‘Habib’ Trailer Uses Pita Bread Weapons In Arsenal Of Comedy To Fight Arab Stereotypes
Many of these problems can be attributed to a strange convergence of stereotypes that became more pronounced after September 11. Immediately after September 11, but also in the years that followed, there was a backlash that urgently and negatively affected the Muslim, Arab and Brown communities.
This is of particular concern to many in Canada amid recent hate crimes, such as the terrorist attack on a Muslim family in London, Ontario.
The number of hate crimes reported by police in Canada rose 47% to 2,073 incidents in 2017, including the attack on the Quebec mosque, where six Muslim men were killed. While the number of incidents remained comparable in 2018, there was a 10 percent increase in police-reported hate crimes motivated by hate of one race or ethnicity from 2018 to 2019, most targeting Arabs or West Asians and Blacks.
It remains urgent to fight against Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism. In July 2021, the Canadian government convened a national summit on Islamophobia and commissioned eight anti-racism projects. This included funding of $ 184,000 to the Canadian Arab Institute to fight anti-Arab racism with “anti-myth videos and shows.”
Popular culture and Arab talent
When we consider the portrayal of Arabs and Muslims in popular culture, it’s no surprise that members of these groups in North America after 9/11 turned to creative approaches to help change the narrative.
A recent example is a trailer mockup for a fictional superhero film project called Habib, by Wishful Genies. The Toronto-based comedic duo consists of writer, actor and comedian Rob Michaels and comedian and actor Fady Ghali. (Watch the trailer below, it may take a few moments to load from YouTube)
The Habib The trailer playfully challenges long-held stereotypes about Arabs, which in turn makes a powerful statement about anti-Arab racism. The trailer has had over 80,000 views on YouTube since it went live in March, and Wishful Genies also has a popular Tik Tok account.
Michaels and Ghali grew weary of “orientalist” representations of Arabs in popular culture.
Michaels, who is Iraqi-Canadian, admitted that when he wrote the script he based it largely on his life as a child, including the random security checks he went through.
Ghali and Michaels are both Christians, and Michaels mentioned how often people are surprised by this fact. Non-Arabs in the West frequently assume that Arabs are Muslims and vice versa, when in fact less than 15% of Muslims in the world are Arabs and the Arab world is diverse with dialects, religions, cultures and different customs.
Unsettling ugly representations
Arabs have long endured humiliating portrayals as Hollywood’s go-to villains, as seen in films like Rules of engagement (2000) and True lies (1994). Such depictions have become more common in post 9/11 cinematic performances like the 2014-16 TV show. Tyrant and movies like The Hurt Locker (2008) and American sniper (2014).
Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee documented “hundreds of violent messages targeting Arab and Muslim Americans” from people who had seen the film American sniper on social networks.
Ghali and Michaels can be seen alongside a wave of other Arab and Muslim creators in the West who use the genres of comedy and satire to engage in stereotypes and expose social ills. In the tradition of comedy or satire, they use these seemingly light genres to comment on, destabilize, and challenge dominant opinions.
The superhero needs a back-up plan
Which makes Habib work is his use of satire to challenge the racist views of Arabs. Habib appears to be a mixture of Arab stereotypes: his costume, for example, includes a keffiyeh and a fez, which have different cultural and geographic connotations.
The trailer begins with Habib fighting a villain with pita bread and a sword. What results are comedic scenes with hookahs, clueless SHIELD agents, and bossy immigrant parents.
When Habib reveals his superhero identity to his family, his father berates him, telling him that he still needs to find a real job, “in case that superhero thing doesn’t work.”
More tellingly, when Arab supervillain Wahish arrives on the scene, people start shouting, “He’s going to blow himself up!” Wahish retorts with frustration: “I’m a supervillain! Not a terrorist!
When I asked Michaels on this line, he said, “I thought it was an appropriate comment to immediately have him labeled as a terrorist just because he’s Arab no matter what he does. Whites have the luxury of being supervillains, but in the media Arab equates to terrorist. ”
Making fun of orientalist tropes
Arab designers also rely on the comic effect in their portrayal of superheroes. After seeing the Habib trailer, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel with Marvel’s new Arab-American superhero, Amulet, who premiered last year in The beautiful Ms. Marvel series. Comics produced in the West have historically generated Arab villains like Batman’s nemesis, Ra’s Al-Ghul.
In the issue that featured Amulet (# 13), Arab-American writer Saladin Ahmed chose to include a scene of laughing aloud with an Arab fortune teller dressed as an oriental dancer.
In the case of Habib and Amulet, the emphasis is on the Arab identity and not on the religion of the character.
Michael hopes Habib Will further challenge generalizations about the Arab world and stereotypes propagated in popular culture if he ever manages to film. When you consider how prevalent these stereotypes are and the urgent need to interrupt Islamophobic and anti-Arab racism and its misdeeds, it feels like our world needs a movie the size of a super. hero like this.
Safiyya Hosein, doctoral student in communication and culture, Ryerson University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.