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Even more racist than The New York Post - The New York Post
November 6, 2006 5:10 AM   Subscribe

Planet of the Arabs (youtube, sound, violence)
posted by prost (78 comments total)

 
i can see you are new to metafilter. just bite down hard and try not to look them in the eyes when they yell at you. you know the terrorists.
posted by nola at 5:21 AM on November 6, 2006


Jack Bauer could have stopped them all.
posted by Science! at 5:52 AM on November 6, 2006


Jackie Salloum is an Arab-American multimedia artist and filmmaker. Her projects focus on challenging the stereotypes of Arabs in the media through collage, toys, gumball machines and film. Her work has been widely exhibited nationally and internationally in art galleries, museums and film festivals. Salloum’s critique of Hollywood’s representation of Arabs and Muslims, Planet of the Arabs, was awarded "Best Editor" at the Cinematexas film festival and was a 2005 Sundance Film Festival selection. Interesting post but you could have added a bit more background than just one link.
posted by phirleh at 5:54 AM on November 6, 2006


A little heavy-handed, isn't it?

I definitely appreciate her point, though. And this piece is definitely effective in some ways; it definitely made me a bit queezy. And it made me look at her web page, which I suppose is a very practical definition of "effective" for a work of art.

On preview: nola, I think you might be missing the point. Are you interpreting this piece as racist in and of itself? I thought that its intention (criticism of Arab stereotypes in American media) was loud-and-clear. Maybe I was wrong about the heavy-handedness?
posted by mr_roboto at 5:54 AM on November 6, 2006


Well, I'm definitely definite, aren't I.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:56 AM on November 6, 2006


I, for one, welcome our new Arab satirical youtube overlords.
posted by stbalbach at 6:09 AM on November 6, 2006


This is intriguing--I honestly never considered the possibility that Arabs have been so consistently portrayed in a negative light in movies. But looking back at it like this it seems obvious. I mean, it's not an excuse for terrorism, but it puts a little bit of a dent into the West's "well, they started it" argument. Thanks for the post!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:18 AM on November 6, 2006


I can just see Charleton Heston as Moses: "Get your hands off me, you damned, dirty Arab."
posted by three blind mice at 6:32 AM on November 6, 2006


So does Hollywood have any positive portrayals of Arabs at all? IIRC, True Lies, the source of several clips from the FPP, has an Arab-American on Arnie's counter-terrorism team.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 6:48 AM on November 6, 2006


Just start making more movies where protestant ministers are screwing young boys or robbing old people. Oh, wait! I can get that in the paper!

I would love to see one action movie where the Islamic terrorist is actually a crazy white guy.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:53 AM on November 6, 2006


Jeeburdges, not Islamic, but definitely white and crazy: Arlington Road (among others).
posted by slimepuppy at 6:58 AM on November 6, 2006


Jeffburdges, not Islamic, but definitely white and crazy: Arlington Road (among others).
posted by slimepuppy at 6:58 AM on November 6, 2006


I thought that its intention (criticism of Arab stereotypes in American media)

Yep, that's what I got, too. The only problem is that I don't think a few those clips even belonged. For example, the one near the end with Sean Astin being all racist... I mean that's not really a negative portrayal of Arabs in American media so much as it is a negative portrayal of ignorant racists.
posted by Stauf at 7:06 AM on November 6, 2006


Sam Gamgee... what 'appened to my dear old Sam Gamgee?

And the Libyans would be, ahem, Berbers, not Arabs. How insensitive of them.
posted by XMLicious at 7:11 AM on November 6, 2006


I can hardly think of any positive Arab role models in any American media. Dr. Bashir is the only one that comes to my mind.
posted by Citizen Premier at 7:11 AM on November 6, 2006


I would love to see one action movie where the Islamic terrorist is actually a crazy white guy.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:53 AM EST on November 6


The Siege. The islamic terrorist was a crazy, white, Annette Bening.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:11 AM on November 6, 2006


What does the title of the post refer to?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:12 AM on November 6, 2006


(yeah, I know, he's Sudanese, but they're "a-rabs" in common American perception)
posted by Citizen Premier at 7:12 AM on November 6, 2006


I would love to see one action movie where the Islamic terrorist is actually a crazy white guy.

It was called the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:14 AM on November 6, 2006


It was called the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:14 AM EST on November 6


He wasn't an Islamic terrorist.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:16 AM on November 6, 2006


hoverboards: IIRC, True Lies, the source of several clips from the FPP, has an Arab-American on Arnie's counter-terrorism team.

True, but I think this is more than balanced by the plot's featuring a terrorist group named "Crimson Jihad." I remember when I first saw that movie, I was amazed. "Really?" I thought, "You're going to call them 'Crimson Jihad'?"

Pastabagel: The Siege. The islamic terrorist was a crazy, white, Annette Bening.

Don't forget about Bruce Willis. Or the crazy Islamic terrorists.

That movie also had a token Arab-American anti-terror agent.
posted by dsword at 7:31 AM on November 6, 2006


And the Libyans would be, ahem, Berbers, not Arabs.

Excuse me? From the Libya Country Study:
Part of what was once the dominant ethnic group throughout North Africa, the Berbers of Libya today live principally in remote mountain areas or in desert localities where successive waves of Arab migration failed to reach or to which they retreated to escape the invaders. In the 1980s Berbers, or native speakers of Berber dialects, constituted about 5 percent, or 135,000, of the total population, although a substantially larger proportion is bilingual in Arabic and Berber.
posted by languagehat at 7:33 AM on November 6, 2006


9 minutes of clips from Hollywood movies. I'm sure there are also 9 minutes available of unfair negative depictions of blacks, Soviets, gays, and teenagers. How many crowded pizza parlors, city buses and office buildings have they attacked in retaliation?

I'm having trouble feeling bad for the poor misrepresented Muslims here.

I would love to see one action movie where the Islamic terrorist is actually a crazy white guy. - jeffburdges

I think that exact premise is going to be pretty rare, but there are plenty of examples of non-Arab terrorists in the movies:

The Rock: Ed Harris;
Speed: Dennis Hopper;
Speed II: Willem Dafoe;
Air Force One: Gary Oldman
Blown Away: Tommy Lee Jones...

...Right off the top of my head.
posted by Tubes at 7:36 AM on November 6, 2006


I mean, it's not an excuse for terrorism, but it puts a little bit of a dent into the West's "well, they started it" argument.
Right on! Hollywood is so fucked up, it's not as if there were actual arab and/or muslim terrorists before 911 or anything.
posted by IronLizard at 7:37 AM on November 6, 2006


The Siege. The islamic terrorist was a crazy, white, Annette Bening.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:11 AM PST on November 6

If I remember correctly, Tony Shalhoub also plays a sympathetic agent who is also an Arab.

On preview: Bruce Willis' character was portrayed very negatively, wasn't he?
posted by Stauf at 7:37 AM on November 6, 2006


Just to join the pile-on, every movie from Cannon pictures or produced by Golan-Globus that featured arab always pictured them, quite literally, as wide-eyed and sweaty. I'm not making this up. I even thought it was a biased as a kid.

To a man, they were always crazy sweaty except for the mastermind, who was calm, dressed in a western-style business suit.

By contrast, Rambo III, depicted Afghanis as courageous, honorable people, which may of course be true but was probably done more to set them apart from the aggressive commies. "We had our Vietnam, no you're having yours" Yeah, well. they had their afghanistan, and now we're having our Afghanistan. And Iraq.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:44 AM on November 6, 2006


The only problem is that I don't think a few those clips even belonged. For example, the one near the end with Sean Astin being all racist... I mean that's not really a negative portrayal of Arabs in American media so much as it is a negative portrayal of ignorant racists.

I think that while the general idea of the montage was to demonstrate Hollywood's negative portayal of Arabs and Muslims, a few of the other clips are meant to illustrate other points. For example, the point of the Sean Astin clip was to show that the ignorant racist finds it is more acceptable to display racism against Arabs.
posted by JT at 7:45 AM on November 6, 2006


I think you're all mostly missing the point, though. I don't think anybody's trying to say that the problem is that all "Islamic terrorists" are white or that there aren't enough non-Arab terrorists in movies, but that there is a lack of positive roles for Arabs in American films. I'm hard pressed to think of many off the top of my head except for maybe Morgan Freeman in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." Haha.
posted by atomly at 7:47 AM on November 6, 2006


Pastabagel writes "The islamic terrorist was a crazy, white, Annette Bening."

Did you watch that movie all the way through?..
posted by clevershark at 7:49 AM on November 6, 2006


I've become somewhat confused. Can we have a "do over" and go back to when the Bad Guys all wore unambiguous Bad Guy Clothes and the Good Guys were Chuck Norris but not Creationists? Like Gi Joe before the "Behind the Scenes" documentaries?
posted by freebird at 7:52 AM on November 6, 2006


languagehat : Excuse me? From the Libya Country Study:
Yes, in the remote mountains... where the plutonium is.
posted by XMLicious at 7:53 AM on November 6, 2006


Stauf,

Yeah, I was referring to Tony Shalhoub. And Bruce Willis was definitely portrayed negatively (my comment was sort of a joke). Still, I thought the tone of the movie was very similar to that of Tubes' comment: "Muslims want to kill you! They're crazy!" It was just wrapped in a weird "liberal" patriotism. The message I got from the movie was, "Ok, so muslims are trying to kill us. But some of them aren't. So let's not lock them all in camps, because that would be like what Hitler did." I was left unsatisfied and unimpressed. I thought the movie as a whole was lazy--it leaned heavily on stereotypes (of Muslims, Generals, intrepid FBI agents) to deliver a message that wasn't very profound in the first place, and it ended up just being a little insulting.

And Pastabagel was joking about Annette Bening, I thought.
posted by dsword at 7:54 AM on November 6, 2006


freebird : Like Gi Joe before the "Behind the Scenes" documentaries?
Duh... don't you remember when Cobra used mind control? Come on, man, keep up.
posted by XMLicious at 8:01 AM on November 6, 2006


> a lack of positive roles for Arabs in American films.

How could the portrayal of Aladdin possibly be any more positive? Next step: oh yeah, but positive portrayals are demeaning.
posted by jfuller at 8:03 AM on November 6, 2006


Arabs are white.
posted by Paris Hilton at 8:07 AM on November 6, 2006


dsword: Ah. Well, like I said, I'm not sure if I'm remembering everything from that movie, so I could have a skewed recollection. I do agree, though, that the overall message wasn't all that profound, but then most hollywood films don't have particularly profound messages. There are so many movies that have done a heck of a lot worse concerning this issue.

On preview: jfuller, it's true that Aladdin is portrayed positively, but then consider the fact that the movie's villains have thick Middle Eastern accents, while Jasmine and Aladdin both speak with American accents.
posted by Stauf at 8:07 AM on November 6, 2006


jfuller: How could the portrayal of Aladdin possibly be any more positive? Next step: oh yeah, but positive portrayals are demeaning.

Well, thank you kindly for putting words in my mouth in such a pre-emptively smug tone while seeming to imply that one example of something suddenly renders "there isn't enough of something" untrue.

Anyway, I think Aladdin was good. I'm not going to go down Stauf's road about "how Arab" characters are. I remember seeing it at a young age and actually having it inform me somewhat about the Middle East, as sad as that is. Growing up in a small town in the middle of nowhere, you don't really get to encounter much in the way of Arabic culture.
posted by atomly at 8:17 AM on November 6, 2006


Before the movie "Kingdom of Heaven" had even been released, Director Ridley Scott receieved death threats from Islamic extremists while filming in Morocco. Once it was released, historians claimed Ridley Scott painted Saladin (and Muslims in general,) in an historically-inaccurate positive light.

"Three Kings" showed a very complex political situation that didn't devolve into stereotypes -- and portrayed oppressed Muslims sympathetically.

Producers of "The Seige" went to extraordinary lengths to depict the Islamic extremists as extremists, and not representative of the Arab majority.

As other commenters have noted, it's easy to paint Hollywood in a negative light by carefully selecting clips that prove your point. This film is as guilty of perpetuating a stereotype as those it seeks to villify.

The Middle East Quarterly examined this issue far more intelligently and with minimal bias here.
posted by zarq at 8:22 AM on November 6, 2006


pshaw... Everyone knows that the true movie villians are always English.
posted by seanyboy at 8:23 AM on November 6, 2006


This inspires me to finish my own cinema mash-up: Lawrence of Suburbia
posted by hal9k at 8:25 AM on November 6, 2006


it's true that Aladdin is portrayed positively, but then consider the fact that the movie's villains have thick Middle Eastern accents, while Jasmine and Aladdin both speak with American accents.

I beg to Darfur: Gilbert Gottfried as the talking parrot.
Unless "AFLAC!" = "Death To America!"
posted by hal9k at 8:31 AM on November 6, 2006


I would love to see one action movie where the Islamic terrorist is actually a crazy white guy.

Sleeper Cell on Showtime, not a movie though.

Anyway, Hollywood's portrayal of the Middle East for years either portrayed Arabs as licentious princes, rapacious oil barons, wild-eyed terrorists, or conniving thieves. I actually think it is much better now that everyone is more conscious of the effects or message of Arab portrayals. While before there was only a 50% chance that the good guys would have a token Arab, now there is at least a 90% change the good guys will have a token Arab (or at least some type of Muslim).
posted by Falconetti at 8:35 AM on November 6, 2006


pshaw... Everyone knows that the true movie villians are always English.
posted by seanyboy at 8:23 AM PST on November 6


Ah, yes, that's right. Forgot, it's the British who are evil (Star Wars, anyone?). Still, though, the villains are much more "Arabic" than the heroes. And, yeah hal9k, the parrot is an exception, but I didn't mean all of the villains, just most of them. It's very ethnocentric, as is the case in many Disney films (see the evil (British!) Scar in Lion King).
posted by Stauf at 8:47 AM on November 6, 2006


Example of crazy American chick terrorists: 24
posted by blue_beetle at 8:52 AM on November 6, 2006


Now let's remix that clip and intercut it with the movies, tv shows, etc that the Islamists have about evil westerners.


Then maybe everyone would realize how bad both sides act.

Nah, never happen. Both sides are so indoctrinated they can't see what's really going on. Which is that we are brainwashed into hatred because that's in the best interest of the crime families that rule the world. The Bushes, the Sauds, the Hapsburgs, the Saxe-Coburgs, IBM, Viacom, Roche....etc.

They want us to hate someone, anyone, even ourselves so that we don't turn our eyes to them, the real enemy.
posted by nyxxxx at 8:59 AM on November 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


Now let's remix that clip and intercut it with the movies, tv shows, etc that the Islamists have about evil westerners.

Or about Jews. Or about Israelis.
posted by zarq at 9:01 AM on November 6, 2006


I would love to see one action movie where the Islamic terrorist is actually a crazy white guy.

The Peacekeeper with George Clooney. A horrible movie, but you were looking for an example
posted by CCK at 9:25 AM on November 6, 2006


Bruce Willis's General in The Seige spends the first half of the movie telling the politicians "do not send the army into the streets, do not declare marshall law. The army is a hammer not a scalpel"
So, when the politicians declare marshall law, and send in the Army to police the situation, and the Army behaves as armies sometimes do, Bruce Willis is the bad guy?
That's a superficial reading of that film: Willis knows exactly what's going to happen to him, but he has a job to do, and he does it. He makes a sacrifice that soldiers might relate to, as ugly and unacceptable as it might be. (I don't accept "just following orders" as a reason to commit crimes, particularly war crimes, but I can imagine an Army General so steeped in Army culture where is just isn't a question: you do as you're told. He's a character, not every Army General who ever lived and served.)
Also, Three Kings gives an incredible portrayal of the Iraqi people caught up in the aftermath of the war...

Drama needs a bad guy...in the late 80s, Lethal Weapon II took advantage of the political climate and Apartheid and made the bad guys white South African Racists. Would that make sense today, if you want to "sell" a bad guy? No, it wouldn't. That's also why Bond, James Bond foundered after the Cold War ended, and he wound up fighting maniacal media moguls.

None of this excuses the blanket depiction of any group as bad/evil/etc.
But can we also admit that there ARE bad Arabs, Muslims, Blacks, Whites, Jews, British, Russians, Lesbians, Gays, Vegetarians, Rich People, Poor People, Smart People & Dumb People, pre-schoolers, priests, rabbis, imams, mothers, fathers, Irish, Scots, Canadians, Americans, & etc.?
posted by I, Credulous at 10:14 AM on November 6, 2006


Here is a great article by one of the writers of Alladin that goes into the issue of the Arab sterotypes within.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:21 AM on November 6, 2006


Positive images and roles are good; it is the essentializing ones that are bad. As my friend Ali said (in ref. to Aladdin), "To you, we are always dancing!! If we aren't blowing it up, we are dancing!"

On preview, nice, Navelgazer.
posted by oflinkey at 10:49 AM on November 6, 2006


Navelgazer, thanks for linking to that article. Excellent.
posted by zarq at 11:03 AM on November 6, 2006


I would love to see one action movie where the Islamic terrorist is actually a crazy white guy.


Patriot Games. Irish terrorists can be pretty scary too.
posted by SBMike at 11:29 AM on November 6, 2006


Die Hard.
It was brilliant. It was an all new use of cliché. Odd as that sounds.

Sophisticated well dressed white "Euro-trash" terrorists. Except the obligatory black bespectacled Computer Expert and the one Asian Genghis Khan looking guy.

The heroes: a strained multi-cultural coalition of Bruce Willis, the about-to-retire Black Cop, the Black Kid limo driver and the struggling Career Woman.

Sundry other clownish bad guys? The FBI, the police chief, the reporter? Almost ALL white.

It was a LIBERAL cliché. That movie went so far out of it's way to tickle the pink lefty behinds of Hollywood it's ridiculous.

And people still complained about racism and sexism when it came out. I remember.

You really can't win.

I remember an editorial in the WWU student paper when Back To The Future came out that almost glossed over the Libyan baiting and concentrating more on the fact the Terrorists drove a VW van. As we all know only liberal hippies drive those ( I owned one for 16 years) and that really got them riled up.

Ann Coulter once got all fired up on Politically Incorrect about the rapists on Deliverance being white hillbillies. She really felt that was an unfair cliché. I remember thinking, "Yeah... they should have been Communist Chinese Agents." That would have really improved the tenor and tone of the film.
posted by tkchrist at 11:43 AM on November 6, 2006


I think the issue is one of balance. There are Islamic terrorists, and they make great villians in movies, and that is all well and good.

However, as far as I know, there has never been an Arab hero in a non-animated Hollywood movie since the time of Rudolph Valentino-- and in his movies the racism was laid on pretty thick, even with a Sheik protragonist.

Think about that, though. Thousands and thousands of Arab villains, not a single hero.
posted by cell divide at 11:46 AM on November 6, 2006


Its always astonishing how idiotic ( and misspelled) the comments on Youtube are . People actually thought that was a real trailer.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:56 AM on November 6, 2006


The Seige may have been a pretty facile movie, but this is fucking eerie considering the movie was made in 1998. [YouTube, and you'll have to turn your speakers way up.]
posted by EarBucket at 12:04 PM on November 6, 2006


Think about that, though. Thousands and thousands of Arab villains, not a single hero.

Omar Sharif? Well. He played a Russian doctor. Poor Yuri. But he was damned heroic. Though the bastard did cheat on his wife, Tonya. But can you blame him? Lara was HOT!

Rudolph Valentino-- and in his movies the racism was laid on pretty thick

Oh now. That was out of pure ignorance. The Sheik was a sexy esthitic prop. It wasn't even thought out at all.
posted by tkchrist at 12:05 PM on November 6, 2006


posted by cell divide However, as far as I know, there has never been an Arab hero in a non-animated Hollywood movie since the time of Rudolph Valentino-- and in his movies the racism was laid on pretty thick, even with a Sheik protragonist (sic).

Think about that, though. Thousands and thousands of Arab villains, not a single hero.


Here are three, right off the top of my head:

Lawrence of Arabia: Sherif Ali
Lion of the Desert: Omar Mukhtar
Syriana: Prince Nasir Al-Subaai
posted by fandango_matt at 12:10 PM on November 6, 2006


This was more fun, on the same page, a bunch of Arabs always dancing.
posted by Joeforking at 12:13 PM on November 6, 2006


President of the Apes.
posted by homunculus at 12:50 PM on November 6, 2006


Hollywood movies represent a biased, even racist, view of the world? Stop the presses!

That said, it was interesting to have so many egregious examples put end to end. It really puts it in perspective.
posted by spazzm at 12:53 PM on November 6, 2006


Think about that, though. Thousands and thousands of Arab villains, not a single hero.

Here are a few more...

Morgan Freeman's character in Costner's Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves

Omar Sharif's character in Hidalgo and The Last Valley (There are probably other positive roles that he's played, but I just saw those recently and they stick out in my mind.)

Antonio Banderas' character in The 13th Warrior

posted by zarq at 12:54 PM on November 6, 2006


What about that guy in The Mummy?
posted by furiousthought at 12:58 PM on November 6, 2006


Earbucket gets it.

My roommate and g/f (at the time, we're now a couple) re-watched that film on Sept 12, 2001. It was really, really disturbing, and I recall feeling strongly that this film could so easily begin playing out in the USA as a response to the WTC attack.

And I'm still not ruling it out, in my gut.

OH, and in Highlander, Sean Connery (A Scot playing an Egyptian who was a the Spanish Court!) teaches Christopher Lambert (a Frenchman playing a Scot!) the truth of his immortality and how to really use a sword.
posted by I, Credulous at 12:59 PM on November 6, 2006


Are we talking about actors? Or portrayals of Arab Muslims on film? Off the top of my head...

I had a crush on Prince Faisel for years after seeing Alec Guiness play him in Lawrence of Arabia. Omar Sharif played a good guy, too.

The Arabs in Syriana were as good, bad, and indifferent as anyone else (speaking of Dr. Bashir, who I'd always assumed was Indian for some reason.)

Does Antonio Banderas's Ahmad Ibn Fadlan count? I'm still waiting for a GOOD movie about Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, but he IS a positive character, even if the movie sucked.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:59 PM on November 6, 2006


oops. should have previewed, looks like.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:00 PM on November 6, 2006


For those who didn't click on Joeforking's link, let me add that it's another Jackie Salloum production. There are a few more on her homepage.
posted by pinespree at 1:28 PM on November 6, 2006


well i take it back prost, it looks like they liked it after all.
or maybe i just headed them off for you *wink wink* :D
posted by nola at 1:34 PM on November 6, 2006


Question re: Arabs A-Go-Go -- a very young Omar Sharif at 00:42?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:47 PM on November 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


Edward Zwick on his intentions in making The Siege -- interviewed after 9/11.

I think the clips make a good point, but are also heavy-handed. It's not like Hollywood focused on portraying Arabs and/or Muslims as terrorists prior to the era of Arab-Muslim terrorism -- and to the extent you can find historical examples of pernicious portrayal, those are parallelled by similarly negative portrayals of other ethnic groups. A cartoon with a scimitar-wielding Berber? I'll raise you a cartoon with a tribal African with a bone in his nose and a man-sized pot on the boil (and most reported historical cannibalism doesn't even come from Africa, but from Oceania).

Hollywood also needed a new villain class as the Cold War waned and commies weren't as threatening being on the decline and all. Filmmakers looked to headlines. The lesson wasn't quite so clear as it could have been that we create our cultural stereotypes from what's available. When Back to the Future came out, the threat of Libyan terrorism was quite real and quite recent (albeit exceedingly unlikely to strike Middle America).

Hollywood played its part, then, in perpetuating cheap shorthand views of Arabs, but they certainly haven't been singled out (not when the Die Hard genre relies almost exclusively on smooth-talking Europeans and Brits as villains), and maybe US attitudes about Arab terrorists are built as much on the view of half a 747 cabin lying on the ground in Scotland.

I can name positive Arab/Muslim roles, too -- in The Living Daylights James Bond hooks up with a British-educated mujahedin leader and fights ... commies (just like Rambo!). Indiana Jones has Arabs portrayed as a bit inscrutable (and some downright shifty) but ready to help anyone against the Nazis (not entirely historically accurate). And what about Lawrence of Arabia (in that one, Arabs are good if ... inscrutable and short of competence to self-govern, and Turks are nasty, brutish and short butt-rapers ... ). Three Kings was also a fantastic film (flawed nonetheless) that portrayed Iraqis in a variety of complex roles ranging from victim to aggressor.

Even recently we've had The Mummy, with positive Arab sidekicks (and a heaping dose of scary otherness that at least hits the ancient Egyptians as much as anything). So I don't think the litany is nearly as one-sided as all that. At least mention these from a debating standpoint.

But yeah, we'll know we've come a long way when we have -- say -- an honest portrayal of an American Muslim family, the wife in a headscarf, but otherwise just like anybody else. Or a Muslim playing the respected boss character (a role often given to blacks nowadays).
posted by dhartung at 2:31 PM on November 6, 2006


Another random non-villainous muslim - Keith David in "Pitch Black".
posted by selfnoise at 4:04 PM on November 6, 2006


I forgot about Three Kings. Good movie. Ahead of it's time.

What did the average guy know of Arabs through out the seventies and eighties?

There were rich Saudis living double lives in Armani suits at European discos. We saw that.

Contrast that with the live news feeds depicting long gas lines, Arab dudes blowing Olympic athletes heads off, hostages, hijacking planes, and the constant inter-Arab war and violence from the region.

This was REAL LIFE. Not movies. International reporting is not obligated to do human interest "balance stories" when they got a juicy war or hostage crisis.

For a film maker itt was hard to wade through all that and find anything positive with out looking niaive or PC. You had to turn to historical Arab culture to find positive stuff. And that takes education and a great deal of effort. Both those things are not typical American Film maker values.
posted by tkchrist at 4:15 PM on November 6, 2006


re: Arab heroes in film, how about Sinbad?
posted by snsranch at 4:49 PM on November 6, 2006


I'm sorry, but Walt Disney's Aladdin does NOT positively depict Arabs.

Reason:

1) The intro song, Arabian Nights, has the following lines:-
"Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place
Where the caravan camels roam
Where they cut off your ear
If they don't like your face
It's barbaric, but hey, it's home"
(The website seems to mention that the verse was removed after 1992 or so; I certainly remember it being included when the movie was released in 1994 in India.)

2) Aladdin isn't Arabic. To wit:
Note that although it is considered an Arabic tale either because of its source, or because it was included in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, the characters in the story are neither Arabs nor Persians
3) Disney's depicted suburban America with an exotic flavour. All characters speak in an easy-going American accent, all the jokes are American (in this theater I saw in India, the silence after some of the best jokes was deafening), and the sensibilities, American. Not too surprising, given that the main audience here was, after all, American kids. Sure, there are magic carpets and domed minarets, but I'd be hardpressed to find anyone claiming those to be an accurate representation of any part of Arabian, or even Persian, culture.

In conclusion, like all cross-cultural Walt Disney movies (Jungle Book, Mulan etc), it's just an American fest set in some exotic locales pretending to be A-raby. This is not the dialogue of civilizations that you are looking for.
posted by the cydonian at 7:35 PM on November 6, 2006


Re: The Siege, On the Media just did a thing on the terror debate, this time talking to Lawrence Wright instead of Zwick.
I had to get a job [...] It was the American University in Cairo. I didn't realize that we had no diplomatic relations at all, and there were only 200 Americans in the entire country at that time, and they were trying to keep a university afloat. [...] I loved Egypt. I had a wonderful time.
Wright has a new book out.
posted by morganw at 9:32 PM on November 6, 2006


What does the title of the post refer to?

Sorry, Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese. I was kind of busy yesterday. The title of the post is from the clip itself. It's at 6.01.
posted by prost at 10:27 PM on November 6, 2006


The US Media did the same thing to Russians during the Cold War and the years after. Any movie that has nuclear weapons in the plot usually had some Russian, or Slavic terrorist. The two that just enter my mind right now are Rocky IV, and that movie Air Force One. There are countless, and I'm sure you can make the same kind of footage with it.

This is of course not to dimish the fact that Arabs are made out to be barbarians in the media today, just saying join the club :u)
posted by vodkadin at 12:04 AM on November 7, 2006


Hrm, well. I think people read too deeply into Hollywood. There's a definite meme regarding Arab-like crazy terrorists, but I think it's just because it makes for an easy plot, not particularly intended to drive a point home or depict Arab culture negatively. I mean, we're talking about Hollywood here. You got a movie where the premise is some shit is going to get blown up, and a cop of some sort needs to stop it. The easiest way to paint that is with Terrorism as people understand it. I mean it's not like Hollywood invented the Muslim suicide bomber. It capitalized on it. That's what Hollywood does, it's a far cry from the most original entertainment medium. But yes there are examples of non-Arab-like bad guys, and there are examples of Middle Eastern people not being terrorists. Drawing up a scoresheet says more about the observer than the observed IMO.

It's interesting in an academic way to discuss how this might effect people's perception of Middle Eastern culture and I imagine it does have some impact. But people that allow their opinions to be formed by Hollywood stereotypes have a deeper issue -- an already extant lack of education about the topic. Or from a culture perspective, lack of exposure to the real thing. Living in a culturally diverse area such as the Bay Area/Silicon Valley gives me one perspective; someone whose only exposure to Middle Eastern culture is from Hollywood and various other medias have another. But I honestly question if its the job of the entertainment business to educate people.
posted by cj_ at 12:51 AM on November 7, 2006


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