Sample Communication Research Paper on The Reel and Real Arabs and Muslims

The Abject, the Terrorist, the Arab

It is no surprise to hear of an Arab or a Muslim terrorist. A vast majority of Arabs have largely been associated with terrorism activities that have in turn had devastating effects to the victims. In the past recent years, the acts of terrorism have increased unprecedentedly all over the world. This has created global concern as most caught culprits were either Arabs or the Muslims. This has concurrently resulted to a stark pattern of Muslim stereotyping with more Arabs being associated with some of the world’s most fatal vices. However, Julia Kristeva, through her article, describes Muslims and Arabs as victims of abject representation. According to Julia, abject does not only lie outside the self but also functions as its opposition (Michalack, 2002). Abjection has become a source of fear for many Arabs who have been portrayed as potential terrorist. A myriad of Hollywood movies have further solidified the undesirable image of Arabs who are mostly given the character of suicide bombers and terrorists. Additionally, the picture portrayed by the Arabs in most movies does not only reflect the reel image but also obfuscates the line between real and unreal (Kozlovic, 2007). Even though the Arabic actors portray the fictional picture of terrorists, most viewers develop a stereotypic mentality on Arabic culture and Islamic religion. The Hollywood movies have had an immense effect on the publics’ opinion regarding the persons behind any form of terrorism attack. The media has played a paramount role in stereotyping the Arabs and Muslims as potential suicidal bombers and terrorists. Both media and Hollywood movies have been known to have a great influence on the public’s perception and opinion on a wide array of matters. Hollywood movies have more so vilified the Arabs and Muslims as violent people who are obsessed with causing destruction to the Western society (Wilkins, 2007). According to Dr. Jack Sheen, there are over 1,000 Hollywood movies that depict contemporary images of Arabs being terrorists whereas only 12 movies provide a positive character to the Arabs.

Ever since the ancient days, Muslims and Arabs have been characterized as being violent, unconstructive and backward. There are two main kinds of Muslim or Arab stereotypes; the bomber (the terrorist) and the belly dancer. The Western media coverage has more so created the perception of Muslims as the key perpetrators of torture and savagery. Muslims have also been looked with an hawk’s eye after the horrific terrorism act that occurred on 11th September, the year 2001. The stereotypic thoughts of bearded Muslim fanatic, the veiled woman and the duplicitous Muslims as terrorists have emerged with renewed force after the 9/11 attack (Shaheen, 2003). The fact that Muslims radicals were the key perpetrators of such a fatal event has heavily imprinted an ugly image on the minds of many Westerners who strongly believe that Islam is a terrorism religion. As a result of several terrorism attacks, Muslims residing in the Western world became the target of constant scrutiny and search. The war on terror intensified Islamophobia as more people described Islam as a religion promoting violence and destruction (Kozlovic, 2007). Essentially, there is little or no gap that exists between representation and reality when it comes to Muslims (Eleyan, 2000). The constant misrepresentation of Muslims as terrorists has been used by the Western government to extenuate and implement policies that portray prejudice in the realms of both foreign and home land security. The media and most Hollywood movies have disparagingly stereotyped Arab women as either austere Muslims or belly dancers. Most people have largely associated Arabic belly dancing as a practice that conveys the exotic message of sexual availability (McClure, 2014).

Conquering Evil Arab-Americans Heroes and villains

Over the past century, a myriad of American films have repeatedly associated Arab/Muslim characters with negative attributes such as; terrorists, religious fanatics, women oppressors, and oil-rich dimwits. The Hollywood films have personified Arabs as villains and antagonists. Conquering Evil Arab was thus written by Wilkins who sought to explore how Arab Americans and other audiences interpreted heroes and villains in action-adventure films. In developing an idea of conquering evil, most American films would develop a convenient script by retrieving information from popular narratives, news and foreign policies (Eleyan, 2000).  Hollywood films began formulating international terrorism as its primary theme in several movies in the year 1981 after the horrific media coverage on Iran hostage crisis (Wilkins, 2007). The year 1979-1981 familiarized the Western society with international terrorism acts which had occurred in Iran.  In this case, there would be a known evil villain who would eventually be vanquished through the bravery acts of transcendent heroes (Shaheen, 2007). In most cases, the villains tend to be poised as foreigners with racial, ethnic and distinct cultural differences. The frameworks of most action-adventure films characterize Americans as heroes whereas the Arabs and Muslims play the role of villains. The American men who would eventually emerge out as heroes would play designated roles as either secret agents, Federal Bureau Investigation agents or as military personnel (Kozlovic, 2007). Most of the action-adventure films finalize with the death of the villains in the hand of the well-capable and courageous American heroes/heroines. The media is said to play a paramount role on influencing the decisions made by the Producers and Managers of Hollywood films. The media has also constantly distorted the image of Arabs by collectively regarding them as anti-democratic, barbaric and anti-rational. Even though there are thousand of Arab and Muslim immigrants residing in America, most Americans align their thoughts with how the media and films represent them. 

How Arabs are stereotyped in Hollywood

Films and movies are recognized as key channels in perpetrating stereotypes and cliché’s. It is certain that a plethora of Hollywood films have portrayed Arabs as bloodthirsty villains who would perform inhumane acts with the excuse of religion factors. It is clear that Arabs among other foreign minorities have been placed to play the role of villains in most action-adventure Hollywood films. With the key focus of movie industry being to make massive profits, most Hollywood films have incorporated violence and terrorism act as a vital ingredient in the make of action-adventure movies.  Additionally, the general viewers are led to believe that there is no difference between an Arab and a Muslim where all Arabs are Muslims and vice versa (Kozlovic, 2007). Hollywood has stereotyped Arabs as uncivilized, brutal murderers who are heartless and rogue. It is no news to see an Arab person playing heinous inhumane roles that are dehumanizing and disheartening. Out of the total number of action-adventure films, only a small portion of the films portray Arabs as peaceful and loving people (Wilkins & Downing, 2007).  According to Jack Shaheen (2007), Hollywood has continuously utilized the act of repetition as a teaching tool to the movie audiences. Over the past century, Hollywood film have showcased insidious images of the Arab people thereby creating and emphasizing negative stereotype of the Arab and Muslim community. The discriminatory Arab stereotypes has deeply been ingrained in most Hollywood films which has managed to convey the message of Arabs being enemies of the general Western society. From1896 to date, filmmakers have unanimously portrayed the picture of Arabs and Muslims as the mot dangerous public enemy (Wilkins, 2008). Hollywood films have collectively defined Arabs as sleazy rapists, brute murderers, abusers of women, religious fanatics, power-thirsty individuals, and oil dimwits (Shaheen, 2003). The American and European movie industries view Arabs and Muslims as being totally distinct from a normal American guy who is peaceful, family-oriented and churchgoer.

However, real Arabs are known to originate from 22 Arab states. Like many other people from different parts of the world, Arabs have been known for their significant contributions in making the world a better place to live in. The Arabs are widely known as inventors of a wide array of educational concepts such as; algebra and the concept of zero (Eleyan, 2000). The Arabs have also been recognized for their invention of water clock which has been used in the development of European Gothic style (Michalack, 2002).  Also, although a vast majority of Arabs are Muslims, over 15 million of Arabs are Christians. The real image of Arabs clearly contradicts with the image portrayed by most Hollywood films that view Arabs as Muslims with the intent to cause destruction rather than key developments. The problem with mediated terrorism in US action-adventure film is that it instills unnecessary fear and concern among the general public. Additionally, every Arab or Muslim becomes a target of scrutiny by not only the government security agencies but also by the general public. The situation tends to worsen after any terrorism attack and even an honest Arab American citizen gets to face some sort of unfair treatment from the public.

Hollywood’s reel Arab women

Hollywood’s reel Arab women have been equated to masquerading potential terrorists and belly dancers. These women have been regarded as hypocrites whose main motive is to perform heinous activities that would lead to destruction of life and property. Hollywood films portray Arab women’s dressing code as that which hinders them from being identifies as terrorists. Even though their dressing code signifies decency and respect, the veils and scarves have been regarded as an unattractive form of dressing. Furthermore, most films would also portray Arab women as belly-dancers whose motive is to get sexual favors. This image deconstructs the real decent image portrayed by the real Arab women. In this case, the Arab women are belittled and discriminated upon as Hollywood film conveys in image of prostitution to the a multitude of viewers (Michalack, 2002). The Arab women have been portrayed as being too submissive to their Arab male counterparts. Hollywood regards these women as having no voice to share their opinion on any matter. It is with this profound reason that most films display Arab women as exotic belly dancers and bombers whose main roles are to please and follow the demands made by their Arab husbands and male counterparts (Morey & Yaqin, 2011). This image of the Arab woman as initially depicted by the Hollywood films has significantly evolved with time. Even though the Arab women took in developing a social and political agenda during World War II, Hollywood still portrayed them as entirely submissive (McClure, 2007). The current absence of Arab American women in Hollywood film is noticeable whereas the American women are today getting limited roles in the films. Both the films and media have created inaccurate preconception by portraying Arabs and Muslims as villains and not heroes. In essence, the media is largely responsible for infusing and inculcating the general public with a unanimous discriminatory image of the Arabs and Muslims.


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Kozlovic, A. K. (2007). Islam, Muslims and Arabs in the Popular Hollywood Cinema.Comparative Islamic Studies, 3(2).

McClure, K. (2014). The Evolution of the Villain in American Cinema.

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Morey, P., &Yaqin, A. (2011).Framing Muslims: Stereotyping and representation after 9/11. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

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Wilkins, K. G. (2008). Conquering Evil: Arab-Americans’andOthers’interpretations of Ethnicity In Action-Adventure Heroes And Villains. Journal of Middle East Media, 4(1).

Wilkins, K., & Downing, J. (2002). Mediating terrorism: Text and protest in interpretations of The Siege. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 19(4), 419-437.