Case Study- How Hollywood Portrays Arabs

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Case Study- How Hollywood portrays Arabs
An Overview of the portrayal
Hollywood has for several decades, set an agenda as well played a propagandist role in showcasing the Arab world and the Middle East in general. This depiction has been greatly impacted by several major political events from the last few decades to a century. Political events such as the creation of the State of Israel, the revolution of the Islamic State of Iran, and the tragic events of September 11, 2001 in the United States have gone a long way to influence Hollywood’s portrayal of Arabs, very often in stereotypical and negative facets. Issues concerning the Middle East have been omnipresent in American society for several decades. There is daily news coverage of Arabs and the Middle East in all forms of media in the United States, including on television and in movies. Hollywood, for many years has depicted Arabs in stereotypical images, villain roles opposite American heroes who tend to save the day. Since the early days of Hollywood, Arabs and Muslims have been depicted overwhelmingly as villains, barbaric, inept, sinister, and incompetent and cowards. How and Why have Arabs been vilified in Hollywood? Ronald Adler and Russell Proctor II, assert that stereotyping can have a harmful effect on interracial communication, hindering professional and personal relationships (86). They also explain that “stereotyping does not always arise from bad intentions…in some cases, careless generalizations can grow from good intentions…” (87). However, Dr. Jack Shaheen, a world renowned author, media critic and university professor, describes Arabs, as “the most maligned group in the history of Hollywood, they are portrayed as sub human…” (21). In his much acclaimed book, Reel Bad Arabs (2001), and film by the same name, Shaheen breaks down the Arab stereotypes as depicted in close to 1,000 movies. In his extensive projects of both the book and...
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