Film discussions on stereotype

On December 4th, 12 youth gathered at Wi’am Centre to watch the film entitled, Reel Bad Arabs. Reel Bad Arabs is film based on Jack Shaheen’s book by the same title. The film looks at how Arabs have been portrayed in Hollywood. Shaheen says that through movies like Aladdin, Delta Force, True lies, and many more, Arab men are portrayed as violent, wanting to take over the world, inept, sex fiends, while women are portrayed as violent, submissive to men, and as exotic dancers. This portrayal, he argues, as not only impacted the media but also governments. He says that how Arabs are characterized through Hollywood inevitably impacts how they are perceived on the global stage which influences the ability for war to be declared upon them and human rights abuses that are inflicted on them, to be ignored.

The youth watched the film and later discussed some of the main issues. They were frustrated at how they had been portrayed and how this stereotype affects their Palestinian cause to live in a just peace. The youth were discouraged at how through the media they have been turned into a cartoon character that does not reflect their true identity. They yearned to be portrayed for who they really are, as intelligent people who yearn to have their people live with peace and justice for all. The youth spoke of how it is important to not live up to the stereotype and to network among people so that they can disseminate their true image.

Through watching this film the youth were able to discuss both their own cultural identity and also the problem of racism in the world. They were able to look at how the images of Hollywood can play a role in their daily lives, all be it a negative one. Films such as this help the youth understand what has assisted in creating their current political situation, and it is by creating opportunities of understanding that Wi’am hopes the youth will be able to combat these negative images and work for justice and freedom.

  • I saw this film, as well, and met with Mr. Shaheen two years go at a Religion Communicators’ Conference. I wrote an article for the World Association of Christian Communicators about the screening.