Minority representation on prime time television is currently a topic of great interest. The National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium recently released a study arguing that there is "a dearth of quality roles for [Asian Pacific Americans] in prime time programming" (previous post here).
The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA) is also featuring a story on Lost, the hit ABC show which features an Iraqi character, Sayid (played by Naveen Andrews of English Patient, Kama Sutra, and Bride & Prejudice fame). The article offers interesting insight into how Lost developed Sayid. Damon Lindelof, creator and executive producer, explains:
We thought it would be compelling to make American audiences bond with an Arab character by virtue of not writing him as an Arab but as a humanFilm critic Jack Shaheen also offered his thoughts on Hollywood's general treatment of Arab characters. He noted, "there are gobs of TV shows that stereotype Arabs in a negative light. Gobs and gobs of them."
The fact that he’s also Iraqi was never meant to define him, it was simply a way of making audiences potentially question their own ethnic/religious stereotypes as they (hopefully) fall in love with Sayid as much as we did.
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