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Popular Culture Portrayal of Minorities: Case study of Arabs - Essay Example

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The idea behind multiculturalism is to build a strong nation by eliminating or minimizing the chances of one or the other ethnic group rising against the interests of the state and society. This idea necessarily arose out of the historical fact that immigrants falling into the melting pot from other nations (some political foes such as the former Soviet Union while others against whom the United States has waged diplomatic or military war) posed a threat to the national integrity and indeed national security if their loyalties and their attitudes were not moulded/melted in…
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Popular Culture Portrayal of Minorities: Case study of Arabs
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Download file to see previous pages According to Akram (2002), "the demonization of Arabs and Muslims in America began well before the terrible tragedy of September 11, 2001. It can be traced to deliberate mythmaking by film and media, stereotyping as part of conscious strategy of 'experts' and polemicists on the Middle East, the selling of a foreign policy agenda by US government officials and groups seeking to affect that agenda, and a public susceptible to images identifying the unwelcome 'other' in its midst. Bearing the brunt of these factors are Arab and Muslim non-citizens in this country. Although all these factors enlisted by Akram (2002) are interesting but this paper will only examine the effects of stereotyping on the Arab community by the media particularly Hollywood, in a "melting pot" scenario.
Let us discuss the portrayal of Arabs in songs. Contemporary lyrics industry does not show Arabs in negative light as much as it did before the 1960s. Folk songs painting Arabs in a negative image or as a source of wit were present as early as the 1920s with songs like: I'm the sheik of Araby; Your heart belongs to me; At night when you're asleep; Into your tent I'll creep. (Snyder 1921) The most popular song of the rock-and-roll era Ahab the Arab was recorded in 1960. As far as jokes are concerned, University of California's Department of Folklore students collected jokes wherein Arabs were portrayed as stupid, coward and repulsive. Focus on Arabs as cowards was lost after the Ramadhan War though.
Television programmes, apart from the news coverage, portray Arabs as "terrorists, oriental despots, backward sheikhs, wealthy playboys, assassins, white haters" etc. TV programmes that used Arab characterization have been identified as Vegas, Bionic Woman, Six Million Dollar Man, Police Woman, McCloud, Hawaii Five-O, Cannon, Columbo, Medical Center, Wonder Woman and so on. One reason that Arabs, and indeed other non-White ethnic groups were shown on television in a negative light or a source of wit, arguably was that the writers and directors lacked awareness about the richness and positive aspects of the Middle Culture. Another reason is that the audience loves it and since the majority of the TV audience is White, criticism from the minority didn't really matter.
Hollywood Films
Hollywood films are an important element of the American popular culture so that it has become a powerful cultural force that also became a device for "cultural imperialism." A TV commentator once remarked that the United States has captured the world without firing a single bullet but through Hollywood. While this may be a little far-fetched, it is an important part of the American media and its products a household name the world over. If we look at the Hollywood history, negative stereotypes of Arabs began in the 1920s and the films of that era set the tone ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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