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Middle Eastern/Arab Role Models in America?

Sakuya posted this thread...
Nov. 4, 2012 at 7:39 pm

My brother and I were watching Aladdin the other night and noticed something weird about all the background characters and music. It's kind of offensive. All of the "bad" characters(like the guards) have ugly faces, blemishes/marks, or look very stereotypical for a Middle Eastern look. Even of the lyrics of the opening song(which was changed from "where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face" to "and the heat is intenseit's barbaric, but hey, it's home". My point isn't about Disney, but more about where is a role model for Middle Eastern kids? Is there a Middle Eastern superhero, an athlete, or a singer(talking in terms of America here)?

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Imaginedangerous replied...
Nov. 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Aside from Aladdin, there isn't much in pop culture. Most people have at least a basic acquaintence with (or have at least heard of) the myths and legends- a Thousand and One Nights, Ali Baba and the Forty Theives. For those of us who are interested in watching the news, we see some real-life role models (Malala Yousufzai or the organizers of the Arab Spring). But other than that, Arab/Middle Eastern culture is unfortuntely not something America tends to celebrate. A few decades ago, it was considered slightly obscure, and used as a punchline if the media used it at all- after 9/11 things defintely have not gotten any better.

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Sakuya replied...
Nov. 12, 2012 at 9:03 pm

I feel as though people can only think of the bad stereotypes that follow Middle Easterns. When they hear the word "terrorist" people think of a Middle Eastern man with a turban on... I wish there was something that young kids could see that was in the news that wasn't just something about killing the bad Middle Easterns but great heros.

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JunieSparrow replied...
Nov. 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I know what you mean about the stereotyping, even apart from the politics.  But I think that's the worst.  "Brown people are terrorists."  "They hate us because we're free."  "We have to fight them so they leave us alone." 
I wish I knew some way to help influence people's opinions... you have any ideas? 
ht tp://ww w.bombiran.or g/

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An-eloquent-leaf replied...
Nov. 14, 2012 at 9:07 am

And it doesn't help when the media stereotypes race as well---and I'm referring to books and movies/tv shows.

Most often, even if it's sci-fi, the white people are the good/main guys, the bad guys are the arab-equivalents, et cetera. Take a look at this map here, h ttp://25.media.tumblr.c om/tumblr_lrvrolBN3S1qcqjd5o1_500.png , and it's actually pretty accurate (don't forget to take out the spaces).

Now, I won't try to argue that there are no "white" "bad guys," because there are. But these people are most often pale, with either very dark hair or very light hair---they're taken to the extremes. But when's the last time you saw a bad character who was a sandy-brown-haired woman with bright green eyes? Yah. I thought so.

Take, for another example, Avatar, as in the Last Airbender. I don't know if you guys have watched it or not, but I thought the TV show had a pretty good balance for what it was. Earthbenders (mostly "good") were often pale with dark hair, though some were tanned. (I'll also add that since it's an anime, the "white people" were more like Asians). Airbenders were not often shown, but those who were, were mostly pale old people and/or with shaved heads (those who were neither did had dark hair). The Firebenders (mostly "bad") were perhaps the palest of them all, with brown hair as well. The Waterbenders ("good") had tan skin, dark hair.

But the movie, on the other hand, almost completely flipped that. See where I'm going with this? Now the Waterbenders were pale and the Firebenders were Arabic/Indian. It's not that I'm a fan of this show that annoyed me, but rather how they changed it into a matter of race for absolutely no reason.

Race stereotyping is happening way to often. And when people try t make up for it, usually they overcompensate and it just becomes too obvious.

^^sorry, I just needed to get that rant out of me :)

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Sakuya replied...
Nov. 14, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Thank you for being an Avatar Airbender movie hater too!! I always wondered if there was a reason and maybe subconsciously that was one of them. There are starting to become social scripts for the new, and even our, generation of how certain Middle Eastern people are perceived to act. I've lived here all of my life and people still tell me, "Wow you speak nice English."

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Sakuya replied...
Nov. 14, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I think people just need to be more informed about the good things, not just the political and war side of it. It's the same with many cultures that are just coming into view for Americans. The United States likes to think that it is a melting pot of people, but the average American doesn't know much about Middle Easterns other than they don't want any Islamics near their children

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eternitykf replied...
Dec. 9, 2012 at 11:24 am

I think that no matter where you are, your parents are responsible for how you grow up seeing your culture. I have relatives who live in America, and they're proud of their Arab identities and their religion and everything. I think what does hurt those children is how others treat them. Of course, they're fine if they have uncovered hair and dress like everyone else, but I think it gets hard when they tell people where they're from. Movies like Aladdin won't change the minds of Middle Eastern children living in foreign countries, they will only teach them anger at the people around them. They will become angry at those who ruin their own reputation as Arabs, and they will become angry at those who misinterpret them and judge them based on where they're from and what religion they practice. I think this is a terrible way to grow up. 

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Sakuya replied...
Dec. 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm

I think that it is so upsetting to see how terrible some young children see the world because it is how their parents have taught them to see it. Have you heard of the Brown Eyed-Blue Eyed experiment? This elementary school teacher wanted to teach her little children about racism right after MLK was killed and immediately the effect of her experiment was noticed inside and outside of the classroom as children got into fights just because of their eye color! I think that if there were better role models for both American children and those of Arab descent would make for a better way to teach everyone a little tolerance and that it is ok to be different. I have plenty of friends who are afraid to talk about their nationality because they are from the Middle East.

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