Orientalism in Action

Throughout modern media, tv, and cinema we see misrepresentations of many eastern cultures. Movie studios, such as Disney, pick and choose which pieces of what cultures they would like to include in their movies and exclude what they don’t like. This is especially prominent in modern American action movies and tv shows, in which cultures aren’t misrepresented, but completely changed to be a fitting other for the protagonist in the story. In these action movies and shows, we often see the entire Middle East depicted as extremely gruesome and violent. We often have an antagonist that is a Middle Eastern terrorist which perpetuates this false idea that people from the Middle East are violent, radical, and terrorists. This image being continuously pushed throughout American action movies creates prejudice towards people from the Middle East in many people who watch these movies. This prejudice prevents people from understanding the many different cultures that are in the Middle East. It also continues to make the problem of xenophobia throughout America and the west worse and worse.

A specific example of this idea is in Marvel’s Iron Man, which is centered around an extremely wealthy business man, Tony Stark, who is captured by an Afghanistan terrorist group called the 10 rings. He is put in a cave, tortured, and forced to develop a weapon for them so that they can start taking power globally. He ends up making the Iron Man suit, which he later uses to seek revenge on the 10 rings and bring justice to those they terrorize. This movie became extremely popular, becoming one of the biggest movies in 2008. This movies popularity gave Marvel the boost it needed to start making more and more movies and developing its franchise, but the popularity of this movie also exastrabates many of its negative impacts.

This movies popularity creates increased prejudice in those who have watched it because it again pushes the idea that people from the Middle East are violent, radical, and terrorists. We often see in action movies people from the Middle East portrayed as either the villains or regular citizens, but never as the hero of the story. Often the hero has to be a white guy saving the citizens from some sort of terrorist, just as we see in Iron Man. We also see an issue in the portrayal of Afghanistan in this movie aswell. Afghanistan is shown as a desolate area that is only desert, they fail to show cities, developed areas, and the foresty mountianis areas and opt to only show small run down towns and military camps. This again further perpetuates the idea that Middle Eastern countries are violent and underdeveloped.

The failure of modern action movies to properly represent the east in general, and especially those who live there and the cultures they practice, creates prejudice as well as an unwillingness to actually learn and involve yourself in those different cultures. It further extrabaltes the problem of xenophobia an America and the west in general and continues to push us farther and farther away from the rest of the world.

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