From Aladdin to Homeland: How Hollywood Can Reinforce Racial and Religious Stereotypes

It must have been about a couple months ago when I saw the trailer for Mark Wahlberg’s new movie Patriot’s Day at the movies, and I believe even in the dark theater one could see my disgusted face and rolling eyes. It was impossible not to have that reaction after watching two minutes of another promotion of Islamophobia brought to us by “Liberal Hollywood!” For those of you who do not know what Patriot’s Day is about, let me summarize it for you in just four words: The Boston Marathon Bombing.

I guess you can predict how this movie will play out more or less, right? You know there is the hero who saves the day while showcasing a strong sense of patriotism, played by Mark Wahlberg, then there is the hero’s family ready to accept the ultimate sacrifice at any moment if duty calls it, and lastly the Tsarnaev brothers, two Muslim boys ready to become martyrs if needed in the name of Islam.

Now do not get me wrong, I am not trying to downplay the events of The Boston Marathon Bombing, it was an awful act which goes against Islam and something that should never take place, not in Boston or anywhere else in the world. What is upsetting however is that once more and especially during these times, “Liberal Hollywood” is promoting Islamophobia.

After Donald Trump’s surprising victory on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections, many Hollywood Stars came on the defense of Muslims and other minorities affected by this result, but what they all fail to see is that Hollywood is guilty of spreading the same Islamophobia, or giving certain stereotypes for African – Americans, Latinos, etc. as Donald Trump and his hateful rhetoric which aided him massively in his victory.

From cartoons like Aladdin which is the epitome of Orientalism, to movies like Indiana Jones The Raiders of the Lost Ark, Syriana, The Kingdom, Zero Dark Thirty, The American Sniper and many more to conclude with television shows like 24 and Homeland, Hollywood has literally shoved Islamophobia down our throats with us not even realizing it. What all of these shows have in common is that Middle Eastern and or Muslim men are always portrayed as angry individuals who want to cause havoc in the West, Muslim women who are oppressed and have no voice, and lastly the typical good “Western” heroes whose behavior and actions are always guided through some higher sense of morality.

On the other hand, there are shows like the latest ABC hit Quantico in which two Arab “twin” sisters; Rima and Nima are depicted as good loyal U.S. Citizens joining the F.B.I. but they themselves are under heavy scrutiny in the show as they are suspected as terrorists. Quantico is not the only show that depicts such characters, there are many more characters of the same type, however they are the minority.

Having said all that, Hollywood of course is not entirely to blame for the rise of Islamophobia in the U.S. and in the rest of the world. Horrific attacks such as the ones in San Bernardino, Orlando to Berlin, Germany, and Nice, France do in fact help shape that narrative, however Hollywood shares a lot of the responsibility as well as it is a multi – billion industry which has the power to influence numbers of people in the United States and around the globe. With that said, if eight out of ten Hollywood movies portray a Middle Eastern man as a terrorist, then do not be surprised if millions of people think that is the case, after all Hollywood is responsible for shaping people’s minds for decades now.

Lastly next time you hear Donald Trump or someone at your local grocery store, or someone at work making an Islamophobic statement, do not act surprised and do not just blame Donald Trump, you should also blame your favorite Hollywood Starts like Bradley Cooper, Jamie Foxx, George Clooney, etc. who due to the movies they chose to play in are as equal responsible for promoting Islamophobia as Donald Trump and his staff is.

This article is written by Nikolaos Barbaressos.

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