THE REVISED TOP 10 MOVIES OF ALL-TIME WHICH MAKE MUSLIMS AND ARABS LOOK REALLY BROKE
By the Okra News Staff
As the world turns its attention, yet again, to the Middle East with the rise of Al-Qaeda’s little brother, ISIS as the new rebels in town, America and Hollywood are possibly getting ready for the next chapter in fighting the Muslim world with tons of scripts and screenplays to produce movies that will frighten moviegoers and all those influenced by entertainment with no substance. Islam bashing has become a part of cinematic tradition in the United States. Ever since Rudolph Valentino’s 1921 role in The Sheikh, Islamaphobia and “Arabploitation” much like Blaxploitation, Hollywood has had a steady hand in denigrating Muslims. It’s probably less in recent years and in some circumstances such as Zero Dark Thirty, it’s worked on the balance. But let’s not think we’re over the hump. We can expect more. In the meantime, let’s pause for a moment and give a toast to all those movies, some good and bad, which could have done it right, but blew it. Here’s the Top 10.
Babel (2006) Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu—
I wish this film hadn’t made it into the top 10. Maybe if we substituted Navy Seals, the Delta Force or some Chuck Norris movie, it would have eluded the embarrassment. But that would be too easy. Babel, which stars Brat Pitt, and Cate Blanchette, focuses on four very interesting and interrelated stories. Themes include government involvement, love, family and abandonment. As a whole, the screenplay stands on very prominent legs which capture the characters, the plots, and cinematography with stylish grandeur. It did after all win a Golden Globe, for Best Picture Motion-Drama. However, the intimate relationship between an Arab boy and his sister probably left an American audience with a bad taste in their mouth. The writers didn’t have to take it there. The “there” won’t be revealed; but it’s enough to make most Muslims and Arabs angry yet another caricature had to be added to the barbaric and crude inventory of Muslim imagery.
The Mummy (1999) Directed by Stephen Sommers—
a poor man’s version to Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Mummy is lame. Of course it went on to gross $416 million at the box office. Based on the usual gimmicks which gets people interested on the Middle East, Egyptology and mummies, the film is a formulaic hunt- for-the golden treasure script filled with heroes, villains, adventurous mythical cities, and…well you know where I’m going with this spiel. Sadly, with all the elements of surprise The Mummy uses to accentuate the excitement, what’s not surprising is the portrayal of Muslims. A warrior, protective and ready to kill, the Arab character, Ardeth Bay never disappoints to uphold the standards of violence and death by keeping it real.
East is East (1999) Directed by Ayub Khan-Din—
we’ve all had experiences with our own families which would at times be considered dysfunctional and downright nuts. But at the end of the day, we’re still family. East is East takes the drama and insanity only a family can muster and shares it with awkwardness and sadness. Ayub Khan-Din, who happens to be a Muslim apparently didn’t hold back when he wrote and directed the story of a Pakistani Muslim family living in England during the early 70s. Like any coming of age movie this one brings it with all the typical stereotypes you would expect; curious teenagers who are experiencing what the “West” has to offer in terms of society and entertainment while reluctantly accepting to live in very strict household with an ill-tempered father who wants nothing more than his children to follow in his traditional and supposed Islamic footsteps. The screenplay is actually marvelous and definitely shares a certain element which many of us who grew up as first generation can sympathize. But Ayub—come on man. The characters are teetering on the extreme marred with the typical bloated attributes of a Muslim patriarch who his family will love or fear but never both.
Back to the Future (1985) Directed by Robert Zemeckis—
to be politically correct, or PC, was a pretty hip phase just before the turn of the century. It meant the views and policies of society had to be careful in order to not offend. Its range hovered from the academics to multi-culturalism and affirmative action down to the implications of a “hate speech”, which didn’t make any sense because if the 1st amendment protects the freedom of speech than why would we need to be politically correct in what we addressed regardless if it was hateful or not?
That being said Back to the Future was not made in the PC era, circa 1991. It was made in the 80s when conservative values reigned supreme and so long as you were rich, white, or both, you could do what you wanted. Evidently, movies from the decade displayed a lack of political accountability at its finest. Back to the Future is no different. It had good guy Michael J. Fox playing the affable Marty McFly who gets accidentally transported back to the 1950s in a Delorean time-machine after his friend and inventor gets attacked then killed by…you guessed it—the radical Arab terrorists. And how do we know this? Because one of the bad guys is wearing a keffiyeh. It’s not so much the scene is condescending towards Arabs although that is a valid argument. But it’s intentional. The writers knew perfectly well an article of clothing closely associated to what Americans perceive as Arabic would help solidify the stereotype. This is a classic family movie I suppose. Its legacy has held firm for close to 30 years and its impact on culture has been preserved. But you can’t help speculate what the impression one scene will always have on kids. It may be a moot point given how the world and perceptions have changed since the movie came out. Then again—1985 isn’t far from the future.
Rules of Engagement (2000) Directed by William Friedkin—
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee summed it up by describing Rules of Engagement as “probably the most racist film ever made against Arabs by Hollywood.” It’s rather upsetting that Friedkin, who directed classics such as The Exorcist and The French Connection, could have contributed to this movie. I would rather believe he was duped. Regardless, the thought of a US Colonel court-martialed for ordering troops to fire in a crowd of Arabs demonstrating at an American embassy only to find out later the Arabs were strapped with guns and ready to attack is ridiculous. It validates the Colonel’s decision to neutralize a group of Arab Muslims because they got wild and killed more marines. Somehow the US military becomes the victim in this circumstance.
Argo (2012) Directed by Ben Affleck—
Ben Affleck is a smart and cool dude. A Boston guy; the kind of guy you could go to a ballgame with, talk and chill. He’s also a pretty decent actor and director. But his 2012 Oscar award winning for best film of the year Argo, based on the CIA rescue attempt of six American nationalists in Tehran during the midst of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis is just blatantly so wrong. Without flagging a spoiler alert for the remaining 10 people in the country who still haven’t seen this yet, the ending is bristling with overbearing Muslim attitude and stereotypes to the point where much of it is simply a fictional turn of events Hollywood injected to get the action pumping. Iranian men are viewed as boorish ogres prone to violence and vendettas with a sadistic hate towards the United States. It’s the finale where the caper gets thick with heart-wrenching agony as the preparation to escape gets underway to the haunting tune of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.” The irony is the actual story and what really happened when the Americans made their way through the airport, pass the security and on to the tarmac to board the plane. Watch the movie then read the truth. It’s nothing as it seems.
The Siege (1998) Directed by Edward Zwick—
just the title makes you realize this is going to be about Muslims. 1998 was a rather volatile year for American foreign relations. In August, American embassies were bombed in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, allegedly by Al-Qaeda which left a few hundred dead. The Siege came out conspicuously a few months later. The story—Arab terrorist sleeper cells attack New York. Terrific. There must be a campaign to take a news-worthy incident of sensational proportion and use it as a springboard for entertainment and political messages. This movie also provides us with some interfaith dialogue when a character is fatally wounded and recites not only the Our Father prayer but throws in “Inshallah” as good gesture—I think. As its base The Siege is very black and white in terms of understanding and compassion towards different religion and people. There are good guys and bad guys with the latter defined not by their criminal record, but by their ancestral record. It’s a shame this film was as accepting as it was and makes you wonder if Islam is just the latest and greatest threat by an identified ethnic religion America has had to encounter since its independence.
Executive Decision (1996) Directed by Stuart Baird—
No raspberry list of horrible movies can be complete unless Executive Decision is in it. Forget the worst movies depicting Muslims and Arabs. This one just sucks. A Greek and Lithuanian play the most feared Arab bad guys, El Sayed Jaffa and his lieutenant Nagi Hassan. That dooms the movie. Lithuanians make terrible terrorists. Never mind the plot which includes people moving from one plane to another in mid-air or a flight attendant was smart enough to find the sleeper terrorist with the bomb. But a Lithuanian playing a terrorist is just not the right thing to do. If it wasn’t for quintessential ham Steven Seagal’s minor but “powerful” role in this movie, it’s a throw-away. Then again, it might still be. Even Seagal can’t save this one.
Black Sunday (1977) Directed by John Frankenheimer—
if you can find this one and want to get understand how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was viewed in the 1970s, look no further than Black Sunday. This could have easily been #1 if it was actually more popular. In a nutshell, Black September, the Palestinian operatives who were blamed for the 1972 Olympics Munich Massacre, have decided to attack American soil by detonating a bomb at the Orange Bowl during Super Bowl X. Talk about going for the trifecta of ultimate victims: The United States, Israel and the NFL. How much more do you need in terms of sensitivity to the American audience than these three holy entities.
This movie reads like a checklist of Muslim terrorism: Palestinian operatives planning to bomb an extravagant event—check. Operatives discussing suicide bombings—check. Operatives attempt to kill a patient at a hospital—check. A Goodyear blimp strapped with a bomb and steel darts—double check. Thankfully, Super Bowl X was played. The Steelers beat the Cowboys 21-17. How a movie with such callous bias and animosity towards Palestinians was ever made defines an era when paranoia was running rampant. But it also demonstrates the fabrication created to build a doomsday scenario when in reality it had no merit. Black September unofficially disbanded in 1973. The PLO had accepted a two state solution by the mid-70s an early indication of moving towards peace with Israel. And yet, instigators were still out in full force to try and bolster the fear factor of crazy Arabs and Muslims.
True Lies (1994) Directed by James Cameron—
without a doubt and since its release almost 20 years ago, True Lies stands the test of time and comes in at #1. We’re so familiar with this film it’s passed down by generation in many Muslim households. The older it gets the better it ages with fine racism and juicy scenes of anti-Arab sentiments, or for those haters, anti-Arab celebrations. If you want to sum up the film quickly—boneheaded comedy, sex and violence. It’s not surprising why it holds a 72% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 72%!
The story is extremely transparent and despicable, utilizing “Middle-Easterners” as people hell bent on gaining nuclear weapons for world destruction with the very least on destroying the United States. Crimson Jihad is their name. Crimson Jihad—why crimson? Laughable. It’s a Schwarzenegger film so not much is expected with the plot in terms of depth and detail. But to use the typical stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs so nonchalantly and excessively is beyond imagination.
James Cameron movies aren’t what I would call intellectual stimulation. He made Avatar, which was basically a Smurf movie for adults and the bad but so good Point Break. Action is what defines a Cameron movie. True Lies is very much a part of his family. It too can be found on any television channel just about every week; one of those movies to pass the time with before going out for dinner or attending a birthday party. But the message is clear. We know who evil is and what it wants to do—a negative portrayal at its best.