Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Jeff Goldblum, Dr. Phil and the Clumsy Art of Celebrity Contrition

After saying something dangerous or ignorant, public figures tend to double down or give snarky non-apologies. The Hollywood Reporter columnist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar offers them some advice.

12biz_kareemillo_w-h_2020One of Jeff Goldblum’s most famous movie lines is from Jurassic Park, when, as Dr. Ian Malcolm, he admonishes: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” The same can be said about stars when publicly offering their opinions to millions of people: They are so focused on the entitlement to speak, they don’t stop to think if they should. Now Goldblum faces media backlash for saying something that some argue is anti-Islam. He’s part of an ongoing media Geiger counter that tests every celebrity utterance to see if it’s radioactive. That’s as it should be, because their words can have a healing or harmful effect. And when it’s harmful, some choose to apologize, some to double down, and some offer a snarky non-apology.

Goldblum appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race and, while judging a contestant’s stars-and-stripes-themed hijab and caftan, mused, “Is there something in this religion that is anti-homosexuality and anti-woman? Does that complicate the issue? I’m just raising it and thinking out loud and maybe being stupid.” The internet exploded with accusations of malicious Islamophobia. As a Muslim who has faced insults and threats for more than 50 years, and has consistently called out anti-Muslim sentiments in politics and popular culture, I’d have to say this is not such a case. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t dumb. It just wasn’t malicious.

Everything depends on context. In this case, Goldblum wondered aloud — oblivious and ill-informed — about the contrast between the traditional Muslim outfit and the treatment of women and homosexuals on a show that celebrates both. He voiced a common myth about Islam, as well as about Judaism and Christianity: that they are monolithic religions with only a single viewpoint. Orthodox Judaism, Catholicism and evangelical Christianity often espouses what some would consider homophobic and misogynistic teachings. But there are many versions that teach acceptance. That Goldblum didn’t know this is disappointing; that he expressed the movie-villain version of Islam is dangerous because it perpetuates misunderstanding and hatred of Muslims.

Clearly, that was not Goldblum’s intention. Anyone who knows him from his interviews or watches his addictive The World According to Jeff Goldblum on Disney+ knows that part of his appeal is his quirky charm and think-aloud, off-kilter musings. Unfortunately, on RuPaul’s show these musings were not charming. But the backlash and the backlash to the backlash are merely the left and right flagrantly brandishing their street cred.

But there are plenty of examples of stars who have offered some heinous opinions and, when called out, refused to take responsibility or offered an insincere apology, despite the possibility of violence, injury or hate. Many of them take their lead from President Trump, who in recent weeks touted an unproven medicine for COVID-19 that resulted in an Arizona man dying (and causing a shortage of the medicine for lupus patients) and wondered about the potential of disinfectant being ingested or injected (resulting in three men drinking liquid cleaning products to ward off the virus and NYC Poison Control receiving twice the usual amount of calls). When asked whether he takes any responsibility for these men, Trump said, “No, I don’t.” The first step in a sincere apology is to take responsibility for your actions to show you are smart enough to understand the repercussions. Refusing to do so doesn’t make you look strong or right, it makes you look foolish and reckless.

Dr. Phil recently appeared on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle to proclaim that the country was overreacting to COVID-19. Despite not being a medical doctor (his Ph.D. is in clinical psychology), he felt qualified to tell 3 million viewers that “45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents; 480,000 from cigarettes; 360,000 a year from swimming pools, but we don’t shut the country down for that. But yet we’re doing it for this? And the fallout is going to last for years because people’s lives are being destroyed.” First, his opinion is contrary to all the data-driven medical opinions from experts. Second, his facts are wrong: According to the CDC, 32,000 Americans die annually from auto accidents and 3,536 a year die from unintentional drownings. Third, it’s a false analogy that doesn’t relate to how a contagion works.

His clarification was even worse: “Yes, I know those are not contagious, so probably bad examples. I referred to them as numbers of death we apparently find acceptable because we do little or nothing about them.” Now, he falsely claims we do nothing about these problems. Is he not aware of vigorous anti-texting, anti-drinking ads to curb auto accidents or pool safety campaigns in every state? Worst of all was his apology: “If you didn’t like my choice of words, I apologize for that.” It blames the viewer for taking offense, for not being smart enough to understand his true meaning. This is the Real Housewives Syndrome: Every apology is phrased “I’m sorry that you were offended …” and not “I was wrong.”

Two celebrities who got it right when it comes to apologizing are Miley Cyrus and Lizzo. In 2017, Cyrus complained that rap lyrics were too lewd, adding, “I can’t listen to that anymore. That’s what pushed me out of the hip-hop scene a little.” YouTuber Kenya Wilson, a Cyrus fan, responded with a video saying, “It wasn’t the right thing to say, it was bad, it was racially insensitive, it had racist undertones and it wasn’t OK, point blank, period.” Afterward, Cyrus wrote in Wilson’s comment section: “I am aware of my platform and have always used it the best way I know how and to shine a light on injustice. I want to start with saying I am sorry. I own the fact that saying … ‘this pushed me out of the hip-hop scene a little’ was insensitive as it is a privilege to have the ability to dip in and out of ‘the scene.'”

In September 2019, Lizzo tweeted, “Hey @Postmates this girl Tiffany W. stole my food. she lucky I don’t fight no more.” Further investigation showed the driver had tried to deliver the food but no one answered the door, and Lizzo promptly apologized: “I apologize for putting that girl on blast. I understand I have a large following and that there were so many variables that could’ve put her in danger. Imma really be more responsible with my use of social media and check my petty and my pride at the door.”

Both were humble, contrite and mature.

FULL ARTICLE FROM HOLLYWOOD REPORTER 

How Muslims Became the Good Guys on TV

p07drx41Hit show Homeland is about to end, after many years casting Islam as the enemy. But in its place has come a wave of thrillers portraying Muslims as heroes, writes Mohammad Zaheer.

One of Hollywood’s many ugly truths is that, for all its claims to be a progressive industry, it has relied heavily on racial and ethnic stereotypes, catering to and shaping the prejudices that are prevalent amongst its audience. This is especially true when it comes to who it chooses as its villains.

Even though the Cold War ended decades ago, Russians have remained a favoured variety of bad guy, and Germans have also had a rough ride thanks to the countless number of Nazi evildoers who have appeared on screen since World War Two.

But since the turn of the millennium, the demographic who has undoubtedly been the greatest single target for demonisation are Muslim-Arabs. Even before the events of 9/11, they found themselves portrayed variously as sleazy oil rich sex pests, exotic subservient women, misogynists and/or militant terrorists. But the tragedy of September 11 2001 and the subsequent war on terror only exacerbated their negative typecasting.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BBC NEWS 

Hollywood Iftar Encourages Creators to Reject “Stereotypical Stories” About Islam

ebf_iftar_london_2019-publicity-h_2019_The third annual event was hosted by the Muslims on Screen & Television Resource Center, Unity Productions Foundation and the Writers Guild Foundation.

On Wednesday night the Writers Guild Foundation and Muslims on Screen & Television Resource Center (MOST) welcomed influential film and television creators to the third annual Hollywood Iftar.

The London Hotel in West Hollywood played host to the event, a collaboration between the Writers Guild Foundation, MOST and Unity Productions Foundation.

An iftar is a sacred sunset meal Muslims use to break the daily fast of Ramadan.

Wednesday’s iftar was open to both Muslim and non-Muslim members of Hollywood in the hopes of fostering a better understanding of Islam by those who create film and television. Writers and producers like Greg Daniels (The Office), Joy Gregory (Madam Secretary) and Chip Johannessen (Homeland) mixed and mingled with members of the Islamic community to learn about the nuances of Islamic culture and traditional Muslim practices.

Daniels, showrunner of The Office and Parks and Recreation, says he first experienced the Hollywood Iftar a couple of years ago, after attending a master class with Arab TV writers in Abu Dhabi.

He says he strongly believes in the need for television writers to familiarize themselves with different cultures. “I think it’s important for all writers to learn about as much as they can just to have their writing reflect the world accurately,” Daniels told The Hollywood Reporter before alluding to the current political climate. “I also think it’s important to show solidarity with minority communities, especially now.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM HOLLYWOOD REPORTER 

The Riz Test: how Muslims are misrepresented in film and TV

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In a speech to the UK’s House of Commons in March 2017, actor and rapper Riz Ahmed, a Muslim, delivered a message about the importance of diversity and representation in the media:

What people are looking for is a message that they belong. Every time you see yourself it’s a message that you matter, that you’re part of the national story.

But when it comes to the “national story”, the one about Muslims is pretty grim. The pressing issue of Islamophobia is both fuelled and defined by the misrepresentation and stereotyping of Muslims in the media. Instead of challenging the images of the “oppressed” Muslim woman, or the violent Middle Eastern man that propagate our media, mainstream films often reinforce them. But films are also platforms with the potential to create change through alternative narratives. Our visual culture can play a crucial role in the way we understand the world. So the question is, what do our visual platforms tell us about our cultural perceptions of Muslims? In other words, how are Muslims represented in our stories?


Read more: It’s not just about race and gender – religious stereotypes need tackling too


With backgrounds in education research and tech respectively, Sadia Habib and Shaf Choudry have kickstarted a project that not only asks this question, but also strives to offer evidence-based answers. In an attempt to quantify the representation of Muslims, the duo has coined what they call the Riz Test. Inspired by the Bechdel test, (which challenges viewers to consider the way women are represented in whatever they happen to be watching) and Riz Ahmed’s speech, Habib and Choudry use five points to measure the depiction of Muslims in films and TV shows.

In their own words, the Riz Test: “is a project to measure the portrayal of Muslims in film and TV. What’s new is that we’re creating a data set that measures how poorly Muslims are represented.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION

Shows like Bodyguard perpetuate Muslim stereotypes. We created the Riz Test to show how dire representation is

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Films and television programmes are powerful mediums that are often taken for granted. They are major sources of entertainment and escapism, as well as often offering educational commentary on society, informing us about ideas and cultures we aren’t familiar with. We are often excited to watch the latest blockbuster summer releases, but if you are Muslim, that excitement also comes with a dose of apprehension.

Muslims see time and time again how carelessly or intentionally film and television makers bandy around stereotypes about Muslim communities. The ways in which Muslims are represented in films and in television are shocking. And this is why we need the Riz Test.

The Riz Test is defined by five criteria: If the film stars at least one character who is identifiably Muslim (by ethnicity, language or clothing) – is the character…

1. Talking about, the victim of, or the perpetrator of Islamist terrorism?

2. Presented as irrationally angry?

3. Presented as superstitious, culturally backwards or anti-modern?

4. Presented as a threat to a Western way of life?

5. If the character is male, is he presented as misogynistic? Or if female, is she presented as oppressed by her male counterparts? If the answer for any of the above is yes, then the film/show fails the test. Simple.

It should be easy for most films to pass, right? Wrong.

FULL ARTICLE FROM METRO.CO.UK (UK) 

 

 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: ‘The Big Sick’ and Hollywood’s Muslim-American Renaissance

hollywoodreporter_garcia_ryan_2017_full1-h_2018The NBA Hall of Famer and THR columnist, a practitioner of Islam since college, is hopeful that the Kumail Nanjiani starrer and Aziz Ansari’s ‘Master of None’ are bringing an end to portrayals of the devoted as “rabid, merciless terrorists” onscreen.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” an apple farmer observes in the opening to Robert Frost’s Mending Wall. That line, indeed that poem, is the spiritual essence of America: a country founded on a sacred mission to tear down walls that needlessly separate neighbors. There are all kinds of walls, from the $70 billion physical wall that Trump wants to build to walls that one-percenters build to keep their money in (they don’t call it Wall Street for nothing). But the most formidable wall of all is the Perception Wall of false images and ideas that nurtures fears and prejudices about other groups based on religion, ethnicity, national origin or gender identity.

Muslims have had a great run being portrayed as rabid, merciless terrorists. That’s what Americans saw in movies and television shows from True Lies to 24 to Homeland. That is the image of Muslims many Americans still cling to. Even with the many recent positive portrayals of Muslim-Americans in the arts, it takes time for images to dilute the poison that’s been mixed in for so long. Every time the news reports that a Muslim has been involved in a terrorist attack, the prejudice stored in our body sweats through the pores and reheats our fear. And yet, as of Nov. 6, there were 307 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2017, the majority by white Christian men. When a generic white man fires 1,100 bullets into a Las Vegas crowd, killing 58 and injuring 546, we have nowhere to go with our anger or fear. We can’t be on the lookout for every disaffected white Christian male. We can’t profile them. But we think we know what Muslims look like (though vigilantes have often mistakenly targeted non-Muslims), so our mistrust more easily takes a human form. We prefer our villains with a physical Cain-like identifier — dark skin, large nose, prayer hat, veil, foreign accent — to clarify that they’re not one of Us. The irony is most Americans are descended from a persecuted group.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

Where Can Women Make Movies? The Middle East

merlin_131702723_934a19ad-fd2f-48cc-9933-f55e5cc7e835-superJumboHailed as a fresh, frank look at the lives of young Palestinian women, Maysaloun Hamoud’s debut film, “In Between,” follows three female roommates who share an apartment in Tel Aviv. There, they participate, to varying degrees, in the debauchery on offer in Israel’s cultural capital: dancing, drinking, smoking, taking drugs.

The movie is being talked about as a milestone. An article on CNN says, “‘In Between’ depicts alcohol consumption, drug taking, casual sex and homosexuality — topics Hamoud admits are seldom touched on in Arabic-language films.” The “split lives” of the protagonists, who have traditional Palestinian families but live away from them, “have rarely been depicted on screen,” a review in Variety says.

It’s true that Ms. Hamoud deftly portrays the world of modern, urban Palestinian women — the world to which she belongs — and explores how they are affected by constrictive, suffocating traditions. But she is far from alone on that front. Unlike Hollywood, Arab cinema is flush with female directors making films that deal with feminist issues.

In terms of contemporary Arab films, “In Between” is heavily reminiscent of “Caramel” (2007). Both films are about women from different social strata and religions: The female characters in “In Between” include a fierce criminal lawyer, a D.J. and a conservative university student; “Caramel” follows a group of women who work in or frequent a hair and waxing salon in Beirut. Both are about the restrictions the women are forced to abide by, and about love and vying for independence in a society in which marriage is regarded as the most desirable option for a woman. “Caramel” is directed by Nadine Labaki of Lebanon, who went on to make a second feature film in 2011, “Where Do We Go Now?,” a comedy about a mixed Christian-Muslim village where the women prevent the men from starting a religious war.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

The Only Muslims Hollywood Likes Are The ‘Secular’ Ones

the big sickThere’s a phrase that’s become common in the reviews and write-ups of The Big Sick, a romantic comedy that debuted in theaters in late-June: “culture clash.” The film, which was produced by Judd Apatow, stars Pakistani-American actor Kumail Nanjiani. It’s Nanjiani’s first lead acting role, and the movie — which is based on his real-life romance with white American screenwriter Emily V. Gordon — documents their courtship, and his efforts to reconcile their relationship with the expectations of his parents, who continuously try to set him up with “young, single Pakistani girls.” This is where the tension of the plot lies: between Nanjiani and his family, between a white girl and his Pakistani heritage. When Gordon suddenly falls sick and is hospitalized, Nanjiani is compelled to choose between the two.

Early on, the film sets up an obvious narrative conflict. On one side, we have Emily, played by a blonde Zoe Kazan, and her parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano). Nanjiani meets Gordon at a comedy club, on what is ostensibly a one-night stand that turns into something more. Her parents, who show up when Emily gets sick, are flawed but well-meaning; their shortcomings are eclipsed only by the obvious love and affection they have for their daughter.

On the other side, we have Nanjiani, son of Pakistani Muslim immigrants, Azmat and Sharmeen, played by Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff. The two characters embody every stereotype conceivable about brown Muslim parents: overbearing, disappointed in their American offspring, eager to get their hapless son married to the nearest single brown young woman. Nanjiani’s parents appear almost exclusively in scenes where they invite young women to family dinners in the hopes he might fall in love with them. These young women appear, too, with no backstory or very little dialogue, clinging hopelessly to an antiquated tradition. How silly these women are — not like Nanjiani, who is enlightened enough to pursue a white woman. In one critical scene in the film, as he’s arguing with Emily about the viability of their relationship, he yells, “I’m battling a 1,400-year-old culture!”

FULL ARTICLE FROM GOOD

What Happened When Christian Writers Watched an All-Muslim Movie?

timbuktuHave you seen Timbuktu?

All of this movie’s main characters are Muslims. In fact, the screenplay’s deepest wisdom is spoken in a mosque by a passionate imam. But when I showed it to a room full of Christian writers, what followed was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had at the movies.

Last January, at a conference center on Whidbey Island, The Chrysostom Societyretreat organizers asked me to share movies with the group of writers that had gathered together. This year, Timbuktu lifted us from our soggy Pacific Northwest surroundings and set us down at the edge of the Sahara. When the movie was over, we sat in a heavy hush, reflecting on what we had seen.

Consider this: A 99% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes. A Cannes Film Festival Ecumenical Jury prize. An Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Top honors from the Africa Movie Academy Awards.

Yet, like so many world-class films, Timbuktu remains almost unknown to American moviegoers. It’s subtitled, after all. It’s foreign. It doesn’t star familiar names and faces.

In a recent promotional video, a Christian filmmaker declared with confidence that he would give Christians what they want to see:

  • A Christian worldview on the screen (not somebody else’s).
  • Two hours without any risk of being offended.
  • Entertainment!

Christians gave him a lot of money, and his film was widely distributed.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY

Omar Sharif wasn’t the only Muslim actor famous in America. Here are 5 others

21688Omar Sharif, the much beloved Egyptian-born Hollywood actor and co-star of “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Doctor Zhivago,” two of the most acclaimed films of all time, died Friday. Sharif, 83, was one of a growing list of Muslim actors (he converted), and certainly one of the most famous. Here are some other actors who are also religiously or culturally Muslim.

1. Shohreh Aghdashloo

Her name may not trip off the tongue when trying to name a Muslim star, but this Iranian-born actress was nominated for an Academy Award for her work in the 2003 movie “House of Sand and Fog.” She has appeared since in “X Men” and “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” She narrates a ton of audiobooks and writes some of her own. Her most recent book, “The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines” was about her childhood in Iran. She told the Los Angeles Times, “That’s right, although if I’m asked what religion I am, I say I was born a Muslim. I don’t introduce myself as a Muslim woman.”

2. Aasif Mandvi

The Indian-American comedian best known for his stint as a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” has a long acting resume. He’s got a degree in theater and appeared on Broadway in 2002’s popular revival of “Oklahoma!” directed by British director Trevor Nunn. He is currently appearing in HBO’s “The Brink” and the web series “Halal in the Family,” a project that skewers Muslim stereotypes. In 2015 he told Religion News Service he is a “cultural Muslim.”

FULL ARTICLE AT DESERET NEWS