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Movies just like any other forms of popular media continue to influence our culture and its people. That is why movie representation is crucial. But the way certain groups of people are depicted in movies leave a negative impact on society. By examining such stereotypes that exist in our society this essay will discuss how some particular groups like Muslims are represented in films and how it has impacted our culture.
I would like to start off this essay my pointing out the fact that media whether good or bad is still by far the most dominant form of communication. Marshall McLuhan predicted this dominance way before the modern media and wanted to make the world aware of its consequences if not taken seriously. According to him, whatever the content might be the effects remain the same. That is why we cannot ignore the fact that some stereotypes within the media itself has left a negative mark on society.
The best way to convey a message is to visually represent it. The majority of people around the world will respond to visual images more quickly than the traditional text. This is because the human brain can easily process images. That is why movies and its content are important. It effects the popular culture and its people. Even if we are not aware of it, movies are changing the way people understand the world. Subconsciously it changes their outlook about life.
Technology has shaped the human behavior and TV shows, movies have a huge role in this. Movies create an impression on the human mind. Movies influence the way people think, especially among the youth, because they are the ones who are most vulnerable to it. For instance, the more people see violence the more likely they will have a positive attitude towards it. Eventually they become comfortable with such exposure. They might even commit violence themselves. That is why exposure to right and accurate TV is crucial. Failure to do so results in confusion with reality and people fails to differentiate entertainment with real life.
Movies have influenced our popular culture throughout history. They have become an integral part of mass culture. Movies are the reflections of human emotions, attitude, and beliefs. That is why movies are a bridge between human and culture. They can make us emotional, they can make us laugh, they can make us cry, and they can also teach us about life. But most importantly movies hold great power. That is why they can also be used as a powerful tool to achieve specific goals. If we look back at history, especially during the World War II films were used as propaganda to achieve goals. Movies also act as history lessons to some viewers because they can visually see what happened in the past. Some people use movies as way to escape the harsh truthfulness of reality. That is why according to McLuhan media is just an extension of human consciousness. Some see them only as a source of entertainment. Some see them because of popular demand. The 1999 popular hit “Fight club” inspired fight clubs in real life. Movies like the Fast And The Furious franchise inspired real life racing events. Geostorm (2017) raised awareness about global warming. These are just some of the few examples. Because of such representations movies either have a good impact or give rise to controversies which eventually lead to stereotypes. But how are such movie representations affecting specific group of people within the culture itself? In order to demonstrate my arguments I will be discussing specific movies and how the Muslim community is portrayed in these movies.
Before getting into the specifics of Muslim Stereotypes, I first want to discuss more about the general types of stereotypes and discriminations that exist in the movie industry. Gender discrimination, racial discrimination are not new in the movie industry. Men were always given priority when it came to casting for a leading role, moreover women were given inferior parts in films. A recent study conducted by the Geena Davis Foundation suggests that between the years 2010 to 2013 only 23% of women were casted in a leading role in popular movies. Even when it comes to awards like the Oscars men are always given priority before women. Black people face discrimination the most. They are often portrayed as thugs, criminals, slaves and are always associated with violence. Even though Hollywood has come a long way since then discriminations are still a matter of great concern.
Now coming to my argument. People always link Islam with acts of terror and violence. This is because of how they are represented in the mass media which has led to fear among the people. Islamophobia is a serious concern. Islamophobia is the irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against Islam or people who practice Islam. Some of the recent incidents surrounding the Muslim community has led to criticism against them. Moreover the media itself has consistently linked terrorism with Muslims. The way media has depicted Muslim stereotypes especially after the events of 9/11 has sparked hatred towards them. As a result people instantly assume any act of violence are related to the Muslim community. This has led to the question, how accurate are these medias? Most Muslims think that the way they are portrayed in films are purely based on racist Islamophobic stereotypes. Because of such media they are often faced with discrimination, violence and hate. Jack Shaheen, the author of the popular book “The TV Arab” conducted research and documented the representation of Arabs and Muslims in American cartoons, reality shows and documentaries. And according to his analysis Muslims are portrayed as barbaric rulers, with huge amount of wealth who amuse themselves with terrorism. A study called “The British media and Muslim representation: the ideology of demonisation” argues that Hollywood has a crucial role in influencing how the public views Muslims. From popular children’s cartoon Aladdin (1992) to thriller movies like “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)” Muslims are often exaggerated as villains or terrorists. In Aladdin, the Arabs were portrayed as cruel leaders who killed anyone who disobeyed them. They often were filthy rich and had slaves for their own please. In the 1992 cartoon Aladdin the opening song had a verse which when translated goes like “Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face, it’s barbaric, but hey, its home”. This led to backlash against Disney and afterwards they had to alter the verses. Similarly in the popular movie franchise Indiana Jones, the cultural stereotypes about Muslims is clearly visible in fight scenes with men with beards using swords, women covering up their faces with veils and snakes hissing in the background. And these were even long before the events of 9/11. So, clearly media have failed to accurately represent the Muslim community since the early 80s. Now, coming to more modern movies like 13 Hours (2016), this movie is about a Muslim militant group that attacks a US military base in Libya. Soldiers fight off the militant group to protect the ambassador. In the end the soldiers prevail and the militant group leader is killed. Similar endings are seen in every anti-terrorist movies. Rather than representing them as a positive or neutral image the producers always associate Muslims with bad images. Such stereotypes exist outside Hollywood too. For instance the Bollywood movie “My name is Khan (2010) is a story about an Indian Muslim who is faced with discrimination because of his Muslim last name “Khan’ and is taken as a suspect after the terrorist attack of 9/11. Similar approaches can be seen in other forms of media like news, TV shows, and documentaries. By consistently linking Muslims with violence and aggression the world sees them as a threat to the nation. And thus changing people’s viewpoint about the whole religion and race.
Islamophobic stereotypes are a big concern for Hollywood. Especially because most of the viewers who are exposed to pop culture are teenagers. As a result teenagers are exposed to such anti-Islamic movies from childhood. This often leads to a negative attitude towards the Muslims. But now a days this is becoming a trend. Seeing the Muslims as terrorists in the big screen has sort of become a new practice and producers, director’s love using negative images of Muslims to depict their ideas. “The Secret Life Of Muslims” is a documentary TV series where Muslims are interviewed to share their thoughts and experiences and reveal the truth about stereotypes. In one of the episodes called “Muslims in Hollywood” Muslims shared their views regarding the matter. Majority of the Muslims that were interviewed agreed that they were always seen as terrorists or villains and that they would love to see a Muslim character who saves the day. The media has failed to give the Muslims the opportunity to properly represent themselves and to solve this issue the media industry has to acknowledge the Islamophobic stereotypes that exist within the medium itself.
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