Monday, April 16, 2012

The Reel Bad America

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’m a journalist, or just that I grew up around so many Hollywood movies, that I never really thought of the details portrayed in movies. To the smallest of details, like the race of the extras used for background shots that we don’t think we even notice, directors shoot a scene placing everything into place, as if they’re drawing an image.
Ingroups and outgroups really affect the characters in movies, and basically decide on who is portrayed as the good/bad guy in movies. This happens for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is that the presence of an outgroup, or an enemy, creates solidarity and unity for ingroups. When I say outgroup, I mean a group which is founded on hatred or opposition from an ingroup, which is a group with which people strongly identify particularly when that attachment is made. Basically, an outgroup is what sociologists call “The Other” in movies. Those are the people who don’t belong and shouldn’t necessarily belong, like the alienated, unwanted, enemies.

Usually, Arabs are portrayed as “The Other” in Hollywood movies. This is could be done by placing no subtitles on the Arabic “terrorists,” like they’re aliens who we shouldn’t even get and are deserted in a desert somewhere with all their money and belly dancer women.
Watching the movie Amreeka really left me thinking of all these things. When I see movies like that, the first thing I think of is how much I could relate to the theme of the movie.

When I stepped back and looked at it from a sociological perspective, I realized how much it tried to implement all this messages through the way it was shot. It was obvious that the outgroup portrayed in this movie was Israel, who was automatically every viewers disliked character in the movie. This happened because of the scenes placed in the movie, which were basically scenes of them at the borders, acting like ignorant authority, who were just restricting a nice mother and her little boy from entering a city that they belong to.
In this movie, America was portrayed differently that it would be in a Hollywood movie. It was not the most powerful, free country in the world. However, here we also see some Americans as ignorant beings who judge everyone on unrelated matters. Some of the boy’s classmates would call him Osama, or a member of “Qaeda,” based on his race, regardless of the fact that he is not Iraqi or even Muslim.
I found this as a very interesting way of socializing a culture, based on the movies people see even as kids. Even for me, an Arab Muslim, I am a lot more aware of what terrorism is and differentiating that from Islam and Jihad. The biggest reason for this is the media and movies I was exposed to in the past 21 years.

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