ABC Family ran the risk of really hurting its reputation when it agreed to turn Brooke Eikmeier’s script into a series. Following the pilot release on Monday the international Muslim community responded with a loud and justifiable backlash to halt the project from developing any further. ABC Family executives abandoned Alice in Arabia amid the Muslim community’s outrage that its storyline misrepresents Muslim culture.
Twitter is Grumpy
Streaming the twitter feeds with hashtag #AliceinArabia one stumbles upon grumpy tweet after grumpy tweet of bad reviews. Brooke Eikmeier, the author and former US Army Cryptologic linguist finished her service in the Middle East in 2013. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the larger Muslim American community the to-be-series greatly misrepresents female Muslim life and reality in the Middle East.
After the initial attacks from critics: Muslim and non-Muslim alike, Eikmeier took to Facebook to defend ABC’s and her own intentions for wider Muslim representation in American media. “[It has] noble intentions” she adds “[it] is meant to give Arabs and Muslims a voice on American TV.” But, with lines like “I just spread my legs and hop on [the camel],” it gives Muslim advocacy groups as reason for uproar.
Muslim Community not Convinced
Scores of Muslim civil liberty groups have publicly criticized and asked for the cancellation of the ABC Family show. “[It] promot[es] bigotry and stereotyping of millions of Arabs and Arab-Americans. . . and perpetuates demeaning stereotypes” says the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The series plot is too close to the 1991 film Not Without My Daughter, starring Sally Fields. The synopsis is of a seemingly happy marriage between an American woman to an Iranian man. The plot sours as the family goes to Iran on vacation. The American wife (Fields) and her daughter are deprived of their US passports are held captive in a foreign land by a tyrannical Muslim husband. The film’s plot is too similar to that of Alice in Arabia. In both the film and the ABC Family series it’s the big bad Muslim man that takes the innocent American female hostage against her will.
It’s no wonder Muslims worldwide refuse to support a series that speaks evil against its culture. Executive Director Hussam Ayloush of CAIR-LA said of the pilot “The pilot and any resulting series may engage in [negative] stereotyping [of Muslim culture] that can lead to things like bullying of Muslim students [in the US]”. When the clamor of Muslim outcry hit social media it was clear the series was dead. ABC Family executives quickly released a statement abandoning Alice in Arabia, as not to misrepresent Muslim cultural values. “. . . we’ve decided not to move forward with this project” said a spokesperson for ABC Family.
Get it Right
Film makers are on the right track in attempting to give Muslims air time in US media, but they just haven’t got it right yet. Gideon Roff, orginally from the Middle East is the creator of FX’s drama Tyrant, set in a nondescript Middle Eastern country that will debut later this year. Tyrant was created by Roff and developed by Howard Gordon. Both worked on the highly successful FX series Homeland and 24; yet, both series received criticism of their portrayal of Muslim characters.
Additionally, the screenplay for Alice in Arabia has some major malapropos in relation to cultural inaccuracies. The author repeatedly refers to the garment Alice wears in Saudi Arabia as an abaya, which is a robe that doesn’t cover the face. In fact, what Alice does wear covers her face and eyes completely, which would make it a niqab or burqa. In the end, Alice in Arabia’s multiple misrepresentations of Muslim culture forced ABC Family executives to abandon the project.
By Sergio Romero