Arab Culture and Islam in Hollywood

There have long been various portrayals of Arabs and Muslims in Hollywood, most often as terrorists of various degrees of effectiveness, though in the end the “forces of good” (the West) usually triumphs. Various films are well known for Middle-Eastern subplots, and some are more famous than others – True Lies, The Siege, and The Kingdom among them.

Watching The Kingdom this weekend reminded me of comments from earlier in the semester prior to the film we watched regarding Arab opinions of Western portrayals of Arabs in American films. The truth is, there are stereotyped versions of Arab culture and Arab terrorists prevalent throughout Hollywood, and since the fall of the Soviet Union as a primary antagonist they have become even more common since 9/11. They are also often misrepresented as purely religious fanatics, caricatures of the terrorists who they are supposed to be. That said, educated people understand this – that these portrayals are not real and do not represent the general Arab population. However, the problem that arises is two-fold. Stereotypes of Arabs and Islam are grown among the masses of people who associate Hollywood with reality, particularly in America. The other side of this is the Arab people, who are just as blind to the fact that such representations are false in terms of the general population, yet at times can represent a somewhat accurate picture of the religious fanatics that do exist. Such people are the Islamic equivalent of the Westboro Baptist Church, and should a film be made about them it would likely be highly offense in the eyes of the general American population. This is the epitome of Hollywood – to be able to cater to the masses. Educated Americans and Arabs will view films that are more factual, and will be able to appreciate such Hollywood works for what they are – inaccurate, escapist fiction.

The Kingdom Trailer –

The Siege Trailer –


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