Sunday, April 7, 2019

Orientalism In American Culture

Do we, as United States citizens have an Orientalist mindset toward the rest of the world? To have an Orientalist mindset means to a stereotyped view of certain Middle East and Asian countries. I believe that in hindsight and in the present day, we do have an Orientalist mindset, especially in our American culture.

Here is an example of a Time Magazine article cover from 2010 asking the simple question "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan? The question seems simple enough, however, it is the picture of the cover of the magazine that really makes me question whether or not we have an Orientalist mindset. The woman in this picture, Aisha, went through a terrible tragedy in which her abusive husband cut off her ears and nose. However, the Time Magazine cover almost portrays the image as if American's leave, Afghan men will start abusing their woman. The magazine cover doesn't even pose a question. It states that this girl's traumatic injury is the direct result of "What happens if we leave Afghanistan." The idea that American troops have the sole power to be the physical and moral protectors these women because all Afghan men are barbaric, is insulting and a prime example of an Orientalist mindset in American media.

The next example is from a movie known as "The Dictator" which stars Sacha Baron Cohen as a Middle Eastern dictator. Throughout the movie, Cohen sends a message that Middle Eastern leaders are barbaric, uncontrollable, unable to control their people, stupid, and simply insane. Outside of the movie, Cohen performed press events and media appearances in character, bringing the character of an insane "oriental" leader to the front row of American media and entertainment. A number of times, jokes were made about terrorism such as when one character suggests Cohen visits the Empire States building before he or one of his cousins "brings it down." He also chants "Death over America" and "Death to the West" during the film.

Finally, for the last example, the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom represents examples of Orientalism. In the film, Indiana Jones finds himself accidentally arriving in India after fleeing from China. An Indian tribesman discovers the group and brings them back to his village. Upon arriving, the group learns of a Kali-worshiping cult that has taken the village children as slaves, ruling from a palace nearby. After the arrival at the palace, the food served to the right included monkey brains, a snake with beetles cooked inside, and many other foods that are represented as cultural food when in fact, most Indians do not eat anything remotely similar to monkey brains. In the film, the palace is secretly hiding a cult still practicing inhumane rituals involving the removal of a live person's heart for the Hindu goddess Kali. Not only are ritual victim's hearts removed by hand, but they are also then lowered into an underground pit of lava. To portray Indian's in this way unfairly and inaccurately represents the actual lives and beliefs of Indians.

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