Planet of the Arabs: a short piece put together by Jackie Salloum which shows the common portrayal of Arabs in Hollywood.
In my anthropology course we were shown this video after reading parts of Edward Said’s extremely influential work “Orientalism” which I do not think any college student can graduate without at least hearing about. In it he describes Orientalism as 1. an academic discipline 2. an epistemological difference between Orient and Occident and 3. Western authority over the Orient. A large portion of his piece examines how describing “the other” creates a foil on oneself. When we say “they are bad” we are also implying that “we are good.”
My class then looked at this clip, and discussed how prominent certain stereotypes are and what idea of the Middle East we get from the media. We agreed that we are indoctrinated into believing that the region and its people are characterized by being the following: childlike, foolish, hateful, violent terrorists, religious fanatics, unjustly militant, uncivilized, mobs, misogynists, irrational, and depraved. In return then, by seeing these aspects of the “other,” we are taught that our (Western) people and culture are: mature, heroic, logical, justified, rational, moral, dignified, egalitarian, reasonable, and virtuous.
Obviously, I know that many people reading this will think “stereotypes exist for a reason, and are grounded in specific truths,” but generalizing in a way that degrades an entire society, race, culture, or religion is not positive or constructive in any way. Furthermore, meeting more than three of any group of people ought to convince anyone that no one identity or attitude is pervasive enough to be applied to the whole. We must also take a step back and reflect on what our biases and judgements can teach us about ourselves, and the perceptions we have of the societies we are coming from.