Racist stereotypes are a driving force in Hollywood

Hollywood adds to the propaganda surrounding the Middle East and North Africa

Bridget Maxwell

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MENA people deserve better representation in films and television

Hollywood is a driving force in the creation of false narratives and irrational fears.

Their ability to recycle stale, humorless stereotypes is truly a talent. 

The vilification of the Middle East and North Africa, for example, is something Hollywood can’t seem to stray away from. I guess the only way to write a character of these descents is to make them the most one-dimensional character possible. Or simply throwing them in a scene, just for comedic relief purposes. 

According to Hollywood’s depiction, a Middle Eastern and North African character has to be dangerous, incompetent and most importantly barbaric. 

To them, it’s too hard to write a well-developed character that accurately represents cultural identity. It’s easier to represent an ethnic group as subhuman and help contribute to the demonization.

Even in films that have nothing to do with the Middle East or North Africa, Hollywood still finds a way to use them as a prop. For example, Back to the Future” is a science fiction, fantasy and comedy all in one.

If you are unfamiliar, “Back to the Future” is about a teen and a scientist who travel through time. There is nothing about this movie that should involve racist depictions of Middle Easterners and North Africans, right?

Unfortunately, that is not the case. The film includes a scene where the protagonists are gunned down by … you guessed it, Libyans. The only introduction we get of these characters is the scientist yelling in response to the teen’s question of who is shooting at them.

 “Who do you think? The Libyans,” the scientist said.

Implying it should be a no-brainer that the gunned men driving sporadically towards them is a Libyan terrorist group. These “characters” are bumbling fools, who move about in a belligerent state. 

The only representation in Hollywood of the Middle East and North Africa is that of falsities and racist, outdated stereotypes. This continuation of ignorant portrayals adds to the Islamophobia that is plaguing our nation. 

When the only depiction of a country or racial identity is that of a terrorist or dangerous fool, there is little leeway to be depicted as the opposite. 

If you hold those falsities against Middle Easterners and North Africans as true, know this: the U.S. is the villain, we are the terrorists, the killers, the belligerent fool, the barbaric incompetent antagonist and the comedic relief. 

Electing a leader whose qualifications are reality TV and failing businesses is funnier than the entirety of “Back to the Future.” 

We are the nation that dropped an atomic bomb on Japan. This event changed the course of history and took the lives of 255,000 in Hiroshima and another 64,000 in Nagasaki. And that’s not counting those who lost their lives to nuclear exposure.

We are a country that dismisses an entire ethnic group while also spreading blatant racist rhetoric against them.  

The fabrication that has swarmed our media has warped Americans’ minds into thinking the Middle East is a terrorist factory. Our problem is our inability to humanize people different from us.

We will continue this cycle of racism if we don’t adopt critical thinking skills to help differentiate facts from opinions. 

Educating ourselves is the first step to diluting the toxicity surrounding Middle Easterners and North Africans. Education ensures that ignorance does not dictate your fears. 

Hollywood must be held accountable for its demonization of ethnic groups. These films and television shows add fuel to the fire, in turn causing irrational fears and the spread of misinformation. 

Maxwell can be reached at [email protected]