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York University Orientalism Contemporary Popular Media Essay

York University Orientalism Contemporary Popular Media Essay


Contemporary popular media has often been criticized for perpetuating Orientalism and its associated stereotypes, particularly in the portrayal of Middle Eastern and Islamic cultures. These stereotypes can include depictions of Arabs and Muslims as terrorists, oppressive regimes, exoticized individuals, or one-dimensional characters. However, there have been attempts to challenge these stereotypes, and the film “Paradise Now” provides an interesting case study in this regard.

“Paradise Now” is a 2005 Palestinian film directed by Hany Abu-Assad. It tells the story of two Palestinian friends, Said and Khaled, who are recruited as suicide bombers. The film explores their motivations and the moral dilemmas they face. One key moment in the film that functions to subvert dominant stereotypes is the depiction of the two main characters as complex individuals with personal struggles and doubts rather than one-dimensional terrorists.

Here’s how “Paradise Now” challenges Orientalism and Islamophobia:

  1. Humanizing the Characters: “Paradise Now” takes great care in humanizing Said and Khaled. It shows their personal backgrounds, their friendship, their families, and the reasons behind their radicalization. By delving into their motivations and inner conflicts, the film challenges the simplistic portrayal of Palestinians as solely driven by extremist ideology. This complexity challenges the Orientalist view that reduces people from the Middle East to caricatures.

If I had the opportunity to make changes or additions to the film:

  1. Contextualizing the Conflict: While “Paradise Now” does a commendable job of humanizing the characters, it could benefit from providing more historical and political context to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This context would help viewers better understand the complexities of the situation and the motivations of the characters. It could also emphasize the nonviolent efforts and resistance by Palestinians, highlighting that not all individuals in this region resort to violence.
  2. Alternative Perspectives: To further challenge stereotypes, the film could incorporate the perspectives of Israeli characters or peace activists who are working towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict. This would show that there are diverse viewpoints within the region and encourage a more nuanced understanding of the conflict.
  3. Female Perspectives: The film primarily focuses on the male characters, Said and Khaled. Including the perspectives of female characters, such as their mothers or sisters, could add depth to the narrative and shed light on the impact of violence on women in the region. This could also highlight the role of women in resisting oppression and seeking peace.
  4. Exploring Root Causes: While the film touches on the characters’ motivations, it could delve deeper into the socio-economic and political factors that lead to radicalization. Addressing the root causes of extremism would provide a more comprehensive perspective on the issue.

In conclusion, “Paradise Now” challenges Orientalism and Islamophobia by portraying its characters as complex individuals rather than stereotypes. To enhance its impact, the film could provide more context to the conflict, incorporate diverse perspectives, and delve deeper into the root causes of extremism. By doing so, it would contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the people affected by it.

York University Orientalism Contemporary Popular Media Essay





  1. How has contemporary popular media been used to advance Orientalism and its associated stereotypes, and how does the film, Paradise Now, challenge Orientalism in general, or Islamophobia specifically? In your answer, please identify one key moment or theme from the film that particularly functioned to subvert dominant stereotypes, and suggest what you might change about the film, if you had the opportunity to add something to it, edit something out of it, or change it in some other way (this can be in terms of plot, characterization, cinematography, use of sound, or any other aspect of the film).
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