Friday, December 25, 2015

Demonizing minorities in the film industry

In his book, "Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People", award-winning film authority Jack G. Shaheen, noting that only Native Americans have been more relentlessly smeared on the silver screen, painstakingly makes his case that "Arab" has remained Hollywood's shameless shorthand for "bad guy," long after the movie industry has shifted its portrayal of other minority groups. In this comprehensive study of over one thousand films, arranged alphabetically in such chapters as "Villains," "Sheikhs," "Cameos," and "Cliffhangers," Shaheen documents the tendency to portray Muslim Arabs as Public Enemy #1--brutal, heartless, uncivilized Others bent on terrorizing civilized Westerners.
Shaheen examines how and why such a stereotype has grown and spread in the film industry and what may be done to change Hollywood's defamation of Arabs.

 In pictures like the Chuck Norris action film THE DELTA FORCE (1986) and others, Cannon Films created vile, ahistorical, senseless propaganda about 'anti-Semitic' Arabs who thirsted for Jewish blood. Shaheen says in the Jhally film:
One reason we have not been allowed to empathize with any Palestinian on the silver screen is due to two Israeli producers, Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus. These two filmmakers created an American company called Cannon. And they released in a period of 20 years at least 30 films, which vilify all things Arab, particularly Palestinians. They even came out with a film called HELL SQUAD showing Vegas show girls trouncing Arabs in the middle of the desert. I think the most affective film they have ever done, one of the most popular, and more racist is THE DELTA FORCE. Here Palestinians hijack a plane and terrorize the passengers, especially the Jewish ones. There is no form of communication more powerful than film in creating propaganda and Golan and Globus took it to another level.

Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and independent journalist who lives outside Providence.  His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, is about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade. In a recent article - How Cannon Films Demonizes Arabs - he echoes Shaheen's views. It is a good reading and can be viewed by clicking here.

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