New American TV show fuels more anti-Arab stereotypes
By Ray Hanania
In 1991, MGM in Hollywood produced a film that it called “Not Without My Daughter.”
The movie is about an American woman who marries an Iranian man in the United States and, after having a young daughter, the husband convinces the wife to visit his family in Tehran.
What starts out as a visit turns into a hostage scenario as the husband refuses to allow his wife and daughter to leave Iran and return to the United States. The wife and daughter are forced to embrace Islam and to toss their Westernized lifestyle in favor of a strongly conservative lifestyle.
“Not Without My Daughter” starred Sally Field as the American wife, Alfred Molina as the Iranian husband, and Sheila Rosenthal as the daughter.
I hated that film for a lot of reasons. Everyone I knew thought Iranians and Arabs were one and the same. (Americans are the most educated people in the world, but the least educated about the world.) And it portrayed Arab culture as hostile, extreme and oppressive.
The story was based on a real story and a book written by Betty Mahmoody in 1984. I couldn’t argue with the facts or Mrs. Mahmoody’s experience. But what I really did challenge is the fact that Hollywood only produces movies that cast Arabs in an extreme and negative light. For every one Mrs. Mahmoody, there are a thousand women who have a positive and inspiring life in the Arab World.
Hey, it wasn’t in Saudi Arabia that police found three girls who had been kidnapped as children by a maniac and his wife and held as sex slave hostages for more than 12 years. The police found the three young girls chained in a basement in a home in Cleveland, Ohio, by an American and his wife.
I’m not saying Hollywood shouldn’t tell the ordeal of Betty Mahmoody. I am saying that Hollywood should expand the content of the stories that it tells when it involves Arabs and the Middle East.
We have a positive side that is suppressed by American racism and hatred.
Not much has changed, apparently. Most Hollywood movies continue to only portray Arabs as terrorists, cruel and oppressive.
Last week, it was announced that ABC Family Television, which owns Disneyland and everything associated with Disney, is making a new TV series called “Alice in Arabia,” the story of a rebellious American teenager who is “unknowingly kidnapped” by her Saudi Arabian relatives and held as a hostage in the home of her grandfather in his Royal compound home.
The story is written by a former U.S. Army linguist who worked on National Security Agency mission in the Middle East – you can only imagine how much hatred that guy has built up during the US government’s years of torturing prisoners who were accused of being members of terrorists cells but who turned out to only be victims who were in the wrong place at the wrong time but had one common feature: they all were Arab.
The girl is forced to throw out her Western styles and replace them with more conservative clothing like berqas, neqabs and full length chador.
The storyline was reportedly written by Brooke Eikmeier while she was serving in the U.S. military. Another angry American woman who blames all the ills of society on Arab terrorists? I’ve had more than enough of that garbage in the twisted stereotypes and ugliness of the film “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Seriously folks. “Alice in Arabia” is a remake of an old, boring story repeated over and over again, “Not Without My Daughter, that promotes anti-Arab racism and religious prejudice.
But in America, the ugly negative story is the one that makes the most money. Americans don’t want to see a good, wholesome, positive story unless it is about themselves. They only want to watch lies, stereotypes, racism and hatred when it is about people they hate, like Arabs and Muslims.
Another problem is that this kind of media hatred ignites protests that end up revolving around complaints of Islamophobia. Already CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, has protested the project.
Suddenly, this racist concept has become an Islamic issue. The truth is the majority of Arabs in America are not Muslim at all. They are Christian. But no one cares (CAIRs) about them.
The whole idea of another film project that trashes Arab culture, and forces it into the never ending “West versus the Muslims” conflict is tiring, boring and annoying. Fortunately, the ABC Disney project “Alice in Arabia” was cancelled last week following protests from a wide array of Arab and Muslim organizations, including CAIR and this newspaper.
There are a lot of positive stories involving Arabs and Arab culture that would make more money. I’ve always wanted to produce my own TV show called “Everyone Loves Abdullah,” a sitcom about an Arab man married to a Jewish wife raising a Jewish son in a family mix of Arabs and Jews who bring their stereotypes and funny encounters to mainstream America.
It’s a real story, too. As real as Mahmoody’s or Eikmeier’s.
So, why not? Because American audiences don’t want to see an Arab version of “Ray Barone?” (Played by actor Ray Romano in the hit TV comedy “Everybody Loves Raymond”)
Hey. My name’s Raymond, too. What makes him different from me? That I’m an Arab and everyone in America hates me. Fine, call it “Everyone Hates Abdullah” for all I care.
Can’t we have one positive show among the stampede of anti-Arab hate programs on American TV and movie screens? Just one?
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and standup comedian. He is the editor of the Arab Daily News online at http://www.TheArabDailyNews.com.)
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