Islamic Men | Film Studies

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The image of Islamic men as projected in mainstream Hollywood cinema

The aim of the following study is to examine the stereotypes projected by mainstream Hollywood cinema with regards to Islamic and Arabic men in order to evaluate the ways in which this perpetuates a misunderstanding of different cultures and curtails attempts to incorporate Muslims into Western society.

It is a particularly relevant and significant topic and not only because of the contemporary significance of Islam in world affairs. The role of film is a highly significant contemporary topic in its own right.

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As the dominant cultural theme of twenty first century Western society, cinema represents the vehicle through which the views of the cultural elite are expressed and past experience dictates that the images projected by Hollywood have a lasting effect, constituting fiction interpreted as fact.

The findings within the study will highlight how film broadly mirrors politics in so far as it requires an external enemy in order to define itself. September 11, 2001 was therefore a watershed in movie making every bit as much as in politics, as Hollywood was presented with a new incarnation of evil to replace the worn out stereotypes of Russians and Japanese that the industry had hitherto relied upon to strike realist fears into the audience.

Introduction

Film is a unique form of modern art, unlike any of its conceptual cousins. A painter, musician or novelist has free reign with regards to composition, which is a liberty not available to mainstream Hollywood film makers. Certainly, the independent movie, which has spawned one of the films featured within the following study, Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, is an avenue open to individuality, but this is a separate sphere from Hollywood.

Funding, production and backing of the Hollywood movie industry comes from corporate finance and from the vetting of scripts that constitutes a process unlike any other creative commerce. In this way, Hollywood movie making remains within the control of the most conservative elements of the ruling elite in a way that other forms of artistic expression are not. It is a fundamental truth that is central to understanding to the remainder of the dissertation, as independent film maker Gus Van Sent (1994:214)testifies.

“The point of any film, big or small, is to make a good one, and then let the scope and subject dictate the expansiveness of the audience. But a lot of the decision making depends on what a person has done before. Opinions about art are so subjective that the only objective orientation becomes your past product.”

Furthermore, the producers of films work in the knowledge that their output will be seen, discussed and interpreted by a far greater audience than will ever read a play,

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