In this documentary program produced by the University of Southern California in 2008, Professor of Cinema and Television Ellen Seiter leads a discussion on “Film Viewing Across Cultures.” The project brought together a dozen undergraduate students, with participants born in the US, Egypt, Pakistan, Kuwait and South Africa. The goal was to explore how film and television portrayals shaped understandings of America, Islam, and the Muslim world. Viewing a variety of historical and contemporary media portrayals, the discussion also interrogated the extent to which studying film can deepen cross-cultural understandings.
This trailer for “Reel Bad Arabs”, a documentary produced by the Media Education Foundation in collaboration with Professor Jack Shaheen, explores historical and contemporary depictions of Arabs in media. From the producers: “The film explores a long line of degrading images of Arabs -- from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheikhs and gun-wielding "terrorists"-- along the way offering devastating insights into the origin of these stereotypic images, their development at key points in US history, and why they matter so much today.”
This clip comes from a 1991 broadcast of ABC World News tonight with Peter Jennings. It is an early news account of the beating of Rodney King, an African American male who was pulled over by the LAPD and became the victim of police brutality. The altercation was caught on tape by a pedestrian with a video camera.
In this 2014 clip, a Los Angeles KTLA news anchor mistakes actor Samuel L. Jackson for another black actor, Laurence Fishburne, during a live interview. Presuming confusion due to Jackson and Fishburne’s shared race, Jackson responded by berating the man with a series of comments that clarify who Jackson is and is not. In this piece, Jackson is being interviewed as a promotion for his movie Robocop and the anchor is referencing a commercial where Fishburne promotes a car that aired a week earlier during the Super Bowl. Jackson’s terse responses such as “we might all be black and famous, but we don’t all look alike” as well as “I’m the other guy…there’s more than one black guy doing a commercial” make poignant statements of how black actors are viewed as a homogenous group.
"Shackles of Sex: Stereotypes of Latinas in Film and Media" is a short documentary created and directed by Jessica Beltran. It concerns the problem of Latina stereotypes in the media. Beltran singles out the “spitfire,” the “female clown,” and the “dark lady,” as three prevalent Latina stereotypes, and argues that these stereotypes are characterized by negative traits such as hypersexualisation, lack of education or intelligence, and laziness. For Beltran, these stereotypes are problematic as they are negative representations with no actual basis in reality, and they are limiting to Latina actors and Latina women generally. In response to these problems, the documentary suggests that Latinas would like to see themselves reflected in the media through new stereotypes – as intelligent, heroes, bankers, educated. In order to achieve this change, it is suggested that viewers boycott networks they find offensive, as well as learn to be critical viewers of media.