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Reel Bad Arabs (3rd edition)
How Hollywood Vilifies a People
Jack G. Shaheen

published 2014 • 6" x 9" • 617 pages
ISBN 9781566567527 • paperback • $30.00

“A first-class book about harmful stereotypes... significant, comprehensive and engaging.”
—Tony Shalhoub, actor 

“Shaheen has written a meticulous, passionate, and very articulate description of the persistent and prolonged vilification of Arab peoples in mainstream Western movies… Although the work is aimed at a college-level audience, the clear writing and lack of jargon make it accessible to a much wider readership. Highly recommended...”
—Library Journal

A groundbreaking book that dissects a slanderous history dating from cinema's earliest days to contemporary Hollywood blockbusters that feature machine-gun wielding and bomb-blowing "evil" Arabs

Award-winning film authority Jack G. Shaheen, noting that only Native Americans have been more relentlessly smeared on the silver screen, painstakingly makes his case that "Arab" has remained Hollywood's shameless shorthand for "bad guy," long after the movie industry has shifted its portrayal of other minority groups. In this comprehensive study of over one thousand films, arranged alphabetically in such chapters as "Villains," "Sheikhs," "Cameos," and "Cliffhangers," Shaheen documents the tendency to portray Muslim Arabs as Public Enemy #1-brutal, heartless, uncivilized Others bent on terrorizing civilized Westerners.

Shaheen examines how and why such a stereotype has grown and spread in the film industry and what may be done to change Hollywood's defamation of Arabs.

Jack G. Shaheen, a former CBS News consultant on Middle East affairs, is the world's foremost authority on media images of Arabs and Muslims. He is the author of Guilty: Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs after 9/11, Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture, Nuclear War Films, and the award-winning TV Arab.

Media Reviews

"Caricatured villains are as vital to the movie business as car chases and shoot-outs. But the spotlight of derision shifts. When blacks were no longer shiftless jokes, the Asians no longer the Yellow Peril, and good Indians no longer had to be dead Indians, Arabs became the all-purpose bad-guys. Countless movies have portrayed them as loathsome lechers who terrorize, murder, and finally die in droves. In Reel Bad Arabs scholar Jack Shaheen exposes in appalling detail this nightmare side of the Hollywood dream machine."
-Christopher Dickey, author of Innocent Blood and Middle East Editor for Newsweek Magazine

"A must-read! Dr. Jack Shaheen's superb book exposing the film industry's mistreatment of the Arab peoples goes far beyond their travail to give all peoples a sense of reconciliatory balance between skewed image and calm reality. This taut, well-argued analysis of ethnicity betrayed shows us the power of Hollywood's movies to miseducate the senses-and, since the senses are its gateways, to distort the soul. Shaheen's definitive reference volume is a perfect guide for the new generations-the owners of the future. His book should be in all libraries nationwide, especially those of government officials and film makers."
-Camelia Anwar Sadat

"This world class presentation sets the facts straight about Hollywood's Arabs. Jack Shaheen, an articulate arbiter of fair play, has written a sterling book. It is a major contribution to the literature of film, and will change the way you think about movies and slanderous screen images."
-Casey Kasem, Radio and Television Personality

"In this pacesetting and courageous book, Jack Shaheen makes it clear that Hollywood films do not simply entertain, but function mainly as teaching machines. Focusing on Hollywood's production of long standing racist stereotypes aimed at Arabs and Middle Eastern culture Reel Bad Arabs drives home that the movies are an important site of struggle over how identities are shaped, legitimated, and vilified. More important, this book is a rousing wake up call to Americans and others to take the meaning of democracy seriously by addressing the racism toward Arabs and others that increasingly poisons the movies and other forms of cultural pedagogy. As the force of educations shifts from the schools to the sphere of popular culture, it is all the more crucial to read seriously Shaheen's book. Anybody concerned about education, racial justice, democracy, and critical literacy should buy and read this book, and then pass it on to a friend."
-Henry A. Giroux, Waterbury Chair, Professor of Secondary Education at the Pennsylvania State University, author of The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence

"The relentless cinematic assault on Arabs has been our culture's most insidious yet closeted disgrace-until now. Jock Shaheen's landmark work casts a penetrating spotlight on the movies that have shaped our infinitely distorted and warped views of Arab and Muslim life. With impeccable research, Shaheen combines a scholarly breadth, the irony of a keen social observer, and an advocate's passion. Reel Bad Arabs is the definitive text on Arab screen images."
-Renee Tajima-Pena, Producer-Director, Sundance Award-Winning Film, My America

"As a film and video librarian, I welcome Dr. Shaheen's groundbreaking study. It came as quite a shock to suddenly recognize a form of racial stereotyping that is so widespread-yet somehow invisible-and almost as old as the cinema itself. From early examples in the films of George Melies to Rules of Engagement (2000), Dr. Shaheen carefully documents an astonishing array of Arab villains, sheikhs, and maidens. Reel Bad Arabs should reward serious students and casual readers alike. Academic and public libraries with collections on the cinema would do well to add this fascinating and unique history. Highly recommended!"
-John Skillin, Director, Audio Visual Services, Montclair Public Library

"Jack G. Shaheen has long been a prophet in the Hollywood wilderness, writing from carefully documented scholarship that exposes the film industry's negative portrayals of Arabs and Muslims. In this splendidly detailed book, he provides readers with a valuable resource which will enable them to identify specific films that perpetuate stereotypical images. He also points to a very limited number of films which offer a more humane, realistic view of an entire people. This is a valuable contribution to both the casual film goer and the film scholar."
-James M. Wall, Senior Contributing Editor, The Christian Century

"Jack Shaheen is a one-man anti-defamation league who has exposed Hollywood's denigation 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

"Jack Shaheen has long been a voice of clarity and sanity. While media images routinely set us apart, we always face the challenge of remembering our common humanity. Someday, as a society, we will look back in horror at the routine media vilification of Arabs, especially in motion pictures, and wonder how the American public could have put up with it for so long. Shaheen brings us closer to full recognition of just how pernicious the media stereotyping has been-and continues to be. When we can come to terms with the evidence and analysis that Shaheen provides, we will rid ourselves of the delusion that mass media outlets have informed us about Arab people."
-Norman Solomon, Nationally Syndicated Columnist and author of The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media

"For years, with rare passion and eloquence, Jack Shaheen has raised a constant, resonating voice on behalf of the Arab in America. An undaunted warrior devoted to righting the wrongs of distortion that have too long persisted, Shaheen has displayed unwavering dedication to the cause of fair play for ethnic groups who have suffered from misrepresentation by our film industry-Arabs most of all. For his courage in protecting the integrity of an entire people against the tides of prejudice in American mass culture, we are all deeply in his debt."
-Asaad Kelada, Director

"This is a staggering look at films dating back to the turn of the last century, and includes brief plot overviews and bulleted lists of inaccurate and racist portrayals of Middle Easterners in American cinema. ...The book is eye-opening on multiple levels, both in the blatantly racist aspects of many films from the past, and in the more subtle moments that many moviegoers have likely not noticed. ... "Reel Bad Arabs" is a book for paging through (the entries are alphabetical after a thorough introduction from Shaheen), but for cinemaphiles and film students, it is an enormously valuable text. You don’t need a “best of” book when you are serious about movies; what you need is a book that will alter the way in which you watch film. Shaheen accomplishes that and more here, with a straightforward, analytical, quote-heavy text that is unbelievably well-researched. The man has done a lot of work; if you are a student of pop culture (or cultural studies), then you need to see what he has discovered."


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