American films and TV dramas shot since the September 11 attacks have reinforced screen images of Arabs and Muslims as fanatics and villains, ingraining harmful stereotypes, argues an author on the subject.

In his book “Guilty — Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11”, Jack Shaheen praises some post-September 11 films for offering a more sympathetic image of Arabs and Muslims, who he argues have been castigated for decades by Hollywood.

But he says that too many have portrayed them in ever darker shades, criticizing films including “The Kingdom” (2007) and “The Four Feathers” (2002) and condemning the creation of a new “Arab-American bogeyman” in TV dramas such as “24”.

“In the United States, you can say anything you want about Islam and Arabs and get away with it. In other words, as someone said, ‘You can hit an Arab free’,” said Shaheen — also author of “Reel Bad Arabs — How Hollywood Vilifies a People”.

Shaheen, an American of Lebanese descent, has examined the treatment of Arabs and Muslims in some 1,000 films, including more than 100 shot since September 11.

From action movies such as “True Lies” (1994) to comedies including “Father of the Bride Part II” (1995) and Disney’s animated “Aladdin” (1992), Shaheen identifies films that have perpetuated damaging stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims.

“The images have remained primarily fixed and have only been changed in the sense that they have become more vindictive and damaging,” he told Reuters in an interview in Beirut.


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