Dean Obeidallah: Sacha Cohen’s Movie a Minstrel Show

Danios wrote recently about Ashton Kutcher’s putting on ‘brown face,’ and ridiculing Indians in a Pop Chips commercial. He pointed out that though Kutcher’s ad was pulled we still have Sacha Baron Cohen’s anti-Arab minstrel show proceeding without much protestation or discussion–until now.

Muslim comedian Dean Obeidallah has weighed-in now, and if I didn’t know any better he must have read our article because he raises similar arguments,

To me, this is essentially the same as white performers in blackface portraying black people in buffoonish negative stereotypes for the enjoyment of white America.

But I am not advocating a ban on offensive comments or the telling of culturally insensitive jokes. I certainly am not calling for more PC comedy. I’m not calling for a boycott of anyone nor asking for one more insincere “I’m sorry to all those who were offended by me” from a celebrity.

I’m in no way arguing that Arab culture is off-limits or cannot be mocked. I’m a comedian of Arab heritage and have performed comedy shows not only for Arab-American groups across the United States, but also in the Middle East, from Egypt to Qatar to Saudi Arabia. I find the biggest laughs are elicited when performers hold up a comic mirror to Arab culture.

But for some reason, the entertainment industry appears to truly enjoy ridiculing “brown” people, Arabs and Indians, and has no qualms about casting people not of our heritage to portray us. Indeed, just last week Popchips snack company found itself embroiled in a controversy because an ad showed Ashton Kutcher playing an Indian character in brownface, similar to what Cohen is doing in “The Dictator.”

Sacha Cohen’s movie a minstrel show

by Dean Obeidallah

(CNN) – Sacha Baron Cohen’s new movie, “The Dictator,” is a modern-day minstrel show judging from the trailer and Cohen’s comments promoting the film while dressed as the film’s star, “Gen. Shabazz Aladeen,” the leader of a fictitious Arab country.

Cohen, who is not of Arab heritage, plays this Arab character while sporting a long fake beard and speaking in a strong Arabic accent, which would be fine, except the character is showcasing the worst stereotypes of Arabs.

For example, at a news conference in New York City this week promoting his film, Cohen exclaimed: “Welcome devils of the Zionist media and death to the West.” He then joked about liking TV shows that showed Arab terrorists killing Americans and admiring fashion designer John Galliano for hating the Jews.

To me, this is essentially the same as white performers in blackface portraying black people in buffoonish negative stereotypes for the enjoyment of white America.

But I am not advocating a ban on offensive comments or the telling of culturally insensitive jokes. I certainly am not calling for more PC comedy. I’m not calling for a boycott of anyone nor asking for one more insincere “I’m sorry to all those who were offended by me” from a celebrity.

I’m in no way arguing that Arab culture is off-limits or cannot be mocked. I’m a comedian of Arab heritage and have performed comedy shows not only for Arab-American groups across the United States, but also in the Middle East, from Egypt to Qatar to Saudi Arabia. I find the biggest laughs are elicited when performers hold up a comic mirror to Arab culture.

But for some reason, the entertainment industry appears to truly enjoy ridiculing “brown” people, Arabs and Indians, and has no qualms about casting people not of our heritage to portray us. Indeed, just last week Popchips snack company found itself embroiled in a controversy because an ad showed Ashton Kutcher playing an Indian character in brownface, similar to what Cohen is doing in “The Dictator.”

Read the rest here…

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