With the outbreak of the Persian Gulf war, some observers are expecting a rash of anti-Arab movies and TV shows that will depict Arabs as Hollywood's all-purpose villain.
"War will only enhance the stereotype," said Jack Shaheen, an expert on Arabs and the media at Southern Illinois University.Said Don Bustany of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee: "What we have is a situation where there's no balance. . . . What gets publicized are the extremists."
Here are some examples:
- The television show "Under Cover" recently focused on Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, casting Americans and Israelis - not so much Kuwaitis - as the victims of Iraq's aggression.
- "Target U.S.A.," a small, independent movie coming out later this year, centers on Iraqi terrorists who try to take over an American town.
- "Shield of Honor" once told a story of Libyan terrorists. They are now Iraqi.
- The upcoming movie "Desert Shield" was rewritten to make the enemy Saddam Hussein's chemical weapon-laden army, not unspecified Arab assailants.
Priscilla McDonald, a spokeswoman for 21st Century Films, said that the depiction of Iraqis in "Desert Shield" is not intended to encourage racism.
- The Walt Disney Co.'s "Ultimatum" tells the story of Middle Eastern terrorists threatening to explode a nuclear bomb in the United States if all Jews are not forced out of Jerusalem.
"If you've seen one, you've seen them all," Shaheen said of Hollywood's perception of Arabs. "They're billionaires, bombers, belly dancers or bundles of black."