I have always had the suspicion that the Australian entertainment industry (along with news agencies) see only what and who they want to see. Since 9/11 Arabs and Muslims are used by the media for all the wrong reasons. As Mehal Krayem notes in her astute examination of Muslim and Arab men in Australian crime drama, rarely does a day pass where Arabs and Muslims aren’t pictured to serve entrenched and misinformed stereotypes and reinforce orientalist and imperialist agendas that are centuries old. In Heroes, Villains and the Muslim Exception, Mehal focuses on recent crime drama, film and television in Australia. She examines the portrayal of Arab and Muslim men in three Australian dramas and questions the increased portrayal of Arabs and Muslims in terms of identity, opportunity and representation. Mehal asks specific questions about the narrowness of those representations, for example, entrenched binaries such as criminality/Lebanese youth, poverty/illegality, immigration/crime. Heroes, Villains and the Muslim Exception is a necessary book. Mehal is astute in acknowledging that an increase in representation of a marginal community may have arisen from a desire for diversity and in some cases empathy. Yet, she is quick to point out where this fails - many of the representations of Arabs and Muslims still serve a ‘popular’ purpose: presenting multiculturalism’s failures, the shortcomings of Arabs and Muslims and the problems that a community faces in terms of remaining the convenient outsiders for a white agenda.
Mehal Krayam is a Research Assistant with UTS’s International Research Centre for Youth Futures where she is exploring the representation of young people in Western Sydney, and their engagement and participation with centre programs.