If Edward Said was alive and he watched Tyrant, he would have described as “orientalism in a nutshell”
A new Fox series that focuses on a fictional Middle East monarchy in post Arab-Spring couldn’t be more offensive to Arabs and Muslims.
The show is written by Israeli writer and film director Gideon Raff and developed by Gordon Howard Homeland and Criag Wright iven that Raff and Howard have something to do with the notorious Homeland, one is led to think that it’s yet another show that takes all the possible negative stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims and make a show out of it. Yet according to Howard some Muslim and Arab organizations were consulted while developing the show in order to avoid representing Arab and Muslims the Hollywood/the Homeland way.
So I watched the pilot, and here’s some deconstruction to what it’s basically, yet another show that disgustingly perpetuates that Arabs and Muslims are impulsive, violent, lusty beasts.
The show is supposed to be taking place in Maan; A fictional kingdom in the Middle East. It seems that creators of the show don’t know that Maan is a city in Jordan. As for the kingdom itself, it’s a mix of almost every city in the Middle East, though not all ME looks the same. For example, some parts of the kingdom look like a slum in Egypt, some other look like Palestine or Jordan, but somehow it has the skyline of Dubai or Doha. That’s for the Kingdom’s landscape. It doesn’t stop there. What’s a royal despotic Arab family without its palace?! The palace has the architecture of Aladdin’s palace, the gardens of King’s Landing, the interior of a Moroccan house. And you find some Persian domes and arches.
Bassam “Barry” El-Fayed is a pediatrician living the American dream. He finds himself haunted by his and father’s past when he decides to go back to Maan to attend his nephew’s wedding. Barry has another brother Jamal who is the coward yet brutally violent Arab man. The father dies and while Bassam doesn’t want to be the next tyrant, somebody has to bring the civilized voice into the kingdom, so he stays.
1-Father Tyrant: A Saddam Hussien like figure.
2-Brother Tyrant Jamal: the man who will make you feel utterly disgusted by Arab men, he isn’t only violent and impulsive but also lusty (rapes two women in one episode).
3-The once wanna-be teenage tyrant/the remorseful, shameful, civilized, self-hating, Americanized: Bassam “Barry”.
4-The white wives: Mama Fayed a British queen, aka the sound of reason nu.1 and who,by the way, looks like Queen Noor of Jordan. Holly Fayed, the American wife who is trying to get her husband to reconnect his with his past, aka the sound of reason nu,2.
5-The Arab women: Laila, married to Jamal yet loved Bassam,who gets slapped but slaps back. Samira aids terrorists. And The American teenage daughter who is forced to make the trip.
6-The military, the generals (who happen to be extended family), the police. And the American Ambassador.
7-The terrorists: the forces of destabilization, the ungrateful commoners, the suicide bombers, basically anyone wearing Palestinian kuffiyah,
I guess by now, you would feel less encouraged to watch Tyrant. But that’s not all. The show confuses fiction with reality to make things even blurrier for the average audience. Some simple examples:
1-El Fayed,which is the family’s last name in the show, is often associated with Egyptian businessmen Mohammed El-Fayed and Dodi El Fayed. It’s known that Dodi el Fayed was Princess Diana’s boyfriend and both were killed in a car accident.
2-Having two blonde/white women that are romantically involved with Arab-men insinuates the commonly-held idea that Arab-Muslim men always have a fetish for Western-White women, It’s in Shakespeare’s Othello, it’s in Lost, it’s in Tyrant. And it’s racist.
Having a show with gross images of Arabs and Muslims isn’t a novelty. It’s not the first time that an entire region, an entire religion is painted with the same brush.
While the situation of Arabs and Muslims isn’t quite rosy, the failure to understand the complicity of a region and its people is very damaging.To be honest, sometimes you think that mainstream media will never get the narrative right, and as a result, you lose interest in keep telling people to free their minds.
But what really irritates me and offends me,as an Arab and Muslim, is that the consequences of the misrepresentation, and the arrogant and deliberate misinformation make the destruction and mass—killing of Arabs and Muslims justifiable, acceptable, and even celebratory. For instance, in episode two there’s one line that says: “Childhood in America is a different thing, terrorists are taught young here”. The line comes as some teenagers kidnap a royal princess, and Barry’s uncle wants to kill them.
The scene struck me as it comes in a time where Israel is killing,kidnapping, and imprisoning Palestinian children. While the world decried the killing of the three settlers, not much grief was shown to Palestinian children.
Against this backdrop, you can understand the dangerous propaganda that’s being insidiously fed to people who may not bother to do a simple research about the Middle East.
It’s disturbing that the show is still running despite objections. Yet what is even more disturbing is that show would have never made it, if people represented were Israeli Jews. The tolerance for such TV shows, that reduces Arabs and Muslims to either tyrants or terrorists, shouldn’t be condoned not just by us but also by any enlightened mind. It’s wrong, and it should stop. Some argue that the show may get canceled due to poor story and acting. But that shouldn’t be the reason. If Tyrant is to be canceled, it’s because Tyrant is a racist, xenophobic, and Islamphobic propaganda. And its creators, producers should be ashamed of themselves.