Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11

Jack G. Shaheen, Author . Interlink/Olive Branch $18 (198p) ISBN 978-1-56656-684-1

In this meticulously researched book, Shaheen (Reel Bad Arabs ) spotlights anti–Muslim and Arab stereotypes and probes the intersections of popular culture and foreign policy. The author investigates the close ties between Hollywood studios and Washington and recounts how, historically, the strategic stereotyping of populations has been used to garner popular support for governmental policies, citing the career of Leni Riefenstahl and speeches by Lenin and Goebbels to illustrate film’s long history as a propaganda vehicle. In an index of more than 100 post-9/11 films, the book depicts and debunks the most prevalent stereotypes of “reel Arabs”—“exotic camel-riding nomad,” oppressed maiden, corrupt sheikh, terrorist. Dehumanizing portrayals of Arabs have real consequences, according to Shaheen; he draws correlations between the media’s depiction of Arabs and the massive support for the invasion of Iraq, the “wanton” killing of Iraqi civilians and the escalating number of hate crimes against Arabs (or people who look like Arabs) in the United States. Unfortunately, after his superbly readable historical survey, Shaheen’s list of solutions—entertainment summits and sample pro-Arab film treatments—seem disappointingly prosaic. Still this book’s scope and its impassioned delivery make for an insightful and rewarding read. (May )

Reviewed on: 03/31/2008
Release date: 01/01/2008
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