"Nothing will be the same again." Americans scarred by the experience of 9/11 often express this sentiment. But what remains the same, argues Jack G. Shaheen, is Hollywood's stereotyping of Arabs. Before 9/11, Shaheen dissected Hollywood's equation of Islam and Arabs with violence in Reel Bad Arabs, his comprehensive study of over a thousand movies. Arabs and Muslims, he showed, were used as shorthand for the "Enemy" and the "Other." In his new book about films made after 9/11, Shaheen finds the same malevolent stereotypes at play. Nearly all of Hollywood's post-9/11 films legitimize a view of Arabs as stereotyped villains-sheikhs, Palestinians, or terrorists. And this happens in every type of film imaginable: one out of four of the movies profiled here have absolutely nothing to do with the Middle East, yet producers toss in weird, shady, unscrupulous Arabs.
Along with an examination of a hundred recent movies, Shaheen addresses the cultural issues at play since 9/11: the government's public relations campaigns to win "hearts and minds" and the impact of 9/11 on citizens and on the imagination. He suggests that winning the "war on terror" would take shattering the century-old stereotypes of Arabs. He calls for speaking out, for more Arab Americans in the film industry, for fresh films, and for a serious effort on the part of our government to tackle this problem.
Jack G. Shaheen is author of the bestselling encyclopedia of Arabs in Hollywood: Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. He is professor emeritus of mass communication at Southern Illinois University, a former CBS News consultant on the Middle East, and the world's foremost authority on media images of Arabs. The Media Education Foundation has released a film based on his Reel Bad Arabs.