Skip to main content


  • Support the MENA Arts Advocacy Coalition, an organization that works “for the advancement and visibility of Middle Eastern/North African performers on-screen in film, television and streaming platforms.”

  • Watch the documentary Reel Bad Arabs (or read the book it’s based on) to learn more about how Middle Easterners have been depicted in Hollywood over time.

  • Watch films and television featuring SWANA actors and/or made by SWANA creators that depict lived experience with greater nuance, like Ramy Youssef’s Ramy and Desiree Akhavan’s The Bisexual (both streaming on Hulu).

  • Read bell hooks’ Reel to Real: Race, Class and Sex at the Movies to understand how television and film can serve as sites of liberation or oppression for communities of color more broadly.

We’ve previously written about the ways that Hollywood whitewashes film and television to prefer stories represented and made by white people. Also crucial in this conversation is how Hollywood has consequently represented the Middle East throughout its history.

The Southwest Asian/North African (SWANA) community is one example of a group that has faced harmful representations and stereotyping in Hollywood. A 2016 report uncovered many findings that support this fact, particularly on television. A majority of television characters from this region (67%) appear in crime or geopolitical dramas. Among those characters, 78% are “trained terrorist/agents/soldiers or tyrants,” which reinforces the stereotype that this group should be understood as a threat. On top of that, two-thirds of all television characters from the Middle East “speak with pronounced foreign accents,” solidifying the idea that those from the region will always be “foreigners” in the United States (MENA Arts Advocacy Coalition). In other words, these findings illustrate how Hollywood co-signs the belief that those in the SWANA community do not and cannot belong within the bounds of the nation.

See also  Excessive close-up of Jupiter’s moon Io captured by means of Juno spacecraft

While some may think that this sort of stereotyping is concentrated in the post-9/11 era, Hollywood’s stereotypical portrayal of the SWANA community and the contested region has roots that go even further back. Scholars have noted the presence of the Middle East and Middle Eastern characters in Hollywood going back to just after World War II. At a time when the United States began asserting themselves as a superpower in the world arena, Hollywood and the film industry were influenced by U.S. foreign policy decisions (and that sort of mentality has never really seemed to stop). Hollywood used the Middle East as the setting of biblical epics like The Ten Commandments (1956) and Ben Hur (1959)—stories that showed the very American ideal of the power of freedom over slavery (Epic Encounters). Other films like Arabian Nights (1942) showed the Middle East as an exotic and Orientalized fantasy land. In so doing, Hollywood flattened and whitewashed the Middle East to serve the United States’ imperial interests.

After the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Hollywood depictions of the Middle East and its inhabitants shifted. Arabs, in particular, were portrayed by the film industry as terrorists and other insidious stereotypes (Atlas Obscura). The most notable example is the 1991 film Not Without My Daughter, which portrays Sally Field as an American woman trying to escape her Iranian husband’s clutches, who is intent on trapping her in Iran, where she has few rights. Although the Iran Hostage Crisis had ended a decade prior, disdain for Iranians and Iran was still apparent in the United States. And while the film’s initial release was not notable, it has continued to endure in the cultural zeitgeist as “evidence of the barbarity of Iranian men” and Islam. More significantly than that, it was screened in schools for “educational purposes” (Vulture). This trope continued into the 1990s, with films such as True Lies (1994) and The Siege (1998) depicting Arabs and Palestinians as terrorists.

See also  International Wrestling Leisure has lengthy profited from racial stereotypes – it is time for alternate

In the wake of September 11, this trend of portraying Middle Easterners as terrorists did not abate, as films like Argo (2012) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012) were released to critical acclaim. But, in addition to these Hollywood depictions that tied SWANA and Muslim Americans to a sinister and aggressive other, a “sympathetic Muslim” character emerged that proved to be just as harmful. After 9/11, primetime crime and political dramas would feature sympathetic or more “positive” representations of Arabs and Muslims. Characters included Muslims who were steadfast patriots to the United States or victims of a hate crime. While this may seem like a good thing on the surface, it is actually used to strengthen the idea of the U.S. as a benevolent power (like after World War II) and justify imperial aggression abroad (Arabs and Muslims in the Media).

To move forward, we need to acknowledge how Hollywood has historically stereotyped the Middle East, depicting people from the region as barbaric, exotic, backwards, threatening, dangerous, or objects of pity. Rather than perpetuating a particular idea of the Middle East as a monolith, we should feature the voices of an array of individuals coming from the SWANA community to give texture to representations of lived experiences. Although there are parts of this experience that involve trauma sustained during and after 9/11 — as well as the many other contentious moments that have come with U.S.-Middle East relations — the community’s experiences encompass so much more.


  • A majority of SWANA television characters (67%) appear in crime or geopolitical dramas. Among those characters, 78% are “trained terrorist/agents/soldiers or tyrants,” which reinforces the stereotype that this group should be understood as a threat.

  • While some may think that this sort of stereotyping is concentrated in the post-9/11 era, Hollywood’s stereotypical portrayal of the SWANA community has roots that go even further back, with scholars identifying the post-World War II era as the beginning of Middle Eastern representation in Hollywood.

  • Rather than perpetuating a particular idea of the Middle East as a monolith, we should feature the voices of an array of individuals coming from the SWANA community to give texture to representations of lived experiences.

See also  How america and China speaking AI protection may just cut back nuclear warfare possibility

Source link

Felecia Phillips Ollie DD (h.c.) is the inspiring leader and founder of The Equality Network LLC (TEN). With a background in coaching, travel, and a career in news, Felecia brings a unique perspective to promoting diversity and inclusion. Holding a Bachelor's Degree in English/Communications, she is passionate about creating a more inclusive future. From graduating from Mississippi Valley State University to leading initiatives like the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Equal Employment Opportunity Program, Felecia is dedicated to making a positive impact. Join her journey on our blog as she shares insights and leads the charge for equity through The Equality Network.


  • Lula Rice says:

    Thank you for the auspicious writeup It in fact was a amusement account it Look advanced to more added agreeable from you By the way how could we communicate

  • Your prose is a garden of wisdom, where each paragraph is a blooming flower of insight. The fragrance of your ideas permeates the air, inviting readers to stroll through the lush landscape of your intellectual oasis.

  • I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here The sketch is tasteful your authored subject matter stylish nonetheless you command get got an edginess over that you wish be delivering the following unwell unquestionably come further formerly again as exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this hike

  • Hailee Emard says:

    Nice blog here Also your site loads up very fast What host are you using Can I get your affiliate link to your host I wish my site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  • Your blog is a literary rendezvous, where readers engage in a tango of intellect with your words. The dance of ideas is passionate and enthralling, leaving participants enamored by the rhythm of your articulate expression.

  • you are in reality a just right webmaster The site loading velocity is incredible It seems that you are doing any unique trick In addition The contents are masterwork you have performed a wonderful task on this topic

  • Hi Neat post Theres an issue together with your web site in internet explorer may test this IE still is the marketplace chief and a good component of people will pass over your fantastic writing due to this problem

  • I look forward to witnessing the continued evolution of your literary endeavors. Your unique voice and compelling narrative style have left an indelible impression on me, and I am eager to embark on future literary journeys crafted by your adept pen. Keep weaving the tapestry of words, for your readers eagerly await the next chapter of your literary odyssey.

  • Each paragraph in your blog is a brushstroke in the portrait of enlightenment. The canvas of your words comes alive, painting a picture that transcends the limitations of the digital medium and becomes a masterpiece of thought.

  • Your blog is not just a digital repository of thoughts; it’s a living archive of intellectual evolution. Each post is a testament to the growth and refinement of your ideas, creating a dynamic space for readers to witness the unfolding of wisdom.

  • Your writing is a linguistic labyrinth, and readers willingly get lost in the maze of your ideas. The twists and turns of your prose create an exhilarating journey where each discovery is a revelation, and every corner holds a new insight.

  • Hallie Hayes says:

    Your words are not merely ink on a digital canvas; they are living entities that breathe life into ideas. The vitality of your prose is infectious, and readers find themselves animated by the intellectual energy emanating from your written symphony.

  • Rowan Hills says:

    Your blog is a literary oasis, a sanctuary where the desert of mundane content is transformed into an oasis of intellectual stimulation. The richness of your ideas, coupled with the vibrant tapestry of your expression, creates an immersive reading experience. It’s akin to stepping into a gallery of words, each sentence a brushstroke in a masterpiece of thought.

  • Jean Terry says:

    Your prose is a literary garden, where ideas blossom into the vibrant blooms of intellectual insight. Each paragraph is a petal of wisdom, creating a tapestry of thought that enchants readers with its floral elegance.

  • Your words are not just read; they are experienced. Each sentence is a sensory exploration, inviting readers to touch, taste, and feel the nuances of your thoughts. It’s a multi-dimensional journey through the landscape of your intellect.

  • I was recommended this website by my cousin I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble You are amazing Thanks

  • I have been surfing online more than 3 hours today yet I never found any interesting article like yours It is pretty worth enough for me In my opinion if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did the web will be much more useful than ever before

  • Reading your work is like navigating a celestial map of ideas, with each sentence serving as a guiding star in the vast expanse of intellectual exploration. Your prose is the compass that points readers toward the North Star of enlightenment.

  • Fantastic site Lots of helpful information here I am sending it to some friends ans additionally sharing in delicious And of course thanks for your effort

  • Your writing is a voyage to the inner sanctum of knowledge, where each sentence is a key unlocking the doors to profound understanding. The nautical journey through your ideas leaves readers navigating the seas of enlightenment.

  • It’s not often that we come across content that really resonates with us, but this one is a standout. From the writing to the visuals, everything is simply wonderful.

  • Kelsey Parks says:

    From start to finish, this blog post had us hooked. The content was insightful, entertaining, and had us feeling grateful for all the amazing resources out there. Keep up the great work!

  • Your blog is always a highlight of my day

  • Your ideas and insights are unique and thought-provoking I appreciate how you challenge your readers to see things from a different perspective

  • Wow, this blogger is seriously impressive!

  • Your blog has become my go-to source for inspiration and motivation I am so grateful for the valuable content you provide

Leave a Reply