Tag Archives: arabs

‘Blade Runner’ and race

by guest contributor Manish, originally published at Ultrabrown

In Blade Runner: The Final Cut, the 25th anniversary edition of that seminal film, little-known indie director Ridley Scott (A Good Year, Black Rain) uses yellow panic to convey a dystopian future. Impenetrable Chinese and kanji ideographs and Arabic vocals from the Brian Eno track ‘Quran’ signify a future where Earth is crumbling, most have moved off-world, and the seedy neighborhoods left behind are non-European. In Blade Runner, white flight means leaving for the sub-orbs.

In one scene, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) chases a replicant down a crowded street, pushing his way through a group of Hare Krishnas. The world may be run by spinners, androids, implants and megacorps, but like cockroaches, Krishnas and Chinese noodles survive. Make way, make way; Deckard locates and blasts Joanna Cassidy, in a scene reshot with the aging actress specifically for the final cut.

Deckard later tracks down a clue, decorative scales from an artificial snake. The music switches to tabla and desi vocals as he shakes down the Muslim proprietor. Paul Oakenfold sampled other parts of the soundtrack in ‘Goa Mix’ (’94). Artless though it is, Blade Runner’s multiculti melange is even today far ahead of ultrawhite sci-fi/fantasy films like E.T. (which crushed Blade Runner on their head-to-head opening weekend), Star Wars, and the modern-day Lord of the Rings. The only sci-fi films I’ve seen recently which were as multiculti were Serenity and Sunshine.

* * * * *

Blade Runner has held up remarkably well over time. It’s still gripping and panoramic and ambitious in a way not often attempted in sci-fi these days. Its atmospherics were remarkable. It was the Half-Life 2 of its time in terms of immersive, spooky audio and visuals; today, PC games are the new Blade Runner. The film’s models look great, non-CGI-fakey. With physical models, getting the lighting and physics right is pretty much automatic.

Later movies freely pinched from key scenes in Blade Runner. Silas in The Da Vinci Code was ripped from Rutger Hauer’s white-haired Jesus figure, complete with crucifixion reference. Daryl Hannah’s leotarded replicant crushes Ford’s neck between her thighs. The scene was gleefully echoed by Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp in Goldeneye.

The ghostly, omnipresent advertising blimp showed up later as the floating zeppelin in Æon Flux. Hide-and-seek with living toys and assassins with calling cards have become fright flick staples. ‘Time to die,’ uttered twice in different contexts, is now a survival horror catchphrase. Blade Runner’s even got its very own ‘Han shot first‘ fanböi squabble, the unicorn scene. Continue reading

So You Think You Can (Belly) Dance?

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

It’s time to set the record straight, everyone. So here it is: belly dancing is not a significant facet of Middle Eastern culture. It’s a dance, not a lifestyle (not according to most Middle Eastern people, anyway).

I’ve had one too many people ask me if I belly dance when they hear about my religion or ethnicity. Belly dancing is something that is present in some form of another in most Middle Eastern cultures, but is not really a part of our identity. And I assure you, nowhere in the Holy Qur’an does it say, “Thou shalt belly dance.” But because of Hollywood’s old Orientalist glamour, images of belly dancing have become almost synonymous with the Middle East.

I can’t help but get irritated when someone assumes that s/he and I automatically have something in common because s/he belly dances. The truth of a real-live Middle Eastern woman belly dancing seems to validate all those silly images that come into one’s head about spangly costumes and the Dance of the Seven Veils. Belly dancing has a host of sexualized and savage images attached to it, and if Middle Eastern/Muslim women confess to belly dancing (for exercise, as a career, for fun, or whatever), those images get attached to us, and we no longer have individual thoughts or lifestyles. We don’t take care of our parents or our children, we don’t have jobs or have opinions about health care reform, we just belly dance. Like it’s all we do, all day. This is why it’s insulting when someone thinks s/he knows what it’s like to be a Middle Eastern/Muslim woman because s/he’s taken a belly dancing class or read a book about it. The image of a Middle Eastern woman belly dancing seems to take away from our identity: it erases who we really are, our different nationalities and ethnicities, our emotions, our day-to-day existence.

Now, let me assure you: my problem isn’t with the dance itself. Belly dancing is a great way to connect with one’s sensuality, to exercise, and to appreciate the body that God gave you. Nor is my problem with non-Middle Eastern women (or men) belly dancing (or with Middle Eastern people dancing).

What bothers me is the adoption of a caricatured Middle Eastern identity through coin-bedazzled bras and Middle Eastern stage names like “Amina” or “Vashti.” If you’re a non-Middle Eastern performer, why give yourself a Middle Eastern stage name? What’s wrong with a name that reflects your own ethnicity or interests? Is it not “ethnic” or “exotic” enough? Besides, how would you feel if someone else used the name your parents gave you (that perhaps also belonged to your grandmother or aunt) as a stage name for an act that most people in your culture consider shameful if done publicly? (Cultural lesson: in most parts of the Middle East, belly dancing is often a cover for illicit activities.) Continue reading

Fearing the “Other” Is Politically Profitable: Iran, Islamo-Fascism and the Pursuit of Truth

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

The whispers about Iran are starting to become more numerous to ignore. The same whispers continue in hushed tones about Islamo-Fascism, hatred of freedom, and the need to do something.

Do what, I wonder? Bomb more people?

But the whispers grow in volume every day. So, to try to make sense of it all, I began to read.

I read an interesting Q & A on Pop & Politics about Islamo-Fascism.

(Fabulous moment of semi-irony: David Horowitz defending Ann Coulter by saying “Why should anybody in America, whose democratic culture is based on the pluralism of ideas, be offended by a religious belief?” Yes, David, why should they be offended by a religious belief? And why would they decide to be actively offensive toward those who hold other beliefs?)

This appeared the same day I read a Washington Post hosted chat about a PBS program I missed on the whole Iran situation.

Pop and Politics has also been covering some of the issues surrounding some of this othering and the issues surrounding the Bush Administration’s newest target – Iran:

In the Path to Iran, Chris Nelson briefly summarizes Seymour M. Hirsch’s article on the Bush Administration and the next target:

In sum, the war in Iraq is now being redefined— years too late and for ulterior motives— as in fact a strategic conflict with Iran. But blaming Iran for the humiliating U.S. failure in Iraq is merely the latest rhetorical approach to persuade Americans of the need to bomb Tehran, according to Hirsch.

In another post, P & P discussed one of Ann Coulter’s recent speaking engagements in honor of Islamo-Fascism Awareness week:

Ann Coulter descended on USC campus to promote her new book last week as part of the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s “Islamo-Facism Awareness Week.” While speaking to a crowd of about 230 fans at the Annenberg School, she offered equal doses of anti-liberal tirade and inflammatory discourse on the world beyond these amber waves of grain.

“Eschewing debate, I would turn to inflicting horrible physical pain. That seems to change people’s minds,” Coulter said when asked during the Q&A if she believed that “very vigorous intellectual debate could perhaps change [Islamo-Fascist’s] views against using violence to spread religion?”

“Who would have thought the Japanese were governable? A few well-placed nuclear bombs and they’ve been gentle little lambs ever since,” was how she followed-up the “horrible physical pain” plan for Islamo-Fascists. Continue reading

Reasons I Hate Halloween

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch.

I hate Halloween. Now that I’m a grown-up, it’s just lost its appeal. Especially when I look at what some adults do for Halloween.

  1. Slutty costumes (I just had to say it)
  2. Slutty “ethnic” costumes: Native American girl, geisha, etc.

In particular:

1. Harem girl costumes
2. Belly dancer costumes
3. Genie costumes
4. Cleopatra costumes
5. Arab sheikh costumes

These costumes reinforce the eroticized and/or dangerous stereotypes associated with Muslim and Middle Eastern men and women. Plus, it’s doubly insulting because (usually) white people will “play dress-up” in these costumes, to supposedly “live like we do” for one night. The only missing detail is: none of the institutional oppression that we face as Muslims and Middle Easterners comes with the costume.

Just looking at the names of the costumes is informative enough: “Exotic Belly Dancer Costume” and “Sheik of Persia Arabian Costume” can tell you that these people have no idea about the culture they think they’re appropriating. (History lesson: Persia didn’t have sheikhs, they had shahs. And Persia and Arabia were two different places! AKH!)

Look at the women’s costumes: all are revealing and hypersexual. How many Middle Eastern women prance around in sheer pants and face veils? None. These costumes scream sexist Orientalism!

Don’t worry, guys! There are plenty of racist costumes for you, too! Take this “Arab Sheik” costume: of course he has a knife! All Middle Eastern men are dangerous, didn’t you know? You can even tell by his face: he’s pissed, and he’s going to take it out on some infidels!

And, if you’d like to pass on your racist Orientalist fantasies to your children, there are belly dancer costumes for little girls! That’s right! Make sure that your daughter learns that her self worth comes from how much her coin-bedazzled bra reveals and how pleasing her dancing is to a man! You can start as soon as she’s a toddler!

Ick. Enjoy your free candy!

Rendition humanizes Arabs

by guest contributor Manish, originally published at Ultrabrown

The new movie Rendition is more interesting for what it is than how it runs. It’s the first fictional film about the U.S. kidnapping-and-torture program, which began under Clinton but was expanded massively under Bush. It’s the first mainstream movie I’ve seen which gives Arabs and Arabic large amounts of humanizing screen time (the protagonist is an Egyptian-American who went to college in the States). And it’s the latest in this year’s wave of whistleblower movies against Dubya’s assault on American liberty.

Mired in noble savage stereotypes, the movie is more earnest than subtle. Moa Khouas, the Arab Romeo, looks like a brown James Franco, but most of the Arab characters are more archetypes than people.

The plot’s central Capulets and Montagues romantic coincidence is Rushdie-esque, a synthetic conceit for the sake of a more interesting story. It’s not a bad movie, just a slow and obvious one, never more so than in a scene where the magnetic Peter Sarsgaard needles CIA muckamuck Meryl Streep with the Constitution, and she responds with 9/11.

The movie is A Mighty Heart in reverse, where the kidnappers are the U.S. government rather than Al Qaeda terrorists. You’ve got the same pretty, pregnant wife embedded in a labyrinthine search for her handsome, intelligent husband. Reese Witherspoon isn’t given much screen direction beyond playing a grieving wife. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character may be suffering from post-traumatic stress sufferer, but the actor sleepwalks through the movie.

This movie was directed by Gavin Hood, the South African who did Tsotsi. The plotting uses the now-familiar Rashomon device of connecting subplots via a single climactic event. One of the subplots is unexpectedly time-shifted, which is great fun.

But the real-life issue is far more significant than the film: the president claims he can legally kidnap anyone around the world, jail him forever without trial, witness or evidence, and have him tortured. It shocks the conscience. Here’s an actual Dubya quote. I can’t figure out whether it’s duplicitous or just feeble-minded:

Q: What’s your definition of the word ‘torture’?

Dubya: That’s defined in U.S. law, and we don’t torture.

Q: Can you give me your version of it, sir?

Dubya: Whatever the law says. [Link]

With no sunlight and no trial, mistakes are inevitable:

  • We had Maher Arar wrongly arrested and tortured. We refuse to apologize. We refuse to take him off the no-fly list.
  • We had Khaled al-Masri wrongly arrested and tortured. We refuse to apologize. We refuse to pay him compensation.
  • We threatened to have the innocent Abdallah Higazy’s family tortured in Egypt:

… [The FBI agent] told him that he should cooperate, and explained that if Higazy did not cooperate, the FBI would make his brother “live in scrutiny” and would “make sure that Egyptian security gives [his] family hell.” … [The agent] knew how the Egyptian security forces operated: “that they had a security service, that their laws are different than ours, that they are probably allowed to do things in that country… probably about torture, sure…” [Higazy said:] “Saddam’s security force–as they later on were called his henchmen–a lot of them learned their methods and techniques in Egypt; torture, rape…” [Link]

And to think America was founded precisely because of this kind of limp-dickery.