Saturday, April 25, 2009

Guilty: a book "review"


As it turns out I just finished reading Guilty: Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs After 9/11 by Jack G Shaheen and, it's got to be said, what a huge disappointment. When I saw it in the library I thought, "What a great idea for a book", and even after reading this I still think it's a great idea for a book. This just isn't that book.

First off, there are no footnotes or end-notes in this book, so when Mr. Shaheen quotes someone he does not provide a direct way for the curious reader to look up the quote and decide for him or herself whether or not the quote has been used in context. An example would be when Mr. Shaheen quotes former Republican senator Fred Thompson who was on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Fred says that he did not want to be a career politician as he had always "longed for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood." Did Fred say this? I believe Mr. Shaheen when he says that he did, but in what context? Was Fred being sarcastic or ironic? (To be fair, in the back of the book there is a section called 'Works Cited' and the Thompson quote is in there, if you search for it. The following quote is not.) The author also quotes comedian Jackie Mason, claiming, "Jackie Mason tossed in a few slurs, calling "the whole Muslim religion" a "murderous organization" that teaches "hate, terrorism and murder."" Where and when is this quote from we are not told, but note the enthusiastic use of quotation marks.

I would also appear to me that Mr. Shaheen swings a little wild in his examples of anti-Arab sentiment in Hollywood. Movies in which neither 9/11 nor Arabs are even mentioned are brought up, which I think is a little unnecessary. The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King, and entirely Arab-free movie is mentioned because he feels that in a battle scene which "features bad guys in black head scarves", these bad guys are "Bedouin clones". Sorry Jack, I missed that particular reference. The movie The Da Vinci Code is mentioned because, "when Code's Tom Hanks feels threatened, the camera cuts to a man wearing a Sikh-looking headscarf and sitting in a sleek expensive car. Should viewers think anything at all about this scene, they'll likely think Arab Oil Sheikh." Or not ( in my case, not.) Then there's Team America: World Police, a puppet film by the creators of the cartoon tv-show South Park where some of the bad-guys are actually stereotypically Arabic looking although the film is more about a generic terrorist action with the main bad-guy being Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il of North Korea (reported to not be an Arab.) It was also a puppet show. With Puppets. Puppets.

Jack Shaheen got hold of a pretty great theme here and I am sure there are several books worth of material out there for this subject since post (and pre) 9/11 bigotry and stupidity is something that should be studied in depth. It just deserves better treatment than this. I don't doubt Mr. Shaheen's good intentions, but when he starts looking at things that have absolutely nothing to do with Arabs and pointing fingers at them, well, that just cheapens the entire exercise.

Anyway... Humouroceros

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