Heba Amin, an Egyptian visual artist, Karam, an Egyptian-German artist, and Don painted Arabic graffiti on the set of Showtime’s series Homeland [Al Jazeera]
To read the article on Al Jazeera’s site, click here.
Homeland hacker challenges media portrayals of Muslims
Visual artist Heba Amin discusses the thin line between news and entertainment and making a point through humour.
When the German publisher Don Karl approached Heba Amin, an Egyptian visual artist and researcher, to paint Arabic graffiti on the set of Showtime’s series Homeland, her initial impulse was to decline, as others had before her.
She rejected what she viewed as the programme’s orientalism and its framing of diverse peoples from South and West Asia as monolithic evildoers.
But then she reconsidered. What if she could use the moment to spark a dialogue?
So, in collaboration with her colleagues, Karam, an Egyptian-German artist, and Don, she did just that.
To hear me interviewed about the article on the podcast Popaganda, click here.
I look at how Jeannie, from the 1960s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, started off as an over-the-top Arab stereotype, but over the show’s five-year run was forced to assimilate due to pressure from network executives who wanted her to be more “likeable,” i.e. American. I also break down how Orientalism helped ratings and why, even though Jeannie calls Tony “Master,” she can be read as a feminist, transgressive character.
The “Tough Issue” hits newsstands June 1st. I’m honored to have been chosen as one of five featured contributors:
My article, “Alice in TV Land” addresses what went down with ABC’sAlice in Arabia, as well as the divide between media critics and makers but looks to bridge the gap: “As an Arab American feminist trained to critique popular culture, I want to find ways to spark, influence, and create it as well.”
Here’s a pulled quote to wet your appetite:
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The Dutch chocolate-milk manufacturer Chocomel has produced a new commercial that has gotten nearly 800k views on YouTube in the three weeks since it was posted. How has a commercial for a sweet dairy drink drawn that kind of attention? By employing old Orientalist and racist tactics, and Arab face. You know the kind: sleazy Arab sheikh tries to get what he wants by luring an innocent white man into his “palace,” where eager, exotic women line the walls.
Although, I must admit they’ve put some fresh spins on an old move. Here’s how:
You may have heard of the classic story Alice in Wonderland. In the 1951 Disney film version of the Lewis Caroll tale, Alice finds herself in a newfound world, where she meets a cast of rude characters with outlandish customs, including a hookah-smoking caterpillar. Now what if instead of falling into Wonderland, Alice were kidnapped and taken to Arabia?