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Arts and culture

Alice in Arabia: Another offensive contribution to stereotypes against Arabs?

BEIRUT | - March 10, 2014, 15h50
Par Laura Hamade
“Alice in Arabia” is a drama series about a rebellious American teenage girl who, after tragedy befalls her parents, is unknowingly kidnapped by her extended family, who are Saudi Arabian. Alice finds herself a stranger in a new world but is intrigued by its offerings and people, whom she finds surprisingly diverse in their views on the world and her situation. Now a virtual prisoner in her grandfather’s royal compound, Alice must count on her independent spirit and wit to find a way to return home while surviving life behind the veil.
The series revolves around a kidnap plotline, inflating the fears others have about Arabs. Not only does “Alice in Arabia” exacerbate the marginalization of Muslim and Arab men, it perfectly reflects Western attitudes towards Muslim women. According to the article titled ABC’s ‘Alice in Arabia’ Is Racist that was published on Time, “the very idea that the veil is something to be survived strips Muslim women of their intellect and agency and makes them the subjects of this practice rather than sentient protagonists of it.”

According to Dean Obeidallah, author of the article, Hollywood’s Major Muslim Problem Doesn't End with 'Alice in Arabia,' the ABC Family show about a kidnapped American teenage girl, has been canceled. While he wasn’t too happy with the plotline of this series, and negative criticism it sparked from Arabs and Muslims all over the world, he wasn’t in favor of its cancellation, but was disturbed by the idea that people of Middle Eastern heritage weren’t part of the creative team even though the project focuses on their culture.

As a result of the negative reactions “Alice in Arabia” has received, ABC Family sent a response to KPCC stating that "We hope people will wait to judge this show on its actual merits once it is filmed. The writer is an incredible storyteller and we expect Alice to be a nuanced and character driven show.”

The hashtag #AliceinArabia appeared throughout Twitter, following the airing of the ABC Family series. Here are a few of the criticisms.

Ayesha Mattu (‏@Ayesha_Mattu): 1.6 billion Muslims, 56 countries, dozens ethnic groups, multitude legal/cultural practices. Only story you tell: #AliceInArabia @ABCFamily

Sarah ‏(@buonasahra): Arab&Muslim writers are fully able to voice their experiences..So let's hire a US soldier who has absolutely no bias instead! #AliceInArabia

Andy Carvin (‏@acarvin): ABC's New Show #AliceInArabia Is Flooded With Horrifying, Inappropriate Stereotypes via @bustle #facepalm #headdesk

Farooq Zafar ‏(@fzafar1): Dear ABC what were you smoking when you came up with #AliceinArabia? Appropriation, exoticism and Orientalism.

Samia Shameem (@SamIAm_NoHam): "…while surviving life behind the veil." The veil is not a set of prison bars. Stop. #AliceInArabia @ABCFamily
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