Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Arabs in American Entertainment Media

I just wanted to post this before I forgot. As we were discussing the portrayal of various peoples in our entertainment media, I was reminded of an article I read for another class earlier this year. The article was from the book Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (more info here) by Jack G. Shaheen. The portion of the book that I read pointed out the lyrics to Arabian Nights from the Disney movie, Aladdin as well as the Arab character in the film Father of the Bride II. I've found the lyrics for Arabian Nights, here, for those of you that are interested.
We discussed in class today how we sort of form our opinions based on the things we have been exposed to. Shaheen's work goes along with this idea and addresses the fact that Arabs are rarely represented in American entertainment media, and when they are it is mostly in a negative light.
Just a short discussion point.

1 comment:

  1. I had the chance to listen to Shaheen give a lecture during the Arabic Film Festival in DC a few years ago. Many in the audience were critical of his work primarily because it had been updated very little since September 11, 2001. Shaheen has recently published a new book, Guilty: Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs After 9/11, which should combat that prior criticism. Though I have not read it in its entirety, the book could potentially add valuable scholarship to the topic of Arabs in American media.

    In my opinion, and as we discussed in class, cinema has the potential to affect public diplomacy on various levels. However, studies such as Shaheen's are not enough to change the long-held impressions that many in this country have of Arabs due to their roles in entertainment media. As with any type of interpersonal relationship, the most effective tool of connection is humanizing the other. I think that cinema can be especially helpful in this endeavor, and that incorporating more films, music, and other forms of art from the Arab world is a start. One film that earned significant attention since its release in 2005 is Paradise Now, a film that goes into the minds of Palestinian men and their potential to become suicide bombers. For those of you who haven't seen it, you can check out the trailer here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jyz15qG22Ec. This film can be much more influential than standard scholarly works because it can reach a broader audience, one that may not be solely academic, and gives us an image of the often ignored complexities of the human condition. Incorporating more of such creative works that develop from every day life and come from the Arab world will ideally facilitate public diplomacy initiatives with the Middle East by fostering personal connections.