Reel Bad Arabs - The Taking of Flight 847 1988

The Taking of Flight 847: The Uli Derickson Story

The 2001 film Pearl Harbor is a romantic tale of two childhood friends who are in love with the same Navy nurse. That the action takes place during an aerial invasion by Asian people is incidental to the plot.

Some whining liberals may complain that this film is all about Japanese bashing and anti-Asian stereotyping and for God's sake this happened over 70 years ago, let's get over it. However this film has nothing to do with the Japanese or Pearl Harbor other than as a background for the main plot: the love story.

As for stereotyping, using a real historical event as background is not stereotyping if it portrays accurately and truthfully what happened.

When Dr. Jack Shaheen examined more than 900 films that have Arab and Muslim characters, he found only 12 that were positive depictions, 50 were balanced and the rest were negative, that "Seen through Hollywood's distorted lenses, Arabs look different and threatening."

As I explained in Reel Bad Arabs - Hollywood`s Most Maligned Group?, Dr. Shaheen is not being thorough. There is one more category other than the positive, balanced, or negative view: the historical or truthful view.

If a film is based on real events, on real people, and the dramatization and combination of characters only enhances the plot action but does not materially change the true nature of the participants, then even if the characters are portrayed doing evil things, the film cannot be categorized as being negative.

If a film about Genghis Khan shows him ordering the brutal slaughter of thousands of people, one cannot judge the film as being negative. It is simply being truthful.

So the films that portray Arabs based on real events, even if dramatized, presented truthfully, honestly, and accurately, cannot be called negative portrayals. They are simply portraying Arabs and Muslims as they acted in real life. How can you complain about real life? It happened.

For example, Shaheen in his "worst list" includes The Taking of Flight 847, a made for television film starring Lindsay Wagner.

Now why would he do that? Why say the film portrays Arabs negatively when the film portrays exactly what happened. Dramatized, but factually accurate.

The script was easy to write, just repeat the story as reported in the news. Here is a summary from Wikipedia:

TWA Flight 847 was an international Trans World Airlines flight which was hijacked by Lebanese Shia Extremists, later identified as members of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, on Friday morning, June 14, 1985, after originally taking off from Cairo, Egypt. The flight was en route from Athens, Greece to Rome, Italy, from where it was scheduled to travel on to London.

The aircraft with its passengers and crew endured a three-day intercontinental ordeal during which passengers were threatened and some beaten. Passengers with Jewish-sounding names were moved apart from the others, and another passenger, U.S. Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem, was tortured and murdered, his body unceremoniously thrown onto the tarmac. Dozens of passengers were held hostage over the next two weeks, until released by their captors after some of their demands were met.

Now Professor Shaheen, I dare you to show me where in the movie, Arabs or Muslims were portrayed in any manner different than what really happened. But you won't because your true complaint, the reel reason you want film makers to stop portraying Arabs and Muslims as terrorists is because you can't handle the truth. You don't want Hollywood to portray Arabs as they are - you want Hollywood to portray Arabs as you wish they were.

This is post number 11 in the 13 part series in the category Muslim Stereotypes.


Worst List:

Wiki, Reel Bad Arabs

He contends that the movies with the most anti-Arab content are: Rules of Engagement (2000), The Delta Force (1986) Death Before Dishonor (1987) and True Lies (1994).

Others included on the "worst list" is:

  • The Black Stallion (1979)

  • The Black Stallion Returns (1984)

  • Protocol (1984)

  • Back to the Future (1985)

  • Iron Eagle (1986)

  • Ishtar (1987)

  • The Taking of Flight 847 (1988)

  • Terror in Beverly Hills (1988)

  • The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)

  • Navy SEALs (1990)

  • Killing Streets (1991)

  • Chain of Command (1993)

  • Bloodfist VI: Ground Zero (1994)

  • Operation Condor (1997)

  • Freedom Strike (1998)

### End of my article ###

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