Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Stereotypes Reign in "The Kingdom"

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Stereotypes Reign in "The Kingdom"

Article excerpt

Stereotypes Reign in "The Kingdom"

THE NEW MOVIE "The Kingdom" is a setback for efforts to improve relations between the United States and the Arab world.

Director Peter Berg vowed that he was "determined to avoid stereotypes." But he didn't live up to his vow. Instead, he offers us a $70 million jingoistic Rambo-in-Arabia thriller.

The opening frames of "The Kingdom" focus on American oil company workers and their families as they play a softball game at the "Rahman Compound." Suddenly, Saudi terrorists attack. They proceed to kill more than 100 Americans, primarily women, teenagers and children, who are either mowed down or blown to pieces. An additional 200 Americans are seriously wounded.

"All glory to Allah" and "Allah will give us victory," declare the terrorists.

During the attack, the Saudi ringleader's son watches the slaughter approvingly. Cut to the United States, to the son of FBI agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx). The boy tells his father: "There are a lot of bad people out there."

Says Fleury, "Yeah, but you're not one of them."

This scene-an Arab child giving a thumbs-up to terror, while an American kid denounces it-implies that Arab kids may look innocent but they, too, are "bad people."

The film's State Department officials are also stereotyped. They are pro-Arab wimps, trying to deny FBI investigators the right to investigate the crime and put their "boots on Saudi soil." One FBI agent describes Saudi Arabia as being "a bit like Mars." In fact, Berg's Saudi Arabia is much worse than Mars. Saudi Arabia appears as a sinister desert land filled with evil machine-gun-toting Arabs lurking around each and every corner, waiting in the shadows to kill Americans.

The audience is led to believe that we had better kill them-even women and children-quick, before they kill us.

Yes, Berg does have the agents meet two "good" Saudis: Col. Ghazi (Ashraf Barhoum) and Sgt. Haytham (Ali Suliman). They help Fleury investigate the horrific attack. Says Ghazi: "When we catch the men who murdered those people, I want to kill them."

But this is mere tokenism on Berg's part. He could have had Ghazi or Haytham discuss with Fleury how terrorism adversely affects all people, and that Americans and Arabs should work in unison to protect the innocent. …

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