Hostile relations : representing Arabs and Muslims in historically based war films
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This thesis seeks to expand previous research on representations of Arabs and Muslims in Hollywood cinema by analyzing how recent historically based war films represent the aforementioned populations in their retelling of history. Drawing inspiration from Stuart Hall’s (1980) theory of encoding and decoding, as well as Marcia Landy’s (1996) writing on historically based film, this study inductively analyzes both the manner of retelling history and the encoding of Arabs and Muslims across multiple themes, namely: Space, Characterization, Violence, Language, and Civilians. In applying this lens to the films American Sniper (2014), 13 Hours (2016), Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016), and War Dogs (2016) a tendency to vilify, silence, and simplify Arabs and Muslims emerges. To provide context, the study utilizes work by scholars like Jack Shaheen (2001; 2008) and Evelyn Alsutany (2012) that previously documented representational methods for Arabs and Muslims. This thesis also places these films in conversation with the academic discourse on politics of fear and media framing to reveal a greater significance from their retelling of history, given the importance of politics of fear to the political decisions surrounding the historical context of each film. By reanimating these stories with generally negative and reductive representations of Arabs and Muslims, and asserting the importance and necessity of US military action, these films validate the politics of fear process, further entrenching the xenophobia attributed to Arabs and Muslims. While War Dogs challenges these ideas, at times, significant trends develop across the films to justify this reading.