First aired on The Current (13/09/12)
When it comes to comic books, action films and TV shows, people of Middle Eastern descent are often portrayed as villains. But DC Comics made a bold move earlier this month when it introduced the latest member of the storied Green Lantern Corps: Arab-American Simon Baz. The fictional autoworker from Dearborn, Michigan, is reportedly the first Muslim-American superhero in comic book history.
But the new Green Lantern has arrived just as the controversial film The Innocence of Muslims
has sparked protests from Libya to Iraq over its negative portrayal of the prophet Mohammed. With news channels broadcasting constant images of angry Muslims burning American flags, could a Muslim superhero help combat stereotypes that lump in peaceful Muslims with the extremists?
Media critic Jack Shaheen, author of Reel Bad Arabs
, believes it to be a step in the right direction, calling the creation of Simon Baz a "major, major breakthrough."
"In Canada, at least you have Little Mosque on the Prairie
," Shaheen, who has extensively studied Muslim stereotyping in popular culture, said recently on The Current. "You have a series where there are Muslims visible. But in the United States, on television and [in] film, Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans don't exist unless they play terrorists."
Shaheen described it as a significant breakthrough, "just like the first African-American in film or the first Jewish-American in a television series. It shows that Arab-Americans are part of our country."