Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

In Its New "Family Film," Disney Clobbers Arabs-Again!

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

In Its New "Family Film," Disney Clobbers Arabs-Again!

Article excerpt

In the author's hypothetical interview with Paul Pessimist, his right-wing Republican neighbor, the imaginary dialogue illustrates how Touchstone Pictures, and its corporate owner Disney Studios, under the leadership of CEO (and erstwhile board chairman) Michael Eisner, has repeatedly demeaned an entire people-especially in its new family film, "Hidalgo."

Paul Pessimist: I just saw Disney's $100 million epic, "Hidalgo."

Whoopee! Set in 19th century Arabian desert, it's all about Frank Hopkins, a half-Sioux cowboy, and his horse, Hidalgo. What I really liked about "Hidalgo" is watching Hopkins and his horse cross 3,000 miles of desert to win the "Oceans of Fire" Arabian race. They leave behind, in the dust, 100 Arabs riding "pure Arabians."

Jack Shaheen: This is an oft-told tale, Paul. Hollywood desert race movies, such as "Sahara" and "The Black Stallion" films, also show Americans triumphing over those tent-dwelling Arabs.

PP: So what-that's the way it should be! "Hidalgo" is one terrific movie, with plenty of action. Every 15 or 20 minutes some Arab baddies try to kill Hopkins. But, this cowboy/Indian is really fast on the draw. We see cheating desert Arabs trying to buy the race, but they don't have a chance-Hopkins shoots 'em all dead. One of my favorite scenes shows dishonorable and disagreeable Arabs, who tar Hopkins an "impure animal" and an "infidel," trying to castrate the American. But Hopkins decks the baddie.

This film is merely entertainment, harmless stuff intended for teens. Besides, Disney says it's a true story, and Mickey Mouse doesn't lie.

JS: Mickey lied. "Hidalgo," the most racist film of 2004, is not a true story. There was never a 1,000-year-old Arabian horse race. just go online and check out the Long Rider's Association and other noted equestrian historical experts. Sure, Hopkins was a real person, but "Hidalgo" and his other stories are pure bunk!

Look, Paul, you accept and applaud Americans bringing down dastardly Arabs because of Hollywood's mythology. Disney never shows Arabs as humane, decent folk, people like you and me.

PP: That's because they're not like you and me. They're different.

JS: Well, we used to think Jews were different, and blacks were inferior, and American Indians were savages, didn't we? We finally unlearned those prejudices. It's not politically correct to show a cowboy gunning down Indians any more. Audiences won't buy it! But anyone can gun down and disgrace all things Arab.

Look, to make sure viewers would cheer Hopkins, Disney's writers took the cowboy's best traits and blended them with the Indian's noble attributes. Presto! Out from the blender comes Hopkins, son of a Lakota princess. The bottom line is this: "Hidalgo" is a reincarnated cowboys-and-Indians shoot-'em-up. Only this time the cowboy-Indian hero guns down not Indian "savages," but Bedouin "bandits."

PP: You know what I think? You own stock in Disney, and just because the company is faltering, you're upset. This is all personal.

JS: Not true. I never invested in Disney, and my criticisms are based on reality, not fiction. Besides, Disney has a history of advancing bigotry against Arabs. It began as early as 1932 with their animated cartoon, "Mickey In Arabia." Here, an Arab sheikh appears as a sinister black cat. he and his cat bandits kidnap and hold hostage Minnie Mouse. Naturally, Mickey rescues her, tumbling scores of "desert pirates."

P P : Come on, Shaheen. That cartoon was released 72 years ago; it's so old I can't even find it on eBay! …

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