In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Arabs have been consistently one of the most stereotyped groups of today’s society. A stereotype is the creation of a biased opinion. It states that the word Arab is used to describe someone of the Middle East. Despite that these individuals are from a foreign county, with diverse religions and beliefs, we categorized them by one term, Arab. Arabs have been presented in various forms in the mass media. The Western media has often projected the individuals of Arab decent in negative ways. The projection of views is furthered by current events such as the Palestinian Arab- Israeli conflict. American media coverage places Arabs as violent and powerful, while Israelis want to protect their freedom and people. Such distorted representations of Arabs have a direct consequence of Arabs worldwide.
The movie "You Don’t Mess With the Zohan" is a clear of example of this Arab- Israeli Conflict. From the start of the film, Adam Sandler’s character, Zohan is positioned as a selfless hero. Zohan is an Israeli agent who reluctantly kills Palestinian “terrorists” while forgoing his real dream to cut hair in America. Rewriting history is hardly the worst crime in this movie. The portrayal of Palestinians was dirty, stupid, and goat loving terrorist. A particular scene from Zohan sparked some controversy. A group of Palestinian kids threw rocks at Zohan and he catches the stones and turns them into a balloon animal. Israelis have been known to shoot Palestinian children, but Zohan makes a joke out of it. The news media allows television to a play a major role in setting the political agenda. This explains why American’s fear Arabs, because there is little media coverage to support justification. Hollywood categorizes Arabs to be terrorists and murderers, or more simply the “bad guy.” The movie, Zohan, is a great example of these Arab stereotypes. Zohan along with other movies such as The Siege or the Disney movie Aladdin portrays Arab’s in the same way. For example, Arab’s all have strong accents, fascinated by women, work low end jobs, and are always seen as the villain.
George Gerber’s cultivation theory states that television is the main source of storytelling in our society. Gerber believes that heavy viewers of television are more affected by the Mean World Syndrome, an idea that the world is worse off than it actually is. Cultivation theory suggests that the exposure to television over time will “cultivate” how viewers perceive reality. The cultivation theory doesn’t just impact heavy viewers of television but also light viewers. Heavy viewers of television impact our entire culture and light viewers. Television is just one source of how the media broadcasts images and messages from history. Cultivation theory is a good example of how stereotypes are portrayed in the media. The movie Zohan describes Arabs as one dimensional. This is an example of how television programming shapes the attitudes and behaviors of the American Public.
Certain categories such as villain, terrorist, bestial, and eroticized women were apparent in the movie Zohan. Villain just simply means a character in a movie that constitutes an important evil agency in the plot. The amount of villains present in the movie was numerous. Terrorist and villain usually went hand in hand in the plot of the movie. A terrorist is a person, usually a member of the group, who advocates terrorism. The most known terrorists in the movie were Phantom and Zohan. The word bestial means to have the form of a beast. The movie portrayed Zohan to be unrealistic when it comes to his humanistic abilities. Arab men, sometimes described in Hollywood, have a strong desire for American women or just women in general. The movie Zohan was a perfect example of eroticizing women. The countless acts of Zohan’s sexual desire to women in the movie were overbearing. For example, Zohan would cut hair of multiple women and afterwards he would perform sexual favors. During the movie Americans would also give racial slurs towards the Arabs. Mustafa, salami, bologna, applesauce, go back to your pretzel stand, this is not Iraq, and Terrorist, are just a few examples of these racial slurs. This movie gives a small portrayal of how Arabs really are in reality.
The mass media needs to accept that they are the oracles of our time. The analysis of how Arabs are portrayed in the media has shown the existence of negative stereotypes in today’s society. Hollywood has recognized these stereotypes in movies, television, and in the news. Now it’s in the media’s hand to end this stereotype against Arabs.