz Man” (Arabic: هوزمان) and started using the hashtag #hoozman to make jokes about him, comparing him to other well-known Western superhero characters and how they are amazed and at times jealous of Houz Man’s powers.
Within an hour of the airing of the film, a satirical Facebook page for “Houzman” fans was created which by April 1st had attracted over 10,800 members. Dozens of altered images were posted on the page comparing “Houz Man” to other superheroes, especially Spiderman. One image showed Jackie Chan on one side expressing his amazement at the skills of Houz Man in a speech bubble.
One YouTube clip showed the original Houz Man scene played with the theme music of Spiderman in the background:
In another video, the Houz Man scene is satirically re-enacted with the star wearing underwear his face rather than a balaclava:
The Houz Man meme has also been combined with the Hitler Reacts / Downfall meme in which Hitler is angered that German television is unable to compete with Bahrain Television, because of the huge popularity of Houz Man.