I would argue that the film is certainly racist/orientalist in the way in which the Iraqi population is portrayed. Iraqis are depicted as either villainous or as an undifferentiated mass of passive spectators and victims. There are no images of Iraqi women which do not depict them either wailing or otherwise "hysterical". The English speaking Iraqi men, all of whom have bit parts, are completely emasculated. The American soldiers are generally depicted as brave (if insanely reckless in a cowboy fashion) and highly competent.This is such a twisted take on the film that even the commenters there (and this is an leftist academic blog) take big issue.
The one chance that the writer and director had to stage a dialog between the protagonist and an Iraqi professor is completely squandered as the professor's "hysterical" wife throws the protagonist-intruder out of her home. Perhaps I should be thankful that the writer and director did not choose to try to speak for "the other."
There is the requisite paternal engagement with an Iraqi child. However, the child apparently is indistinguishable to the protagonist from all of the other masses of poor Iraqi children who chase and throw rocks at military vehicles.
The film may not be quite as aggressively racist as "Blackhawk Down," "300," or "Zulu," the defining films in terms of racist war genre, but it is certainly a contender. There are thankfully no scenes in which a brown or black horde attacks an outnumbered group of mainly white heroes. In terms of the anti-Arab content, the film is not as bad as "True Lies" or any of the worst Hollywood films in the anti-semitic/anti-Arab genre, mainly because it does not really engage "the other" at all... so none of the more complex racist tropes are brought forth. Nevertheless, the film does continue the long tradition documented in Reel Bad Arabs.
Friday, February 19, 2010
I promised to update a bit on "The Hurt Locker." I've posted a couple of times on the movie, although I did not write a review. I need to see it again to be able to write something fresh. I can tell you though, it's a great flick, and this was nowhere near my reaction: