Racial representations is it how we see ourselves or how the media portrays us?

The media have always been scrutinized for their representations of race within their content. Westernised media tend to degrade and portray a strong stereotype of Arab and Muslim individuals. They portray a sense of the Arab world being a patriarchal society, where all men carry machine guns, wear turbans and are either thieves or terrorists.

Obvious example of this stereotype is Disney’s Aladdin. Aladdin presents the majority of these stereotypes clearly as shown through the video below. These racial stereotypes have been presented to individuals from a very young age. Nevertheless since 9/11 there has been sympathetic portrayal of Arabs and Muslims on US televisions according to Alsultany (2013).

Alsultany (2013) believes that US media content is attempting to portray that there is an unjust target of hate crimes on Arab and Muslim American individuals. This is a rather different perspective to be viewed within the media especially after the circulation of war propaganda during World War 2 in America (Alsultany 2013) and similar the Nazi’s propaganda against their foreign enemies and the Jews (Holocaust Encyclopedia 2013). It would be assumed that a negative representation of Arabs and Muslims would have continued if not been accentuated after 9/11 occurred to produce more media content portraying these individuals as terrorist as seen in the film True lies. Though I believe that this positive image is limited to merely US content.

However, what about online communities in relation to race? I believe that Nakamura (2002) has evaluated online communities in regards to race extensively and has proved factual evidence. Nakamura (2002)discusses that it is maybe true that individuals can never truly know your race online, however, through our depiction of ourselves through Avatar’s, text and graphics our general online presence embodies our identity and often can lead to the identification of an individual’s race (Nakamura 2002 p.32). Though she notes that there is a new cultural phenomenon known as ‘passing’. Passing is simply when a user decides to be of a different gender or race (Nakamura 2002 p.33).

Media content has always presented stereotypical values regarding different races possibly with some media content it could be viewed as becoming more sympathetic to these stereotypes but perhaps the real issue is how the audience see’s their own racial identity.


Alsultany, E (2013), ‘Arabs and Muslims in the Media after 9/11: Representational Strategies for a “Postrace” Era’, American Quarterly, Vol. 65 No. 1, Viewed 6th May 2014, Url: <http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/american_quarterly/v065/65.1.alsultany.html >

Holocaust Encyclopedia, 2013, Nazi Propaganda, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, viewed 7th May 2014, < http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005202 >

Nakamura, L 2002, ‘Head- hunting on the internet: Identity Tourism, Avatars, and Racial Passing in Textual and Graphic Chat Spaces’, in Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and identity on the internet, Routledge pp.31-33.


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