Monday, October 22, 2007

Reel Bad Arabs

I saw a Youtube video for this new documentary (along with a book) called "Reel Bad Arabs". It depicts how Hollywood vilifies Arabs by giving viewers a one-dimensional portrait of them. In old black & white movies that are shown, they're like the old Ali Baba stereotype, and in the color ones, they're violent terrorists.

The film looks watchable, and it's from the makers of Hijacking Catastrophe, an excellent documentary about the post 9/11 era. But I really think the filmmakers are barking up the wrong tree here. The point of the film seems to be that Hollywood molds the perceptions of their viewers by treating Arabs in a certain light. I don't think most people, including film buffs like me, have even seen the black and white films that are shown. So there's that.

So we get to the more recent movies, in which Arabs are usually portrayed as cold-blooded, inhuman terrorists, and again, the filmmakers claim that this is another example of how Hollywood molds people's perceptions to make a certain reality. But, I feel the need to ask these people, aren't at least some acts of terrorism committed by radical Muslims who are Arab? It seems ridiculous to expect filmmakers to ignore the realities of the world just to be PC, especially after 9/11. Most people, in my opinion, probably think that a majority of Muslims are peaceful, tolerant people. But there are also radical Islamofascists out there too who are intolerant to women, homosexuals, non-Muslims, etc. And to top it off, they engage (or attempt to engage) in terrorist acts that have killed thousands. And the people who made this expect Hollywood and filmmakers to ignore this aspect of Islam? That's irresponible, to be putting it mildly.

And to the movies that I have seen in the trailer. This is fun for me, I'm a movie buff, so I've seen a lot of the films that they showed. "The Delta Force" with Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin was loosely based on the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in 1985. The hijacking was orchestrated by an offshoot of Hezbollah. Like I said, it was loosely based, so a lot of things were changed for the film. I guess the ethnicity of the hijackers should have been changed as well. Oh, and a funny sidenote: the head terrorist is played by Robert Forster (of "Jackie Brown" fame). And he's as Arab as Pat Robertson.

Then there's "True Lies", one of the best action movies ever. And it's really funny too. The main villains are also Islamic terrorists. But there's also a Muslim character that works for the secret agency that Schwarzenegger's character works for, and he guns down some of the terrorists near the end. So, you have a positive Muslim character along with the negative ones, but I guess it wasn't convenient for the "Reel Bad Arabs" filmmakers to show that.

And finally, this is my favorite. One of the clips shown is that of a beautiful "Arab" woman sitting in a chair, and pressing a detonator that blows up a room in a hotel building. The movie was the (unofficial) Bond movie, "Never Say Never Again", and the actress was Barbara Carrera, whose parents were a U.S. ambassador and a Nicaraguan woman. So these guys are so desperate to make their argument that Hollywood is a bunch of racists who stereotype Arabs, that they use non-Arab characters played by non-Arab actors to make their point.

I think I can make a case that Hollywood appeases Arabs in the name of tolerance. Take "The Sum of All Fears", the adaptation of Tom Clancy's novel. In the novel, the bad guys were Islamic extremists building a nuclear bomb. In the film, the villains were changed and they were now white European right-wingers. And the film came out less than a year after 9/11.

There's so much more I can say on this subject, but it's long as it is already and I just realized that I have too much time on my hands to be writing this kind of stuff. Here's the trailer for the documentary "Reel Bad Arabs." Decide for yourself.

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