For nearly a century now Arabic people have been portrayed in negative ways in over 50 Hollywood films. ‘Evil’ Arab villains have taken on the Americans, the Brits, the Israelis, Africans, and fellow Arabs. They have been stereotyped as terrorists, misogynistic sheikhs, megalomaniacs, fighters, smugglers … I could go on all day. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to show an Arabic person as a villain in a film once or twice, but why the need for the constant vilification of these people?
Surely the US government must step in and say enough is enough. Unfortunately, the truth could not be further from this. Instead of condemning these negative stereotypes of Arabic people, the Department of Defense and the US Marine Corps have provided military equipment, technical assistance and personnel to help the Hollywood studios create these anti-Arab films. Over 14 Hollywood films such as True Lies and Rules of Engagement, which all show Americans killing Arabs, thank the Department of Defense for their credits.
It’s not just adults which are being influenced by stereotypes of Arabic people. Hollywood is targeting children as well. When children think of Arabic countries a host of stereotypes must come to mind: Belly dancers, sultans, gold, palaces, marketplaces, and flying carpets. Where did they get these ideas from? Disney’s animated feature film Aladdin of course. Disney Americanized numerous aspects of the film. They renamed the princess “Jasmine” (she was originally called “Buddir al Buddor”). They changed her clothes from what a traditional princess would wear to the somewhat lower status of a belly dancer’s attire. They also cave the evil Jafer exaggerated Arab features and depict him in a far from the pleasant way. So if children are brought up to have downbeat attitudes of Arabic people then the Hollywood studios are just perpetuating these unhelpful labels.
Some people in the Arabic community describe their portrayal in Hollywood movies as the three b’s. They are either depicted as bombers, belly dancers or billionaires. I have three b’s of my own: I’m bemused how Hollywood gets away with their blatant jibes at Arabic culture, I’m baffled that this issue has not been thrust into the media spotlight and I’m overwhelmed by the brashness of the US government in regard to controlling this ongoing representation of Arabic people.