How Hollywood manufactures a Muslim menace


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/06/09/how-hollywood-manufactures-a-m.html


#2

The NCISes…they usually have stories about Danesh (ISIS) or how this drug cartel funnels money to Danesh.

rah rah America…


#3

Next season it will be all Russians.


#4

I doubt that. The typical NCIS viewer is older, white, and more likely to be a Trump voter. A more likely plot line would involve an “arab” terrorist/hacker trying to frame the Russians.


#5

They film in London?


#6

One of my college roommates was Israeli, and loved to joke around about how stereotypically Jewish he looked and sounded.

After shaving his head, he now makes a very good living in Hollywood as a stuntman, playing a wide variety of Middle Eastern terrorists.


#7

I think my first Hollywood image of Arabs was “Lawrence of Arabia” when I was a kid, which portrayed Arabs as admirable/honorable/brave, though I suppose you could also say there was inherent orientalism there.

All I know is I thought they looked cool and I wanted a scimitar and a long flowing robe.

But that was a long time ago. For every “House of Sand and Fog” there are ten “Rules of Engagement”, and I know it mostly has to do with money, the economics of making a movie and churning out blockbusters (how often is a serious drama a “blockbuster”?) plus a good dose of laziness when script-writing or casting-- Hollywood loves to just take a short cut they know has worked in the past.


#8

Wait a second.

When Delta Force was made, it was 1986. The director (an Israeli) based the film on the TWA Flight 847 hijackings. The hijackers were in fact Hezbollah and Islamic Jihadists.

American Sniper was made in 2014 and it is loosely based on the real life events of Chris Kyle while he was serving in Iraq and fought insurgents who were of course Iraqi or Muslim.

These are examples of real life events, not Hollywood demonizing a people.

There are plenty of examples in the list (Back to the Future, Executive Decision, Madam Secretary, Rules of Engagement, True Lies) could all use other options to relay the same “threat” that the good guys have to fight against. I do not think the Cannonball Run example makes Muslims out to be evil, he’s more the “rich asshole who sees women as objects”.

Are we to view World War 2 based films as portraying Germans in a bad light? Are Vietnam war films meant to paint Asians in a bad light?

Anita is conflating two separate issues into one. Portraying racial stereotypes and white washing in Hollywood. These are two different issues.

I completely agree both exist…both are real issues…but not all of the examples The Freq provide are part of the problem.

Should Hollywood stop making movies based on real life events as it could be seen as demonizing a race or religion?


#9

Choosing which “real life event ripped straight from today’s headlines” event is as much an editorial decision as choosing what fictional threat to place in your story.

It isn’t that these stories aren’t worth telling, but what does it say about us as a culture when these are the stories we tell the most frequently?


#10

I agree with your point; however, there is a difference between the “ripped from the headlines” story and the fictional ones. I am not sure we should be so quick to lump them together.

Look back at the decades of Hollywood film making wherein there is the “bad guy stereotype”. How often were the films from the 60’s - 80’s contain “russian” bad guys due to influence from the Cold War? Not all russians or Slavic peoples are communists hell bent on world domination.

I also didn’t see the Freq point out as she threw around “brown people” the Hollywood trope of every “gang banger” is a young black man; which is untrue and certainly as long a tradition in movie making; even within some of my favorite films.

What movie stereotypes are acceptable in this viewpoint of Anita’s? Should there never be “bad guys”? Should they only be white males (i.e. Wonder Woman, Beauty and the Beast, Captain America 1, 2, and 3)?


#13

If you visit JihadWatch, AtlasShrugs or any of the too numerous to count anti-Muslim hate sites and blogs, you are likely to find on the sidebar a hyperlinked image claiming that “Islamic Terrorists have carried out more than _____ Deadly Terror Attacks Since 9/11.” The image was created by the anti-Islam hate site, The Religion of Peace (TROP), associated with Islamophobe Daniel Greenfield, aka “SultanKnish,” who you will recall earns a pretty penny from the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

Hmmmm…


#15

[quote=“quorihunter, post:8, topic:102427”]
American Sniper was made in 2014 and it is loosely based on the real life events of Chris Kyle while he was serving in Iraq and fought insurgents who were of course Iraqi or Muslim.
[/quote]And is largely completely fictional, and many have come out against Kyle’s memoirs in general. The guy was a solid dude that dedicated his life to helping soldiers with PTSD, but to say his story is true to life isn’t true either. That’s why I have a strong dislike of the movie I expected to enjoy, because it was a shallow telling of fictional events with a veneer of telling it as it is.

Mind you I didn’t see Sarkesian speak about the poster child of the Islamophobic movie: Act of Valor. That movie make “Islam” a united global threat that radicalized a white Russian guy whose arms dealer brother gave him bombs, and then the Russian Muslim guy works with the Mexican cartels to sneak under the US border and he would have gotten away with it too - if it wasn’t for a team of seals stopping the Russians, Muslims, and Mexicans from destroying America.


#16

As stated “LOOSELY” based. This said, regardless of the accuracy of the events depicted, the definitive truth of the events are that he was serving in Iraq and the insurgents he faced where definitely muslim and/or Iraqi. These are not sterotypes being created to demonize in that instance.


#17

But part of the problem is portraying Western soldiers as saviors, and the other side is given an equally shallow portrayal as almost gleefully evil. I mean, American Sniper is trying to portray a man’s life in the way The Hurt Locker did - but it fails to do so.

I mean, the part that makes The Hurt Locker engaging is that the bad people hide with the good, the soldiers have to make extremely hard choices with consequences, and how their lives are impacted by being a soldier. Chris Kyle is a great character to use for a movie about the Iraq war because he came back really messed up and recovered, and dedicated his life to that act taking soldiers out into the wood with guns and talking it out like guys and getting them the help they need. It’s even what killed him in the end.

Much like how Passion of the Christ focused on really dull and shallow aspects of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ resulting in a shallow gory movie, American Sniper chose to focus on how bad ass Chris Kyle is and how his “confirmed kills” all basically unambiguous kills of bad guys resulting in a shallow film with a funny baby scene. I mean, the video talks about how hate crimes increased following the movie’s success - and the same could be said about Passion of the Christ when the story of Jesus shouldn’t turn people against Jews.


#18

There is, or at least was, a strong strain of pro-Arabism in the British establishment, possibly connected to the old imperial idea of “martial races”, which in turn was more or less a variant on the “noble savage” trope. Cf. the film Zulu.

If you believe Yes, Minister, the Suez Crisis was a huge trauma for the Foreign Office, as it put the UK in alliance with the French and the Israelis against the Americans and the Arabs.


#19

That is a really interesting comparison because for the most part those films don’t do that. We’ve had generations of WW2 films featuring Germans. Sure, they are often portrayed as evil, but that portrayal is essentially always respectful. Not at all comparable to the treatment Russians and Muslims get.

It is modern Germany that Hollywood likes to shit on.


#20

Well, this is turning into a debate of is American Sniper a good film or not; which isn’t something I care to discuss. Mainly because I feel we completely are on the same side regarding the overall film and what it does and doesn’t do.

Bringing it back directly to the notion that showing the “bad guys” as muslim is a contributor to demonizing all muslims as terrorists in Hollywood is a misnomer to me, at least partially.

Iron man or Back to the Future are better examples of Hollywood using middle eastern “bad guys” when they could have used any other ethnic choice. But here is where my question lies…is it ever in Anita’s view ok to use any ethnicity?

I think about Samurai Jack as an example…his enemies that he slices up come in all shapes and sizes and stereotypes with one commonality among all his enemies…they are all robots. Jack doesn’t kill a specific ethnic people…he kills all robots.


#21

Um. I think many older WW2 flicks portray Germans as mindless, faceless, evil drones. A textbook example of making germans out to be horrific monsters is Saving Private Ryan. I would also throw in Inglorius Basterds, but its Tarantino and all of his films use massive sterotypes all around to portray his characters. So he’s sort of an equal opportunity offender in some regards.


#25

I think there are two things that make a big difference:

  1. American Sniper takes itself very seriously to act like it is being honest (a lot like Zero Dark Thirty, which has similar problems about how it portrays torture). Because it takes itself so seriously, and leans on it being based on true events, people believe the events as presented - now the audience believing it is an different separate issue, but both presentation and reception has problems.
  2. American Sniper doesn’t have a choice but to use Muslim villains, that’s true - but it has a lot of choice on how to portray them as antagonists, and chose to make them (villainous) background props. I think she has talked about women being used as window dressing before, and I think she was more effective there. I also think that’s more the fact that this is a very large topic in a very small video so it’s hard to explain all that she wants to say well.

As far as Anita not bringing up things she feels are done well in the subject (or if it can be done well), that’s a consistent criticism of her critical work that I think is fair. I think examples to compare and contrast are an important part of evaluating a subject critically, especially to reach a new audience or to relate a topic so it’s understood well by laymen - especially laymen that don’t see the problem. I also think my point #2 above is also something I would say about some of her other works where she tries to put too much of a very large subject into a very small video so it’s hard to understand the who, what, where, when, why of it all.


#27

Do you think there is a concious difference in the mind of the average person?
Everything we see and hear has a cumulative effect. That is how sterotypes persist and why whitewashing matters. I don’t think any form of media is seen in vacuum, it’s human nature to make connctions and evaluations.[quote=“quorihunter, post:8, topic:102427”]

Should Hollywood stop making movies based on real life events as it could be seen as demonizing a race or religion?
[/quote]

In a perfect world, Hollywood would make movies with developed concepts and nuanced characters, told by a wide variety of people instead of using stereotypes as shorthand and pandering to certain sensibilities and emotional reactions.Unfortunately, prohibitive cost and institutional barriers keep moviemaking limited to a small group.

I don’t go to many mainstream movies these days. :disappointed: