Velvet Crowe wrote:I'm not the sort of person who believes Muslims to be inherently vile nor do I take much stock into anti-Muslim rhetoric, but are we going to act as if that Islamic terrorism isn't a thing? What's supposed to be the ideal in portraying it in film? Historically, the portrayal of Muslims in western film has been pretty one-dimensional often to the point of absurdity. But I do think there is merit in portraying its extremist elements in film and perhaps even beg the question of "why?"
I'd rather not this thread be a "is Islam bad?" thread (though I admit it'll probably turn out that way) so much as I wanted to ask about what would be an ideal and interesting way to explore this subject in film. Even if you view Islam as vile, would you not agree that the way film has portrayed it to be lacking, no?
Alright I'm gonna try to bring it back.
To be open I have a degree in religion, as well as film, so I'm biased towards the idea that a religious life is a noble effort, and a dedicated religious pursuit can do a great deal of good. I've thought about your prompt before - recently after viewing Sicario: Day of the Soldado
, which painted a fairly bleak and base picture of Islamic Extremism, while that part of the narrative, at least, appealed to a fairly Trumpian wish fulfillment. It's one example of the larger generalized Western (Hollywood and Hollywood-adjacent) representation of Islamic violence as a kind of one-note assumption, without cause or pause or reflection as to what inherently in the religion
that has the propensity to lead to violence.
There's this missing link somewhere in the logic chain:
A) I am a character defined by a religion (in this case, Islam),
B) BEATS ME - NO IDEA
C) Jihad and/or violence must be the answer
This leads to that weird creation of an Othering of the characters (e.g., Faceless Baddies, a la Taken
) that usually trickles into our political discourse, because it educates people inappropriately, based on a lapse of logic, not an affirmation of a truth needing to be addressed. A reaction to this is kinda what happened here in this thread: we focus on the socio-economic-political surroundings of the issue, instead of addressing the faith-person discourse that has a huge part to play in the problem. I just saw Iron Man 3
and can't help of think of the Mandarin - a comic stooge prop of the Western Military Industrial Complex using all the trappings of Islamic terror because we have no idea what that even means anymore outside of being a scare tactic. It's lost all gravity and meaning outside of 'I Represent Terror'. It's played for humor and maybe it should be.
Personally, I think this happens because if you're making a movie with a large budget, it would take Balls to represent Islam, in the West (with a history of questionable practices against the part of the world with majority Muslim populations, let's face it), with nuance: you are going to offend the faith, you are going to offend the political power players, it's a lose-lose scenario. That B above must be left blank because of the possible offense, itself a response to fear, and so the representation that follows continues to fuel the fire. I also thinks this occurs more often than we care to admit when religions of any stripe are depicted in film under pressure - just stereotypes lacking nuance.
I remember the film Traitor
(which I need to revisit) attempted a delicate balance of a Muslim operative deep undercover in a terror cell, and it explores some of the missing pieces that lead Muslims towards violence with some integrity and delicacy to the issue.
But my personal opinion is that it's not the religion itself (any of them) that's the cause of the violence; there are people who are oppressed or violated or abused who also happen to be religious, and after a while, there's religious creep into the actual source of the problem, and the internal narrative and the scriptures are distorted. That's the kind of film I'd like to see - where a person's retreat into faith in hard times leads to a kind of well-informed madness, leading to violence. But that takes guts. Taking the religion out of it, white terrorist films (Taxi Driver
, the upcoming Joker
) certainly seem to address that trickle effect, and give some reflection to the overall problem of large-scale, fear-inspiring violence.
I love to quote scripture so here's some for thought:2:208 O you who have believed, enter into peacefulness, the whole (of you), and do not ever follow the steps of As-shaytan (the Devil); surely he is an evident enemy to you.