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Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs After 9/11
Jack G. Shaheen

6" x 9" • 198 pages
ISBN 9781566566841 • paperback • $18.00


"...superbly readable...this book's scope and its impassioned delivery make for an insightful and rewarding read...In this meticulously researched book, Shaheen (Reel Bad Arabs) spotlights anti-Muslim and Arab stereotypes and probes the intersections of popular culture and foreign policy. The author investigates the close ties between Hollywood studios and Washington and recounts how, historically, the strategic stereotyping of populations has been used to garner popular support for governmental policies, citing the career of Leni Riefenstahl and speeches by Lenin and Goebbels to illustrate film's long history as a propaganda vehicle. In an index of more than 100 post-9/11 films, the book depicts and debunks the most prevalent stereotypes of 'reel Arabs'-'exotic camel-riding nomad,' oppressed maiden, corrupt sheikh, terrorist. Dehumanizing portrayals of Arabs have real consequences, according to Shaheen; he draws correlations between the media's depiction of Arabs and the massive support for the invasion of Iraq, the 'wanton' killing of Iraqi civilians and the escalating number of hate crimes against Arabs (or people who look like Arabs) in the United States."
-- Publishers Weekly

More Reviews »

"Nothing will be the same again." Americans scarred by the experience of 9/11 often express this sentiment. But what remains the same, argues Jack G. Shaheen, is Hollywood's stereotyping of Arabs. Before 9/11, Shaheen dissected Hollywood's equation of Islam and Arabs with violence in Reel Bad Arabs, his comprehensive study of over a thousand movies. Arabs and Muslims, he showed, were used as shorthand for the "Enemy" and the "Other." In his new book about films made after 9/11, Shaheen finds the same malevolent stereotypes at play. Nearly all of Hollywood's post-9/11 films legitimize a view of Arabs as stereotyped villains-sheikhs, Palestinians, or terrorists. And this happens in every type of film imaginable: one out of four of the movies profiled here have absolutely nothing to do with the Middle East, yet producers toss in weird, shady, unscrupulous Arabs.

Along with an examination of a hundred recent movies, Shaheen addresses the cultural issues at play since 9/11: the government's public relations campaigns to win "hearts and minds" and the impact of 9/11 on citizens and on the imagination. He suggests that winning the "war on terror" would take shattering the century-old stereotypes of Arabs. He calls for speaking out, for more Arab Americans in the film industry, for fresh films, and for a serious effort on the part of our government to tackle this problem.

Jack G. Shaheen is author of the bestselling encyclopedia of Arabs in Hollywood: Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. He is professor emeritus of mass communication at Southern Illinois University, a former CBS News consultant on the Middle East, and the world's foremost authority on media images of Arabs. The Media Education Foundation has released a film based on his Reel Bad Arabs.

Media Reviews

"Jack Shaheen is a one-man anti-defamation league who has exposed Hollywood's denigration of Arabs in most, if not all, of its films. His book casts light on the stereotyping Arabs have suffered at the hands of movie makers. But as they learn tolerance, this too shall pass."
--Helen Thomas, distinguished journalist and author

"In Guilty: Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs after 9/11, Jack Shaheen continues his monumental work on the image of Arabs in mass media. We are all in his debt."
--Dan Georgakas, Cineaste

"Dr. Jack Shaheen does it again. The accomplished author, professor and media veteran sifts through hundreds of hours of film to give us clear cut examples, as well as keen insight, into Hollywood's obsession with bad Arabs and murderous Muslims post 9/11. Guilty: Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs After 9/11 is a fascinating social study on the relationship between racism and cinema, and ultimately, how popular entertainment has the power to propagate damaging images of misunderstood cultures or destroy them. Shaheen deftly demonstrates that Hollywood's greatest enemy is not the Muslim or Arab, but the ignorant stereotype."
--Lorraine Ali, Newsweek

"My first step in researching what would become the film, ‘Syriana,' was the confrontation of an inherent bias against the Arab world. So many of my received (often received from films and television) notions were simply wrong. This was a starting point for our script and Jack Shaheen's mission over the last many years. He provides an incredibly valuable book in the breaking down of the stereotyping and racism that fires miscommunication from both sides of the ideological gulf."
--Stephen Gaghan, director, writer

"Brimming with insight, erudition, and personal wisdom, Jack Shaheen's Guilty is a crucial, timely work. This analysis of Hollywood's portrayal of Arabs not only describes a dire situation-- placing it in global and historic context-- but offers readers important solutions with wide-ranging artistic, social, and political implications. Hard hitting and true."
--Diana Abu Jaber, author of Crescent

"Stereotypes are the life-blood of Hollywood yet the bane of existence for the human beings misrepresented. It is the duty of film scholars to study the formation and impact of such stereotypes and, thereby, limit their pernicious influence. Dr. Shaheen has performed in a heuristic service with this book, giving perspective on a contemporary issue that affects our daily lives."
--Professor Peter C. Rollins, Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal

"Jack G. Shaheen is a legend in American media criticism-a singular voice questioning media portrayals of Arabs and Muslims. He is tireless in scrutinizing the cascade of stereotypes that demonize whole groups and create hatred and fear-almost as tireless as Hollywood is in manufacturing the images. But his book is not just a complaint. It's a plea for artists to build bridges of understanding among peoples-not walls of hate."
--Jeff Cohen, founder, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

"Jack Shaheen's Guilty rings true on the continued ugly and demeaning stereotyping of Arabs in American popular culture, and it reminds us that such misperceptions threaten any hope of encouraging civic and civil engagement and realistic public policy. Expansive in reach and probing in detail, Shaheen's powerful indictment of American mass media, reeling after 9/11, should be ready at hand, next to our television and film guides, to help ‘see' beyond myths and to block out the hatred that keeps us from realizing our common humanity."
--Professor Randall M. Miller, St Joseph's University

"In his newest work, Guilty: Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs after 9/11, Shaheen surveys nearly 100 additional films, all released since 9/11/2001. He shows compellingly that nothing has changed. The pervasive demonizing of Arabs and Muslims in American culture, continuing long after other minority groups have begun to find some degree of justice and some relief from their oppression, should be a source of profound shame to all who call themselves proud to be American. Every American who cares about the values of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights should read this book and join him in seeking effective ways to end the vilification of Arabs and Muslims in American media and popular culture."
--Professor Chuck Yates, Earlham College

"Jack Shaheen continues to be a piercing laser of fairness and sanity in pointing out Hollywood's ongoing egregious smearing of Arabs. Rippling with smart insights, his book should be read by everyone who agrees that knowledge is society's greatest tool in battling all kinds of stereotypes."
--Howard Rosenberg, Los Angeles Times TV critic

"Appearing in July of 2001, Reel Bad Arabs reviewed the rampant prejudiced stereotyping of Arab characters in Hollywood movies. Following up on that work here, Shaheen (emeritus, mass communication, Southern Illinois U.) examines the situation following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Not surprisingly, he catalogues continuing negative portrayals of Arabs in Hollywood films, but he does find positive portrayals in about a third of the films he reviews. He also takes stock of the situation on American television, where he finds that the Arab has become 'TV's new bogeyman,' and discusses possible solutions. In the second half of the book, he includes short individual discussions of each film examined."
--Book News

"Hollywood has always used the public's fear and loathing to create interest in its film projects . In the 1980s, the communists we the most common villain...In the 2000s...Middle Eastern Terrorists have taken over that role- "Guilty: Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs after 9/11" is a scholarly look at this most common trend and how it both impacts and represents society. It also gives an optimistic look as the generic terrorist isn't the only Arabic representative in American film, but characters with real human motivations seem to be making an effort at becoming the norm. ...Highly recommended to both social issues and film collections for community libraries.
--James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review

"[Guilty] examines Arab and Muslim images in more than 100 post-9/11 movies, and challenges industry heavyweights to shatter the villanous stereotypes that the cinema presents to both the American and international public."
-- Maureen Simpson, Detroit Free Press

"Perhaps someone should send Hollywood some copies."
—Laila Lalami, The Nation

“Jack G. Shaheen is the leading scourge of anti-Arab media bias. [H]e has for many years conducted what might be called a crusade against odious stereotypes of his people...
The American media does tend to portray Arabs as homogenous and Muslim, and Shaheen reminds us that not all Arabs are Muslim and not all Muslims are Arab. …he devotes considerable space to discussing slurs against Muslims…
But … Shaheen finds cause for hope.
Digging through all this bigoted muck is arduous, odious work, and no one could envy Shaheen his task. Perhaps not coincidently, most of the works he examines seem to have earned opprobrium not merely because they are racist but also because they are wretched specimens of cinematic art. … Conversely, the presence of positive Arab figures does not suffice to make a masterpiece.
What can be lost by too narrow an understanding of ‘rights’ is Shaheen’s larger goal… Film should enlighten and inspire, not incite.”
—The Texas Observer

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Of Related Interest:
Shattering the Stereotypes   
My Jerusalem
Middle East Conflicts
War on Lebanon, The
Midnight Tales
Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Reel Bad Arabs (3rd edition)