Undoubtedly, Hollywood is one of the world's best entertainers. As indicated by the United States (U.S.) Statistics report, its annual returns for the past year averaged $11,320,880,348 with slightly over 900 movie productions. Their movies have the ability and potential to influence the perception, thinking, and opinions of viewers. This affirms Plato's statement that "the society is controlled by those who tell stories." Also, "Hollywood movies greatly impact the American population, and a majority of them perceive the Arabian and Islamic cultures through its lenses." Hence, storylines, roles, and certain attributes can be redone in different movies in a very advantageous way.
The popularity of Hollywood movies is by all accounts entrenched in the U.S. just as it is universally. Their movies reach almost everybody. As per past literature, Hollywood movies are common in 150 countries globally. Inside these films, different images are accessed by all who view them. The implications held by these images play a crucial role in creating stereotypes. "Past literature indicates that stereotypes are naturally or unwittingly produced in the mind, and that stereotyping is crucial in assessing the world." Whilst stereotypes work in favor of Hollywood producers in creating antagonists and protagonists, the constant presentation of Muslims as antagonists in their movies can change how viewers perceive them in reality. A general acknowledgment of the cliche myths on Arabs or Muslims goes beyond the normal viewers to become self-propagating when more movies embrace similar objectives. The directors, producers, and screenwriters are inspired by these myths to create stereotypical movies.
The Existence and Harm of Stereotypes
Stereotypes are created to justify actions. An individual creates cliches about a group, from information and disinformation, contortions, or potentially suppositions made accessible through family, companions, and the media. Stereotypes can be unsafe for races and ethnicities when the negative effects of a specific group are viewed as synonymous by everyone within those races or ethnicities. When one considers another as a member of a specific stereotyped group, the perceiver's brain enacts the group's important psychological structure and procedures based on the decisions and perspectives within the system of that specific stereotype. Research has likewise demonstrated that holding negative convictions about different gatherings is useful since it could support the image and value of the given group.
Sadly, although some races are portrayed positively, others are depicted negatively in a skewed way. The majority of Hollywood's most obvious bias trends are based on race, ethnicity, and nationality. Also joining this group are the negative and cliche representations of Arabs and Arab-Americans. Albeit all races might be depicted adversely at some point, it appears that some, particularly Arabs and Arab-Americans, are constantly linked to most of the negative attributes. Arabs look different and dangerous through Hollywood's biased lenses. The cliches are deeply instilled in Hollywood, projected through racial and religious lines. Since the 18th century, movie directors and producers have jointly prosecuted all Arabs as Public Enemy number one. Unfortunately, some events before 9/11, for example, the inaccurate earlier linking of Arabs to the bombing in Oklahoma may have influenced the public to think that Arabs were undoubtedly the planners of such crimes. Given such cases and headlines, Hollywood and filmmakers may have utilized such discernments and occasions to push their agenda when creating ideas for new movies.
Edward Said's Orientalism and the Muslim Culture
Orientalism is a term used to refer to Arabian/Islamic cultures. The term is common with the West/Europeans. Orientalism specifies the misrepresentations of the Islamic/Arabian cultures through the lenses of Westerners in literature, and media (Hollywood). The term illustrates how Western researchers perceive and represent Arabs/Muslims. Its main objective is to represent and remodel Arabs and Muslims as per the desires of the West/Europeans.
The West has constantly weaponized Orientalism, to widen the difference between them and the East. The goal is to polarize and to minimize human experience between distinct cultures, societies, and traditions. The East (Muslims) have been constantly remodeled and represented as people in dire need of aid and political guidance from superior countries. The West and Europeans qualify for that role. Moreover, since Arabian countries cannot sustain, speak, and implement necessary refinements for themselves, the West must support them. This illustrates how Orientalism gives the logical foundation for why Arabian/Islamic counties should remain under Western imperialism.
Misinterpretation of Arabian/Islamic Cultures in Hollywood and its Harmful Effects
Based on Said's Orientalism, suffices to say while screenwriters' use of Muslims in movies after the 9/11 might be justifiable, their constant use in antagonistic roles before the 9/11 may have assisted with fueling the unmistakable presence of negative stereotypes and misrepresentation of the Arab world. To confirm this, in an affidavit presented to the American Commission on Civil Rights, the Arab American Institute reported a total of 326 hate crimes that included 7 murders, 90 physical attacks, and 85 vandalism incidents directed at Arabs and Arab-Americans in 38 states during the first month after 9/11. Although Shaheen's research spanned over two decades, this paper focused on Arabs and Arab-Americans representations from 1994 to 2000.
Arabs and Arab-Americans stereotypes have been common in Hollywood even before 9/11. In fact, in the early 1900s, movie directors presented Muslims as ugly belly dancers and terrorists. Furthermore, between 1930 and 1934, Hollywood released over forty fictional movies that negatively depicted Muslims. Besides, over 100 movies released in the fifties included Arab exaggerations. Earlier movies released between 1930 and 1950 were unique in presenting Arabs. For instance, the first Arab skyjacker in 1936. In an investigation that deliberate American impression of Arabs, it was discovered that Arabs were dehumanized to the point that Americans were insured against their tragedies and worries, or any section of their world. It seems as though the fear of Islam and Muslims were support for the negativity against Arabs.
The movies released after 9/11 present a concern given the continuous stereotypical depiction of Arabs and Arab-Americans. Most of their content fails to offer fair perspectives of Arabian cultures. In constantly depicting violence that uses Islam as an avocation of their negative acts, movie producers may influence the opinions and judgment of viewers on Arabs, Arab-Americans, and Islam. Moreover, it may likewise cause people of this ethnicity and culture to be regarded as "others." Suffices to say, Hollywood is one of the main accelerators of stereotypes and ideologies. This endless cycle continues to date. Things are deteriorating. More and more innocent viewers are unknowingly buying the Hollywood stereotype narrative.
More research needs to be done on movies released after 9/11. Given the magnitude of the attack, it would be interesting to find out if the attack triggered more negativity towards the Arabs and Arab-Americans in Hollywood movies. These representations, coupled with the recent developments, and an unbalanced movie industry may force viewers to conclude that what they see is true. The significance of these investigations offered to ascend to the idea that constant negative cliches assume an indispensable part in the off-putting view of certain minorities by viewers. Some realistic suggestions that may present from this paper include the likely increased awareness by some viewers that stereotypes are used to achieve certain purposes.
Amplifying this pertinent issue will hopefully ideally make people mull over sentiments dependent on what they watch or read. In addition to the fact that this paper exposed disparaging movies, it likewise demonstrated their pervasiveness and bias. Also, movie reviews offer viewers knowledge on their inaccuracies, countering the stereotypes of Muslims. Next to that, different changes can be implemented in the movie industry to prevent such negative insinuations from causing more harm. If this fails to happen, more negative ramifications from the public, producers, and production houses will be witnessed.
Besides providing entertainment for viewers, the film industry also educates. In Shaheen's work, of the over 900 films analyzed, only twelve depicted Arabs positively, and around fifty provided some form of balance. We often remember what we see most. Hence, when Muslims are constantly presented as evil, uncultured, terrorists, the public may start thinking that all of them are that way. Unfortunately, there additionally seems to be a thin line for positive exceptions of Muslims to be viewed, non-radicalized people. The insult pictures isolate some Muslims from the entire experience of citizenship, obstructing their ability to talk and represent themselves. Muslims will continue suffering if these damaging stereotypes continue. The stereotypes help to dictate how most viewers perceive them in the stories they carry that continually portray them falsely.
During the bombing in Oklahoma, mass media hurriedly and immediately marked Arabs and Arab-Americans as the first suspects. Although it was later found that no Arab or Arab-American was involved, they still were exposed to hate crime attacks and discrimination. This tragic event that wrongly depicted Muslims as the primary suspects appeared to hold fast to the misguided judgments about Arabs and Arab-Americans may be brought about by the consistent and reliably negative portrayals through mass media and some film industries. When honest Arabs and Arab-Americans endure because of the public's view of all Muslims belonging to a radicalized group, then maybe the time has reached for their cultural stories to change and be more balanced. In the absence of balance, the public might just be left with the stereotypical portrayals and sentiments they tend to believe are valid.
Besides dehumanizing millions of people, the stereotypical depictions of Muslims also offer no good role models for children and the Arabian world. There are no Arabian or Arab-American villains, and seldom are there any characters fighting off villains rather than the ones in movies. Sadly, numerous Arabs and Arab-Americans continually end up safeguarding their legacy and culture to others around them because of these tenacious negative pictures created constantly by the mass media and filmmakers. With these sentiments and misconceptions continuing to be produced for the public's view, tragic events such as 9/11 will also continue to instill more hatred towards Muslims, reaffirming the conviction that the films' depictions could be true.
Arabs and Arab-Americans find themselves battling stereotypes and racial bias due to some of the public convictions that all Arabs are radicalized Muslim terrorists who deeply hate Americans. Sadly, very few images of Arabs and Arab-Americans living their normal lives are shared. This deliberate miscalculation makes it hard for the public to identify any shared characteristics with the Arab antagonists. Hence, they become characters who are easily perceived in light of the characteristics they project. They are portrayed as subhuman, tasked with undertaking terror-related activities. Besides these images causing the public to buy into the deceptions, they likewise induce sentiments of hostility towards groups po...
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