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Arabs Hated By Hollywood?

The video below is making the rounds, with all manner of collar-loosening guilt expressed at the American Prospect about our nation's celluloid Orientalism. Hollywood, see, never depicts the cool Arab i-banker who fronts a Guster cover band. It's reel-to-reel swarthy … Read More

By / January 15, 2008

The video below is making the rounds, with all manner of collar-loosening guilt expressed at the American Prospect about our nation's celluloid Orientalism. Hollywood, see, never depicts the cool Arab i-banker who fronts a Guster cover band. It's reel-to-reel swarthy leches, self-immolating nincompoops, and genie-pilfering megalomaniacs, isn't it?

Leave aside the fact that the following was sent to Steve Clemons by an Al Jazeera journalist, whose employers's rendering of Middle Eastern Jewry is always cool and collected. Ross Douthat has already pointed out that the most recent films depicted herein are at least fifteen years old. I'd add that despite what the 200 pounds of bad veal calling itself a narrator in this documentary will tell you, Aladdin and True Lies are not quite as culturally paradigmatic as all that. If Jafar merits a Saidian dissertation, then perhaps I can enjoin a Caribbean scholar of stereotypes to explain the Rasta rock lobster who told Ariel how to land her man in The Little Mermaid?

Also, the only suicide-bomber I spot below played the greasy right-hand-man to a Colombian drug lord in Crocodile Dundee II, and thank you, I didn't need Al Jazeera to tell me that brown skin is still eminently fungible in American popular culture.

Douthat's also right to say that since 9/11, the only movies to come out depicting Arabs in a negative light were The Kingdom (and really, it was more the Wahhabists what done it, as Stephen Schwartz argued in these pages), and United 93, which, you'll admit, at least aimed at verisimilitude.

It's long been a cause of minor consternation among my British friends that American filmmakers cannot make a schlocky science-fiction epic without casting the sons and daughters of Albion as imperial assholes. Check out the accents on the Death Star personnel sometime.

I don't mean to sound like a white Stanley Crouch (well, okay, maybe a little), but as for the narrator's claim that we got over vilifying blacks in cinema a long time ago, so why can't we do the same for Arabs, he clearly has yet to take in the latest Ice Cube/Tracy Morgan vehicle.

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