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Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People [Paperback]

Jack Shaheen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 April 2009
Countless movies have portrayed Arabs as loathsome lechers who terrorise, murder, and finally die in drovesl In Reel Bad Arabs film scholar Jack Shaheen exposes in fascinating detail this appalling side of the Hollywood 'dream' machine. This stupendous study dissects this slanderous history dating from cinema's earliest days to contemporary Hollywood blockbusters that feature Bedouin bandits, sinister sheikhs, machine-gun wielding and bomb-blowing "evil" Arabs. He examines how and why such a stereotype has grown and spread in the film industry and what may be done to change Hollywood's defamation of Arabs.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People + Guilty: Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs After 9/11 + Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World (Fully Revised Edition)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Interlink; Updated edition (1 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566567521
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566567527
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 407,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Jack Shaheen (Professor Emeritus of Mass Communications at Southern Illinois University) has produced an exhaustive study of anti-Arab bias in films from the silent films of the early 1900s to the present.
It's a depressing account. Arabs are treated as sub-humans. They are killed like pigeons in films like 'Rules of Engagement' and 'True Lies'. Few have spoken out against this blatant racism.
It has been allowed to become part of popular culture virtually unchallenged.
If you substituted any other racial group (with the possible exception of the North Koreans!) these slurs would create an uproar.
Jack Shaheen acted as a consultant on the film 'Three Kings' which was unusual in giving a more sensitive and complex depiction of Arabs. Since 9/11 and the war against and occupation of Iraq, however, the Movie industry has reverted to type.
All this has a political effect. One can only imagine how it colours perception of the war in Iraq and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
A timely work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful 14 Dec 2013
By Jesus
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Lovely book that tells reveals a lot of what the people seem to ignore. Reality as Arabian people are dehumanized for entertainment and support for wars. No one cares.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  36 reviews
71 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading for Film and Communication Students 12 July 2001
By S. MacDermid - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Jack Shaheen's blockbuster book "REEL BAD ARABS: How Hollywood Vilifies a People" blows the cover on the film industry's century-long free ride in smearing Arab Muslims. What Shaheen spent the past 20 years researching should have been and can now become grist for where it's vital to plant the seeds of understanding and tolerance, namely, in the groves of academia.
Young Americans in film and communications courses need to face up to some pretty disturbing facts about how Hollywood has gotten away with defaming a people. The motion picture industry has made huge amounts of money by destroying the good name of nearly 300 million innocent men and women of the Arab world.
As Shaheen's REEL BAD ARABS documents the shameful vilification of an entire people, tests for college students should include questions like these:
1. How do you think Americans form their ideas about what is taking place in the Middle East?
2. How effective do you think movies are in shaping the way Americans think about the Arabs, especially Palestinians, and about the "peace process" in the region?
3. Do such perceptions impact public opinion and policy?
4. What movies can you name that presented Arabs in anything but a bad light as terrorists, oil monopolists, lechers and other villains?
5. How effective do you think movies are in manipulating the way we Americans see 'The Other,' namely Arabs, as The Enemy?
Besides the psychological and political side of his subject, Jack Shaheen has provided us with a wonderful guide to nearly 1,000 films. In spite of the bias this book lays out all too clearly, it nevertheless is guaranteed to provide much pleasure for the reader at the same time as it opens her eyes to the facts.
REEL BAD ARABS should be in every library in America and abroad, as well as on film-studio reference shelves to prick the conscience of every film producer and director and script-writer from Hollywood to Haifa.
55 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evidence of Discrimination 19 July 2001
By Philip M. Kayal, Ph.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Reel Bad Arabs is an essential read for anyone concerned about fairness, objectivity and stereotyping. A brilliantly gathered documentation of a little known or appreciated history of how "Hollywood vilifies people," in this case, Arabs and Arab Americans. Jack Shaheen is a great scholar. How anyone would have the patience to review so many films, over such a long period of time, simply escapes me. And he is not terribly ideological or biased himself! What he does is simply point out a consistent pattern, film by film, on how Arabs are depicted in film. The book is long overdue, extremely well documented, and an easy read. The alphabetized entries give a plot summary and then focus on the presentation or role of "the Arab" in the story. Sometimes history is rewritten, facts ignored, and truths disregarded just for the sake of vilification or plot continuity. To counter this in general, the book opens with needed information on who Arabs and Arab-Americans really are and how these facticities differ from their depiction as sheikhs, harem owners, villains, bandits, mummies, and, for the women, maidens in distress.
While not a goal of the author, the book is a history of Hollywood and the development of American political positions on the Middle East. Shaheen identifies Exodus as the most effective movie in shaping American perceptions of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Hardly a balanced film, this Palestinian bashing movie and others that were filmed in Israel and/or produced by Israelis in cooperation with the Israeli government, illustrate how negative Arab mages impact our attitudes about Arab Muslims, Palestinians in particular, regardless of fact. If only Hollywood stopped there, but it didn't. like a runaway train, the defamation continues.
Shaheen's telling observations are supported by evidence: for more than a century, ever since camras started cranking, about one thousand Hollywood movies have dehumanized the Arab people. As the reviews indicate, Arab diversity is ignored, countries are misnamed or simply made up, and the language ill spoken. Shaheen actually includes a list of epithets used to describe or denounce Arab peoples.
Anyone interested in the cinema, injustice, in sociology and political science will find this book enormously useful. I loved it and recommend it without reservation. Let the evidence speak for itself and damn Hollywood!
-Philip Kayal Seton Hall University
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Common Cause 23 Jun 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Shaheen's book is a fact-based, detailed example of how the media can negatively distort the personality of an ethnic group. For all those looking to fight bigotry and racism, read this book as a rallying point. Let's face it: there is good and bad in every eithnicity, gender and race. There is good and bad in all people regardless of religious choice. There is good and bad in families, communities, cities, states, etc.
The more we segregate through negative, subliminal messages about the color of our skin or the language we speak or the religion we practice, then the more we build walls between people that have more in common than they have different.
Shaheen's book should be a call to action for media moguls to change their mode of operations. Fine, depict arabs as villians, but also depict them as heroes....heroes fighting fires, hereos saving lives in an ER, heroes coaching a bunch of high school kids to a championship football game, heroes as police officers...or as senators, congressmen and cabinet members. All these types of heroes exist as Arab-Americans, Muslim-Americans, Irish-Catholic Americans, Jewish Americans, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, etc.. Not all Italian-Americans are mafia killers -- right? Not all Catholic priests are bad...the overwhelming majority are hard-working practicing Christians.
Seems ludicrous that these point shave to be made, but the reel bad ememies are those that generalize and throw a hate blanket over the masses. Read this book not only if you're an Arab, but also if you're looking to fight bigotry in general. You will gain confidence that there are a lot of examples to support your cause...a common cause.
42 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anti-Semitism Uncovered 22 July 2003
By Jedidiah Palosaari - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am amazed as I read this. How much have I missed. Movie after movie, that I've seen, long before I became culturally aware of Arabs and anti-Semitism and the beauty of that culture and the awfulness of racism. And I did not know. But Shaheen lays it out too clearly to contradict, in an introduction that lays out the philosophical base for his arguments, and then in copious notes on 900 different movies. And suddenly I realize that the Black Stallion, a movie I loved as a kid, stigmatizes Arabs. Suddenly I realize those Porky Pig cartoons where he's a legionnaire are anti-Semitic. Suddenly I realize that Back to the Future really engages in the classic stereotypes of the evil, bad, terrorist Arab. And I mourn.

As Shaheen makes it clear, it is not that he is arguing that Arabs should never be portrayed as the bad guys. It is only that, when we see them in the movies, they almost always are. And when they're not, we see only a stereotype, of a greedy, lust-driven Arab surrounded by a harem, which has nothing to do with real harems but everything to do with American preoccupation with sex, and perhaps reveals more of who we in the West are than who the Arabs are.

This isn't the kind of book you read cover to cover- it's a resource book, and extremely extensive in the information and racism in each movie presented. It's ideal for picking up right before you watch a video, or right after, to contemplate another perspective than that of the movie, and to discuss. But there are some times I think when Shaheen misses. He lambastes farces, like Ishtar, which are true to the nature of a farce, and poke fun at Arabs and song-writers and the CIA and camels and the West- everyone in the movie. At other times I think he misses the point of a movie made in American culture, like The Siege. While Arabs are the terrorists in The Siege, it is quite clear that Bruce Willis, the military leader, is the true bad guy, and the greatest tragedy in The Siege is when Americans decide to remove freedom in place of security, as Benjamin Franklin said, "Any society which gives up it's freedom for the sake of security, deserves neither." The movie is writ on the backbone of our collective shame for what we did to the Japanese in World War II; and written on the collective forgetfulness we have as we now do the same thing to Arabs.

But small points, on a few movies. Overall, it is impossible to come away from this book with the thought that Hollywood is at all equitable in it's treatment of groups, especially Semites. It is impossible to view movies the same way again. I wait with dread the next great production of Hollywood, where out of nowhere, Arabs will again appear as the caricatured, ignoramus villains- perhaps the bad guys in Ironman, perhaps responsible for all of Indiana's troubles in the next Jones installment. I am left with sadness, and a question I do not have an answer to: Which is worse- that there are 900 movies portraying Arabs, and 50 portraying them positively; or that the majority of movies I have seen in my life are on Shaheen's list?
29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sharp and acerbic look at negative movie stereotypes 13 Nov 2001
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The overwhelming majority of Arabic people around the world are peaceful, law-abiding citizens, but you'd never deduce that from their consistently, overwhelmingly villainous portrayal in the nearly one thousand Hollywood movies analyzed by Jack Shahenn (Professor Emeritus of Mass Communications at Southern Illinois University) in Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies A People, a sharp and acerbic look at negative movie stereotypes of an entire ethnicity. Meticulously taking apart the origins of these stereotypes in cinema's earliest days, Reel Bad Arabs pursues the recurring theme of vilifying the unfamiliar up to the present day. Starkly relevant, soberly honest, and highly recommended for students of popular culture, the film industry, and sociology, as well as the non-specialist general reader with an interest in today's political and cultural problems of distinguishing Arab terrorists from non-terrorists.
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