This week, Berlin-based Arab graffiti artists took a stand against the anti-Arab rhetoric that is prevalent on American TV. The artists were commissioned to paint graffiti on a set from TV show Homeland to make it look like a Syrian refugee camp. The artists used this opportunity to highlight the lack of research by the show’s producers. The graffiti they painted mocked the show, calling it racist.
These artists wrote a heartfelt letter to the public explaining their actions. However, it is Hollywood that needs to explain the grudge it holds against Arabs. From shows such as 24, which aired for years, to more recent ones such as Tyrant and Homeland, Hollywood seems obsessed with portraying Middle Eastern culture negatively.
Hollywood seems obsessed with portraying Middle Eastern culture negatively.Yara al-Wazir
The impact that these shows have on Western public attitudes toward Arabs is real. The negativity that plagues shows such as Homeland is the main reason behind the racist stereotypes assumed in the West. Hollywood would not dare stereotype other races in such a way, so why is it acceptable toward Arabs?
Scenes that showcase all women as covered, that show men degrading them, the way in which families interact – all these are prevalent themes in both Tyrant and Homeland. Yet having lived in the Middle East for more than 12 years, I can comfortably say they are not accurate.
Such TV shows pour fuel on the fire, instigating racism and possibly leading to hate crimes. Research is not the only thing that Hollywood producers need to invest in. The media is one of the most influential tools on the planet, with the power to bring nations together and promote peace, so why do American TV shows promote hate?
In 2010, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) denied the film crew of Sex and the City 2 permission to shoot in the country, despite parts of the movie being set there. The UAE’s strong stance is commendable, and was due to the poor depiction of women in the movie.
However, it is not just American TV shows that are to blame for racist rhetoric – award shows perpetuate the situation by honoring them.
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir
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