Orientalism in Law and Order

Law and Order has seen many soon-to-be stars make appearances on the show: Idris Elba, Bradley Copper and Kerry Washington to name a few. However these guest stars tend to play some very stereotypical roles. Young African-American men always seem to be portrayed as gang members and young Middle-Eastern actors always seem to play someone connected to a terrorist or a terrorist themselves.

This reminded me of Orientalism. This viewing of people from the East as less then and in a very stereotypical way despite knowing it can’t always be true. Law and Order is unique example because it has been on even before 9/11. The show has a distinct shift in how Middle Eastern actors are portrayed on the show. Everyone that was Middle Eastern was put into a box of terrorism.

This racist idea is very harmful for the relationship between the West and the East. I read an article which made the connection that the majority of serial killers are White American men but that does mean that everyone assumes all white men are serial killers. However, this not making assumptions does not seem to stretch to people of color. Despite the fact, that majority of terrorist do come from the Middle East, it does not mean that everyone from the Middle East are terrorist. Orientalism is a way to describe this generalization in Law and Order.

One thought on “Orientalism in Law and Order

  1. Lauren, you make a great connection here. It does not have to be an exotic portrayal of a culture on the other side of the world; it can even play out in the portrayal of Arab Americans in the contemporary world.


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