Lester Andrist, at The Sociological Cinema, alerted me to a 9-minute short film revealing “Hollywood’s relentless vilification and dehumanization of Arabs and Muslims.” Created by Jaqueline Salloum and Dr. Jack Shaheen’s book, Reel Bad Arabs, it is a stunning and disturbing collection of clips. The depictions are grossly prejudiced and relentlessly violent. Andrist summarizes:
It demonstrates the way Arabs and Muslims are consistently depicted as religious fanatics, perpetual terrorists, backwards, and irredeemably tribal… [T]he media consistently propagates the idea that the Muslim or Arab terrorist is not only a threat to life, but also Western civilization.Taking the analysis a bit further, I think the clip also allows one to contemplate how these depictions of Arabs and Muslims are simultaneously about constructing an American national identity, and in particular, a masculine one. In several places, one sees how an American masculinity, characterized by stoicism and poise, is set in contradistinction to an irrational, Islamic fanaticism.
The Media Education Foundation also made a full length documentary based on Shaheen’s book. The 5-and-a-half-minute trailer is a good indication of its content. It contains many similar disturbing depiction, including a discussion of Disney’s Aladdin, but also points to how Arabs are frequently shown as buffoons (“rich and stupid,” “oversexed,” and “uncontrollably obsessed with the American woman”).Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.