Sometimes you have to shake your head over what passes for mainstream entertainment reporting.
The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly features an in-depth piece on Arab-Americans in Hollywood. ‘Don’t Tell Anyone Your Real Name, or You’ll Never Work Again’ recalls the hardships several Arab-American actors have faced since 9/11.
Their tales of woe are likely genuine. Minorities typically struggle in the entertainment business, from a dearth of positions behind the camera to a paucity of meaty roles in front of it.
But the magazine’s take on the issue borders on the surreal. It also ignores the elephant on the movie set.
“Despite Hollywood’s liberal bent, there’s no shortage of minority groups insulted (or ignored) in movies and on TV,” the story alleges.
Hmmm. Wouldn’t that make the industry prejudiced against people of color? But … but … the industry is liberal, so therefore it cannot be racist, the magazine all but shouts. Meanwhile, media outlets label conservatives and Tea Party types as racist with far less proof – if any.
The story’s bigger problems lie elsewhere. According to EW, Hollywood has been cranking out a steady stream of content where Muslims are depicted as terrorists.
So, where is it? Films have studiously avoided tackling terrorism head on with only a few exceptions – ‘The Kingdom,’ ‘Vantage Point’ and ‘United 93’ come to mind. It’s been a full decade since 9/11. Where are all the terrorism-related films? Has there been one ‘Rambo’-esque hero created to take on Al Qaeda? And if not … why not? Who could possibly object? Television better reflected our post 9/11 world, an era when radical Muslims dominate the news cycle with their carnage. That simply made the medium a target for the article’s scorn.
“In the years immediately following 9/11, TV shows were some of the worst offenders,” the article argues. “‘Sleeper Cell’ and ’24’ regularly depicted Muslim Americans plotting homegrown terror around the breakfast table.”
To be fair, it’s not like we’ve seen Muslim Americans in the news for attempting to kill innocents with shoe or underwear bombs, or witnessed atrocities like Muslim-American soldiers slaughtering their peers. Oh, wait.
Reflecting reality just won’t do if you write for Entertainment Weekly.
“Despite improvement, Hollywood still clings to stereotypes in a way that would be comical if so much weren’t at stake,” we’re told.
Is the article referring to negative Southerner stereotypes? Or how about those evil corporate types seen in film after film? Perhaps the writer is bemoaning how people of faith are depicted as loons, or worse?
To be fair, audiences should reject one-dimensional characters of all kinds, from mad Christians to single-minded suicide bombers. But to punish the entertainment industry for daring to show a few Muslims as terrorists is absurd given the cold, hard facts. And shame on the magazine for not calling out Hollywood for its prejudiced hiring practices.