Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People
In Hollywood movies, ominous music accompanies Arabs on screen. The desert is shown as something to fear. This goes back to silent movies in Hollywood, with stars like Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. In Disney’s Aladdin, the film degraded Arabs by saying “they came from a land in a faraway place, where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face. It’s barbaric but hey it’s home.” Ali Baba is referred to in another film as the mad dog of the desert. In Arnold Schwarzenegger’s True Lies, Arabs are depicted as evil but also incompetent. In Cannonball Run, Jamie Farr depicted a buffoon of an Arab. Arabs are depicted as little more than oversexed animals. In Never Say Never Again, Kim Basinger’s character is sold to a leering group of Bedouins. The message is that Arabs mistreat their women and use them only for sex.
Arabic women are also depicted negatively. They are seen as belly dancers, in professions that appeal to the sexual side of men only. Except recently, they have also been depicted as terrorists. They wear burkas, and are shown in the shadows. They represent something sinister, in other words.
This documentary video (and book) show that there are three reasons why this racism against Arabs has persisted, and was begun in the first place. One is that in the period immediately following World War II, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict came into sharper focus and the United States has always largely been on the side of Israel. The second is the oil embargo of the 1970s. The third is the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Americans were taken hostage. (My note: Iranians are not Arabs, but perhaps the video is saying racism against Middle Easterners, as opposed to just Arabs. Also, in the film Network, Arabs are shown to be buying large chunks of land in America, preparatory to taking over the country. This reminds me of what I wrote about in an earlier video summary, the problem/reaction situation. To vilify a people, the elite creates a problem, then gets the public opinion so energized against the instigator of the problem that the public are willing for anything to happen.) Palestinians are often depicted as wanting to kill all Americans, many times for no real reason and without regard for anything. The fact that many Jewish businessmen run and control Hollywood also helps to explain the constant and negative depicions of Palestinians on the silver screen.
Palestinians on Hollywood screens never suffer. They are not victims of an occupation. They are never humanized the way Israelis are on screen. Iron Eagle is an example of a film that was made in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Defense. Rules of Engagement is possibly the most racist film that falls into this category. Yemen is the scene of this film and there was a massive slaughter of Yemenis. The evidence was clear but the officers responsible for the massacre were not convicted. (This reminds me of the Rodney King incident where there is videotape showing police brutality against King but in spite of the visual proof, the officers are not convicted). A little girl is shown to be a terrorist, shooting many. These tricks are designed to get the audience on the side of the people who fight against the Yemenis, the Arabs. The fight against women and children is justified in the film by making the little girl a terrorist. There is a clear dehumanization of the Yemeni child.
(Just like violence on television witnessed by children helps to make the children think more violent thoughts and possibly act on those thoughts, so do such movies encourage negative views of Arabs. When I posted a blog that asked the question, Should Canadian girls date Middle Eastern guys?, one of the comments I received on Twitter was something like “If they want to be beaten and bombed”. The original blog can be found at https://jaclynhollandstrauss.com/2012/06/12/should-canadian-girls-date-middle-eastern-guys/. Was Timothy McVeigh’s ethnic background brought up when he committed his atrocity? No. )
These films also act as a primer, setting the context, for saying that the September 11 terrorists were not committed by a lunatic fringe, but instead by everyday Arabs. Through this strategy, mainstream Arabs and the fringe become part of merely a monolithic mass. This is why, now at the airport, Arabic students go through such a rough time, even if there is nothing suspicious about them.
If you are offended by how negatively Arabs are depicted in the media, please tell everyone you think might be interested in my website, because my articles attempt to build a bridge of tolerance between the West and the East. We really are not that different. Every ethnic group has a lunatic fringe. Everybody has the same dreams, regardless of their race or culture.
An example of an article that I have written that celebrates other cultures include Women in Saudi Arabia are kind of lucky!, found at https://jaclynhollandstrauss.com/2012/06/03/women-in-saudi-arabia-are-kind-of-lucky/.