“Evil” Arabs in American Popular Film: Orientalist Fear
By Semmerling, Tim Jon
2006, University of Texas Press, 0-292-71341-X, $55 hb; 0-292-71342-8, $22.95 pb
Reviewed on April 1, 2007
The “evil Arab” has become a stock character in American popular films, a stereotype that wields considerable power—that is, fills important needs—despite its collapse when confronted with real Arab people. Semmerling shows how American cultural fears, the product of perceived challenges to our national myths, have driven us to create the “evil Arab” other. He draws on Jack Shaheen’s groundbreaking Reel Bad Arabs (reviewed here in ND01) and goes beyond it, analyzing five films, from “The Exorcist” (1973) to “Rules of Engagement” (2000), as well as CNN ’s special “America Remembers” (2002), delving into them in fascinating detail, scrutinizing visual tropes and narrative structures to investigate how and why “evil Arabs” serve our purposes.