Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (2006)

Video  |   |  Documentary, History, War  |  1 November 2006 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 442 users  
Reviews: 8 user | 1 critic

This groundbreaking documentary dissects a slanderous aspect of cinematic history that has run virtually unchallenged form the earliest days of silent film to today's biggest Hollywood ... See full summary »


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Credited cast:
Jack Shaheen ...
Himself - Narrator (as Dr. Jack Shaheen)


This groundbreaking documentary dissects a slanderous aspect of cinematic history that has run virtually unchallenged form the earliest days of silent film to today's biggest Hollywood blockbusters. Featuring acclaimed author Dr. Jack Shaheen, the film explores a long line of degrading images of Arabs--from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheikhs and gun-wielding "terrorists"--along the way offering devastating insights into the origin of these stereotypic images, their development at key points in US history, and why they matter so much today. Shaheen shows how the persistence of these images over time has served to naturalize prejudicial attitudes toward Arabs and Arab culture, in the process reinforcing a narrow view of individual Arabs and the effects of specific US domestic and international policies on their lives. By inspiring critical thinking about the social, political, and basic human consequences of leaving these Hollywood caricatures unexamined, the ... Written by MEF

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How Hollywood Vilifies a People





Release Date:

1 November 2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Reel Bad Arabs  »

Box Office


$100,000 (estimated)

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(original release)


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User Reviews

Interesting but flawed
28 March 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

There is no doubt that Arabs, like almost any non-White group, have been stereotyped and demeaned in countless films. But Dr. Shaheen's argument - that any portrayal of Arabs as terrorists is inherently racist - is a flawed one. The fact is that there are Arab terrorists out there, just as there are Irish, Basque, Japanese, and home-grown White American terrorists in the world, and as long they continue to commit atrocities they are fair game to be movie villains. What is needed, however, is more "normal" roles for Arab actors (i.e. characters that White actors could play with no change to the script). When, in Sin City, Irish mercenaries planted explosives in an attempt to kill the protagonist there was no out-cry from public, no protestations that the movie attempted to stereotype all Irish Catholics as IRA members and terrorists. This is because everyday we see in television shows and movies perfectly normal Irish Catholic characters. Shaheen is right that ubiquitous images of Arab terrorists, especially since they already play into our existing stereotypes, do nothing for our national discourse nor our sense of tolerance. But I wish he had stayed away from proclaiming ALL such representations off-limits. It's hard enough to keep up with existing PC taboos...

Note: While I have devoted this review to an evaluation of the documentary's argument, my score of 4/10 comes also from the poor technical aspects of the "film." It is really just an extended interview with a talking head. Expect to see it in college classrooms but rarely elsewhere.

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