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Through a Screen Darkly: Hollywood as a Measure of Discrimination Against Arabs and Muslims


Tung Yin


Lewis & Clark Law School

May 7, 2010

Duke Forum for Law and Social Change, Vol. 2, 2010
Lewis & Clark Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-18

Abstract:     
In this essay, which was prepared for the Duke Forum for Law and Social Change’s “The New Face of Discrimination: Muslim in America,” I compare Hollywood’s depiction of Arabs and Muslims in terrorism thrillers before and after the 9/11 attacks. The goal of this comparison is to see whether the increased awareness of Arab and Muslim culture since 9/11 has changed the way that Hollywood depicts Arab and Muslim characters in such television shows and movies. I chose Hollywood as the focus because popular culture both reflects and shapes public attitudes. I reach three conclusions: (1) although 9/11 led to an increase in Arab characters, Arab-American actors have not benefited, perhaps an indication of the problematic depictions of such characters; (2) Hollywood has moved toward creating Arab-American counterterrorism agents, but these characters typically play minor roles that understate the key roles played by some (of the few) real-life Arab-American agents; and (3) the new “sleeper cell” characters – seemingly normal Arab-American characters who secretly plan and execute terrorism plots – who are a post-9/11 development, for the most part overstate the nature of the Arab-Americans who have been prosecuted for terrorism-related offenses in this country.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 22

Keywords: terrorism, 9/11, Arab-Americans, Muslim-Americans, television, movies, discrimination

JEL Classification: K19, K42

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Date posted: May 10, 2010 ; Last revised: May 22, 2010

Suggested Citation

Yin, Tung, Through a Screen Darkly: Hollywood as a Measure of Discrimination Against Arabs and Muslims (May 7, 2010). Duke Forum for Law and Social Change, Vol. 2, 2010; Lewis & Clark Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-18. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1602206

Contact Information

Tung Yin (Contact Author)
Lewis & Clark Law School ( email )
10015 S.W. Terwilliger Blvd.
Portland, OR 97219
United States
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