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reel bad arabs – how hollywood vilifies a people

This trailer for “Reel Bad Arabs”, a documentary produced by the Media Education Foundation in collaboration with Professor Jack Shaheen, explores historical and contemporary depictions of Arabs in media. From the producers: “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.”


Think of three films or television shows that feature characters from the Arab world. What adjectives would you use to describe these characters? Would you say they are mostly positive or negative portrayals? Are there commonalities across these depictions?

This film argues that the persistence of degrading images of Arabs serves to naturalize prejudice and impact US domestic and international policies. In what ways might popular culture interact or influence actual US policy toward the Arab world? Can you think of any examples in which this was the case?

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