Music and Performing Arts

Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People

Jack Shaheen, New York: Olive Branch Press, 2001. 574 pages.

When it comes to Arab characters in movies, Hollywood has only one kind: Bad Arabs. So argues Jack Shaheen, professor emeritus of mass communications at Southern Illinois University and a former CBS News consultant on Middle East affairs in his new book, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. In this groundbreaking study, Shaheen provides long-awaited evidence that since “cameras started cranking to the present,” Hollywood, for more than a century, has targeted Arabs. It has portrayed them, knowingly or unknowingly, as “uncivilized religious fanatics and money-mad cultural ‘others’.” He convincingly makes the case that filmmakers must not be pardoned for distorting and sacrificing the truth under the false pretext of artistic license.

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