I was surprised and very disappointed to find "True Lies" playing at Duke University--and advertised in The Chronicle. I had expected more from this university.
"True Lies," directed by James Cameron and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, depicts Arabs as bloodthirsty, religious zealots. A spy for the ultra-secret "Omega Agency," Harry Tasker's (Schwarz-enegger's) mission is to stop a group of fanatical Arab terrorists from launching a massive nuclear attack against the United States. In a series of slapstick scenes, Schwarzenegger manages to kill almost the entire group of unshaven kafiyya-wrapped, machine-gun wielding Arabs--also known as the "Crimson Jihad." In two-and-a-half hours, the movie manages to touch on every anti-Arab stereotype: ugly, terrorist, hostage-taking and rich. It further manages to encourage the already accepted point of view that with guns and physical might one can "solve problems"--regardless of the number of people that may die as a result. "True Lies" is truly full of lies and stereotypes.
This film "will stand the test of time as one of the most racist movies Hollywood has ever produced," said Jack Shaheen, an emeritus professor at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, who has studied Arabs in film for 20 years. Racist depictions of Arabs in movies lead to real consequences for Arab-Americans--including employment discrimination, religious persecution and hate crimes. Duke Univeristy, and in particular the Quadrangle Pictures committee, should feel embarrassed to have sponsored such an insulting, vile and despicable portrayal of a community. Duke was in uproar over the Funk cartoon. Students felt it was offensive and of poor taste. What about this movie, this blatantly racist and deeply offensive portrayal of an entire people? President Nan Keohane has recently urged Duke students to reach out to the other ethnic groups on this campus, as has the director of the International House. It is ironic that the same university one week later would house such a despicable movie. I urge the Quadrangle Pictures committee to be aware of the choices it is making and not simply bring out the most popular movie. The least to be expected is a formal, public apology from the Quadrangle Pictures committee, and a commitment not to bring such racist movies to Duke again.
When one group is vilified, all groups are vilified.
School of the Environment