Saturday, June 15, 2013

Law & Order S01E20 Perpetuates Anti-Arab Stereotypes

I finished watching Law & Order's first season on DVD. I'm sure somebody's writing Ph.D. dissertations about the cultural messages of Law & Order. I've seen a lot of Law & Order episodes over the years, but I'd never seen any of the episodes from its first season. Compared to the last few seasons, this episode had a lot more content related to what I believe is USA White Supremacy's most dangerous remaining tool, the criminal justice system expressed through the war on drugs. The real-life term Law and Order arose in response to the race riots in US cities in the 1960s. The first season of Dick Wolf's Law & Order has the echoes of the 1970s "urban blight", Central Park 5 New York City prior to the gentrified Manhattan of the last several seasons of Law & Order.

Portrayal of minorities in Law & Order Season 1 suffered from many of the same problems that plagued other Hollywood productions. Epsiode 20, The Troubles, deals with an Irish Republican Army-Lebanese terrorist/drug-dealing nexus. The Lebanese criminal is actually killed before being able to utter a word. The only thing we actually learn about him is that he had been informing for the FBI. Nevertheless, all USA law enforcement officers and prosecutors consistently use pejorative terms to describe him. In reality, however, the Arab characters play a minor role in the episode.

The more harmful anti-Arab messages in this episode are the visual portrayals of the wife and children. I paused the DVD and used my cell phone to grab images. These images are all from the scene where Sergeant Greevey and Detective Logan go to the murdered Lebanese's grocery store to question the widow.

In Law & Order, Arab kids dress as guerrillas & train for combat in their grocery stores

Like other non-white women informed that that their relatives were murdered, Parvin Farhoody, playing "Ms. Mustafa," shrieks and wails with grief. But she doesn't say a word to the detectives. She orders her children to the back and prevents the detectives from following her to the store's office. She also wears a lot of rings on her fingers.

Lebanese women sure wear a lot of rings, at least according to Law & Order

All the images are available in a Flickr set.

"Hey, Ayman, aren't these 22-year old images from a fictional TV show too trivial for you to waste your time and mine talking about them?" Maybe, but don't forget that the New York Police Department for many years in the 2000s sent officers and informants into grocery stores just like this to spy on Muslims and entrap "terrorists" in New York City.