The Depiction of Arabs in Disney: How Media “Others” Racial and Ethnic Groups

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There are carefully chosen ethnic and racial groups in the media, especially in the Disney cartoons and Hollywood films, that are consistently portrayed in a very stereotypical way. Beyond controversy,  ‘Middle Eastern people’ are the one racial group who are exposed to the  perpetual stereotyping in the media. With a small portion of exceptions, almost in every film or cartoon, Arabs are portrayed as camel riding extremely violent terrorists/people (sometimes as dumb characters) with a depiction of  animal resemblance face with long whiskers. In the documentary film “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People” Dr. Jack Shaheen analyzes the characteristics of the stereotyped Arabs by referring to the various Hollywood films and a Disney cartoon film called Aladdin and argues the reasons why Arabs are depicted as violent terrorist characters in such movies.

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He estimates that one of the possible reasons for Arabs to be shown in exaggerated violence is that the memory of 9/11. In my opinion, it is an unacceptable behavior to label a whole racial group as terrorists because an uncivilized Arab group caused 9/11. There is an important point that I’d like to share is that the Arabs have been portrayed as villains/terrorists/violence makers since not the 9/11 but far more older. In this case I believe that 9/11 is not the real reason for Arabs to be shown as exaggerated violent people. I conclude to the fact that media adores to alienate or other specific ethnic groups.

In the video clip I posted, the general perceptions of an Arab are perfectly illustrated from an American’s viewpoint. When the American guy says “I hate Arabs, well you are all Arabs to me, the Black, the Jews, those blue Avatars (basically the modern version of American natives), the fact anyone from outside America is technically an Arab to me”.  This is how media alienate ethnic and racial groups from others. These kinds of discrimination may lead to hatred, tension, bullying and racial profiling among the society and people. And also, we can see that Arabs are not the only racial group who are exposed to this strict stereotyping. Moreover, the another thing that American man says to the Arab is that “While you are here I highly recommend a visit to Empire State  Building before you or one of your cousins take it down”. Again, the same stereotype that the American is implying for the Arab is that you guys are terrorists, love to hurt people, make damage, take down buildings etc. In the documentary film, Shaheen talks about how Palestinians are depicted as terrorists while Israelis are shown the victims. Note that: Many Arab have been tortured, suffered or killed by Israelis. In this context, Shaheen emphasizes how media show only the one side of the events.

A well-known Disney cartoon film called Aladdin, is a perfect example of the racism in Arab.

In the beginning of the clip we hear a man’s singing on the desert saying: “Where they cut off your ear, If they don’t like your face, It’s barbaric, but hey, It’s home”.  Again this is how they integrate the violence between the Middle Eastern People. Furthermore, in the Aladdin film, the turban, the scarf that they are wearing on their head, is always depicted in Arab man. Also, Arab man have a stupid English accent. This stupid accent make them as dumbs like the case in the film of  Dictator where the Arab has a very thick and stupid accent which shows him silly and fun to make of. Another stereotype that we see all the time is the sexified depiction of Arab women. According to Amira Jarmakani “Belly dancers code Arab culture as exotic and sexually available”. The only form of a women is depicted is a belly-dancer Arab women in the film of Aladdin. However, these kinds of stereotypes is not only attributable to the Arabs. We see many examples of stereotyped racial groups such as native Americans, Jews, Blacks etc. The last thing I’d like to share is that a video clip of stereotyped Black people. As you watch the clip and listen to lyrics carefully you will get the main idea of how media is portraying the Black people.(uneducated low working class people) I will post the lyrics below.

Lyrics: Hike! Ugh! Hike! Ugh! Hike! Ugh! Hike!
We work all day, we work all night
We never learned to read or write
Were happy-hearted roustabouts

Hike! Ugh! Hike! Ugh! Hike! Ugh! Hike!
When other folks have gone to bed
We slave until were almost dead
Were happy-hearted roustabouts

Hike! Ugh! Hike! Ugh! Hike! Ugh! Hike!
We dont know when we get our pay
And when we do, we throw our pay away
(When we get our pay, we throw our money all away)
We get our pay when children say
With happy hearts, “Its circus day today”
(Then we get our pay, just watching kids on circus day)

Muscles achin
Back near breaking
Eggs and bacon what we need (Yes, sir!)
Boss man houndin
Keep on poundin
For your bed and feed
There aint no let up
Must get set up
Pull that canvas! Drive that stake!
Want to doze off
Get them clothes off
But must keep awake
Hep! Heave! Hep! Heave! Hep! Heave!
Hep! Heave! Hep! Heave! Hep! Heave!
Hep! Heave! Hep!

Swing that sledge! Sing that song!
Work and laugh the whole night long
You happy-hearted roustabouts!
Pullin, poundin, tryin, groundin
Big top roundin into shape
Keep on working!
Stop that shirking!
Grab that rope, you hairy ape!
Poundin! poundin! poundin! poundin!
Oh…

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