Monday, June 9, 2008

Zohan, peace, and representations of Diaspora sexuality

Zeynab at Muslimah Media Watch has a review.
Okay, now to what really mattered: how were Muslim women treated in the film? Answer: like every other woman in the film. As passive slabs of meat.
Representations of sexuality for Jews and Arabs are different. I think both stem from Orientalist notions (remember that Jews were, for many European Orientalists, the Orientals at hand), but male Jews have generally been represented as emasculated, especially in Diaspora. Remember in Knocked Up:
If any of us get laid tonight, it's because of Eric Bana in Munich.
Phoebe Maltz says this about Sex in the City:
And where to begin with Charlotte's Jewish husband, a constant reminder (more so in the show than in the movie) that Jews are quirky, crass, rich, and grotesque, but do they ever make good husbands!
Or just consider any Woody Allen movie. The emasculated Jew is still with us, deeply institutionalized and internalized. Like with depictions of sexuality in Harold and Kumar, I think it's worth noting that there may be a good story to tell about this movie and a bad one to tell, both true.

But that leaves a big question unanswered. Some of the reviews I've seen, probably too optimistically paying attention to those, have emphasized the intended message. Even the mode of production has included large numbers of Jews and Arabs, often having heated but productive conversations. See here or here, and especially here.
"We Jews and Arabs ate together at the same 'peace table' and really became good friends," Mosseri said. "After the film wrapped, we all went on a 'creative' trip to Las Vegas."
Has anyone told PACBI about this? Anyway, Zeynab writes:
Second, it really bothered me that the only semi-positive message of interfaith unity in the movie occurred because of the U.S. context; interfaith dialogue (and dating) seemed to be possible only because the two main characters were in the U.S., treating the Israel/Palestine situation like it was a lost cause.
Maybe I'm still being overly optimistic, but all told, that doesn't sound half bad to me.

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