Portrayal of Muslim Stereotypes Post 9/11

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During and after World War II, the Cold War, and the Gulf War, Hollywood portrayed villains as the current cultural fear and official enemy of the United States. This trend changed after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Since the attacks on the World Trade Center, Hollywood has often refused to use Muslims as villains, even though Muslim terrorists became the United States’ cultural enemy due to their responsibility for the attacks. This can best be explained by Americans’ change in attitudes about what is considered politically correct. In referring to the portrayal of the Japanese as villains after the attack on Pearl Harbor, John Danziger claims, “The enemy, of course, is portrayed in a manner that today would be termed politically incorrect” (www.digitallyobsessed.com). Times have changed in the 60 years between Pearl Harbor and September 11. Today people try to be politically correct more than ever because they fear the consequences that stereotyping may have. Due to rising political correctness, fears of false branding and stereotyping, and sensitivity of the September 11 attacks, Hollywood has started using, in place of Muslims, former enemies, such as Russians and Nazis, as villains, but with the stereotypical traits of Muslim terrorists. These traits include the targeting of innocent mass crowds, blending into society and attacking when least expected, and religious fervor as motivation for attacking America and can be seen in The Sum of All Fears (Robinson 2002), Con Express (Cunningham 2002), and Batman Begins (Nolan 2005). In The Sum of All Fears, the villains are European Nazis who carry out an attack on a mass crowd of innocent civilians at a Baltimore stadium, reflecting the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. In the movie, European Nazis buy an old Israeli nuclear bomb that had been lost when an Israeli plane crashed in a Middle Eastern desert decades earlier. These Nazis are a reflection of the Muslim terrorists because they do not follow the orders of any country, but rather run their own organization. Later, it is discovered that the Nazis have kidnapped three Russian scientists. The scientists use the nuclear material from the Israeli bomb to make a nuclear bomb inside a vending machine. The vending machine is then shipped to the United States. Minutes before the nuclear bomb detonates, audiences are clued in to the fact that the bomb is under a Baltimore stadium where the Super Bowl is being held. When Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) tells Cabot (Morgan Freeman) that the bomb is in Baltimore, the camera pans the entire stadium and shows all the football fans and slow-motion close-ups of some to give the viewer a face of the innocent. This scene is meant to give the viewer an idea of the magnitude of innocent lives taken due to the nuclear explosion. Immediately before the bomb explodes, the camera shows a birds-eye view of Baltimore’s downtown area to reinforce the idea that the bomb will kill thousands, if not millions of innocent Americans. The Sum of All Fears depicts a terrorist attack that results in the deaths of many times the number killed on September 11. Although the death toll is very different, it is apparent that the terrorist attack in the movie parallels the real life events of September 11 given the deaths of so many innocent Americans. Much like the September 11 terrorists disguised themselves as normal American citizens before carrying out their attacks, Russian terrorists in Con Express emulate their surroundings before unexpectedly attacking. In the movie, Russian terrorists board a train carrying dangerous nerve gas to Washington, D.C. by disguising themselves as American troops in order to blend in with real troops guarding the nerve gas. Before the real American troops figure out what is happening, the terrorists hijack the train and retake control of the nerve gas en route to Washington, D.C. According to Professor Cliff Irvine, “It...
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