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Movie Essay: Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People
This movie is widely available online.
In this documentary Dr. Jack Shaheen, professor of media studies, begins with a startling statement, that Arabs are, "the most maligned group in the history of Hollywood, portrayed as sub-humans." For the remainder of the documentary this basic thesis is explored in striking detail, drawing from American movies throughout the 20th century.
For this movie response explore Dr. Shaheen's central thesis. In approximately 1000 words construct a review essay that engages the central themes of the movie coupled with your personal experiences.
(The following questions are only meant to help guide you in your response, and are not required...)
- Identify 2-3 provocative, interesting, controversial moments in the film. Describe these moments, and explain why they were memorable to you?
- Based on these 2-3 moments, respond to Dr. Shaheen's central argument. Is he correct in his analysis of American cinema? Why or why not?
- Why might the American film industry be so cavalier with its portrayals of Arabs and Arab culture? What are the larger socio-political consequences of such an action?
- Thinking of your own personal experiences:
- How many movies in this documentary did you recognize?
- What was your reaction to these films when you first saw them?
- What themes or lessons can we draw from this documentary about the power of popular culture to shape conceptions of self and other?