Orientalist Musings and their Applicability to Three Kings

Orientalist Musings and their Applicability to Three Kings

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Orientalist Musings and their Applicability to Three Kings

The concept of Orientalism is one in which Edward Said, a renowned intellectual with a solid background in the field of Arab study, is particularly knowledgeable. If the concepts surrounding Orientalism are broken down into specific elemental degrees, then Said portrays the American conception of Arabic entities and their inhabitants with a plethora of stereotypes that generate a false depiction of the Arabic culture. This, of course, is only an extremely small portion of the grandiose Orientalist dilemma that is currently quite prevalent in modern day society. Yet, for this paper’s ultimate purpose, this sector will be the sole focus. As Said intimates, the lens that the Americans utilize in order to acquire information about Arabs is one that reflects perceptions falsely. This lens is skewed in order to protect and support certain interests, whether they be American or western based. Movies, particularly when generated through the Hollywood action- based genre, have an false generalization of the way in which an Arabic people are. In some respects, the Hollywood produced movie, Three Kings, is a pertinent acknowledgment of the former. In many portions of the film, the enumerated antics may cause for a feeling of disdain toward the Arab nation. Yet, compared to the majority of the typical Hollywood action-based films, Three Kings manages to break away from these abhorrent stereotypes and provide a more than average acknowledgment of the sheer complexity of the Arab people as individual, separate from Saddam Hussein. Therefore, Said’s primary proposed conception of Orientalism is challenged and the Arab is depicted as a person trying to fight Hussein.

In correlation with Said’s Orientalist argument, American film portrays the Arab as the enemy, but in Three Kings this concept is challenged. Typically, by the end of an American film, there are a significantly greater number of Arab bodies than that of the superpower, in this case the United States of America. To a greater extent, Three Kings plays around with this typical film-like mentality. In the film, when the men are stranded and are looking for some way to escape from the village and rescue their man Troy, George Clooney states, “we are not supposed to be involved with this, we killed Iraqi soldiers, violated the peace accord, and a plane will not come for us.

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” Conclusively, based on this statement, it is known that Iraqis were killed. First off, this displays the power of the US Army. Yet, the American soldiers are not free from harm’s way themselves. They are still in a position of extreme danger, and these killings hardly quelled the status they possess being located in such vitally harsh whereabouts. In this case, Iraqis were killed in a manner of self-defense. Instead of the Americans looking all-mighty and powerful, they look fairly vulnerable because these killings could be looked at as a necessity facilitated in order to sustain life. This is the case as oppose to the American military men solely participating in a recreational killing-spree. The fact that Americans had to kill for internal protection is more than a slight alteration in the manner in which a typical Arab vs. American situation is depicted. In addition, after the soldiers killed Arabs, they were still not entirely free from the danger that surrounded them.

Contrary to the occurrences in most other Hollywood based action movies, the Americans do not escape from their surroundings scott-free. Their man, Conrad, is killed trying to acquire the gold. Furthermore, he is not depicted as an intelligent and stalwart individual like most American films portray a typical American. Usually, these characteristics associated with positive appeal are utilized in a juxtapositional attempt toward the negative depiction of an Arab, in order to facilitate a feeling of American supremacy amongst filmgoers. Instead, Conrad is seen as a member of the greater nation’s “white trash” community. The film has this ability to fuse some of the stereotypes associated with an American with those associated with an Arab. Through these means, a comedial approach is used in formulating an apt depiction of Conrad’s white trash background. In the movie’s introduction, when all of the other men are shown in their places of employment hard at work, Conrad is shown in the middle of the “sticks” hunting for survival. What does this say about the film? Well, it displays the ability of the film makers’ to move away from stereotyping other cultures, notably those of Arabic origin, and begin to do to us what we have done to them for so long, a brave attempt on the film maker’s part.

Furthermore, American vulnerability is shown when, early on, when Conrad instructs the Iraqi people to stand back and that, “the US military is in charge here,” by the way in which he says this. During this scene, elements of Conrad’s personality and background (i.e. his “white trash” neighborhood) are incorporated in order to facilitate an underlying comedial scheme within the overall drama of the film. A humorous undertone is audible, due to the fact that Conrad says “ the US military is in charge here,” in a rather meager tone. His voice is high-pitched and his body language creates the opposite image of a man with authority. Moreover, this parody of US power demonstrates that Conrad was unable to quell the Iraqi passions, and facilitates for an alteration in the American conception of power, in general. Thus, the Iraqis possessed the majority of the jurisdiction over Conrad who was left helpless, and ultimately dead, in the wake of such commotion. Although the Iraqis killed Conrad, he believed very strongly in their religious practices.

Before his own death, Conrad became mesmerized by the way in which the Iraqi’s conducted a ceremonial praying session for one of their own men, breaking the Orientalist Concept that Arabic religious practices have gone awry. Later, through his own interpretation of the situation at hand, he felt that he was to go to Hell. This foreign yet invasive praying practice had a strong impact on Conrad so much so, that he desired to be buried in a shrine similar to the ones utilized by the Iraqi’s when it was his time to pass-on. When looked at through an Orientalist perspective, the Arabs are generally depicted as cold, ruthless people. By showing this praying session and that an American admired this practice, enables the viewer to break through this segment of the Orientalist mentality. The fact that Conrad and not one of the other men, were awe-struck by these religious practices is fitting and makes an even greater impact to the theme of the movie.

Conrad might be somewhat of a vapid being in the intellectual sense, yet, in many other ways he is one of the most compassionate of the group. He has a rather childlike mystique to him, and this innocence is utilized for the good of the group. He keeps the men laughing and vibrant. As loyal as he is, he still was not afraid to voice his admiration for the shrine-like practices of the enemy. The other men realize that these Arab practices are not at all wrong, or evil, just entirely different from mainstream American ways. The men acknowledge that this is O.K. In addition, for the good of their deceased Conrad, they even go as far as to send him for burial in a shrine as he so requested.

When analyzed further, this event can be considered part of an Orientalist- based phenomena- savagely taking from other cultures, raping them from what is rightfully theirs at the expense of their people, for our own good. This is something America has done for several years now. For instance, since the beginning of time, the Europeans stole the concept of corn from the Indians and then savagely infested their blankets with smallpox. This prime example has a correlatory basis in that of the adoption of Arab religious practices. Conrad and his fellow Americans took from the Arabs because they did not know any better, or chose to disregard any apprehension they may have subconsciously sequestered due to the fact that they were US citizens and felt entitled. Perhaps the average film connoisseur would not ingest this scene with the same analytic processes as this writer. Most likely, he/she would view it in the sense formally explained in the last paragraph and therefore have no reservations surrounding an anti-Orientalist approach when associated with the Three Kings vernacular.

Through the Orientalist lens, an Arab is often viewed as possessing an extremely low level of intelligence and/or not having the innate sense to comprehend what is truly going on to begin with. A prime example of such utilization of the Orientalistic perspective would be in the classic film Indiana Jones, when an Arab starts to motion a sword quite violently and, during this time, Indiana Jones plainly shoots him in the chest. This portrayed the Arab as being entirely unaware of the reality that surrounded him. Three Kings is successful in breaking away from this typical stereotype associated with the Arabic culture.

In the movie, Three Kings the type of Orientalist lens depicted in the movie Indiana Jones, is particularly challenged when George Clooney and the rest of his men are trying to acquire vehicles in order to make it as efficiently as possible to their next destination. Originally, the scene is set up so that the viewer would believe that the American soldiers have the supreme intelligence over all other Arab forces yet, sooner or later, the viewer observes otherwise. When George Clooney told an Arab that George Bush was the one who sent him to take a car and that it was in the name of George Bush that he was acting as he was, the Arab acknowledged this, but still did not give him a car. At first, it seemed as if the Arab approved of George Bush. As if the typical allusion was created that since America was better, George Bush must know best for everyone, including the Iraqi nation. Overall, the Arab saluted Clooney as a way of acknowledging his recognizance of George Bush but would not surrender his vehicle. Presumably, an element of surprise is utilized in this scene for the advantages of the film’s overall appeal. Furthermore, a wave of amusement must have washed over audiences in realizing the “dumb” Arab is smarter than the Orientalist lens would have one believe. This scene helps facilitate the breaking of the Orientalist concept that the US has supreme brainpower over all others, Arabs included. Furthermore, the Arabs are shown as genuine people, diverting the concepts of mystery and exotica from the viewer.

Although the Orientalist lens may depict Arabs as being exotic and enchanting, this was broken by the film Three Kings. Through the eyes of the American soldiers, the viewer may see that the majority of the Arab people are like any other. For instance, when Mark Wahlberg, Troy Barlow, is held hostage by an enraged Iraqi, he realizes that this man is an outraged man like any other. It was no coincidence that both Barlow and the Iraqi holding him captive had young children, the Iraqis being dead from this type of warfare. The Iraqi asked Barlow how he would feel if they bombed his daughter. All of a sudden, a introspective expression comes across Barlow’s face and with great discomfort he summons up the energy to say, “a feeling worse than death.” At this very moment, Barlow himself realizes that the Iraqi who has his very life in his hands, who he hates more than life itself, has just as many fears as he does. This epiphany on Barlow’s part help facilitates an alteration in the general mentality of the soldiers at hand.

Throughout the story line, the US soldiers begin to make a transition from disdain toward Arabs to acknowledgment of their very culture. When the US army makes it to another camp in their search to find Barlow and take the Iranians back over to their respective homeland, they encounter many women cheering and yelling things in their native tongue. Conrad, unbeknownst to this custom and its significance, starts yelling as well. Once again, the stereotypical “white trash” unintelligent concept is used as a humor-arouser. At this time, everyone pauses and stares at Conrad. One of the other American soldiers dutifully explains to him that it is their custom to just allow the women to cheer. Conrad respects this, and the women resume their jubilant cries. Throughout integration, the American soldiers have learned to respect these women and the customs they so graciously represent.

Finally, the most obvious deviation from the normal Orientals depiction of the Arab, would be through the US Army’s befriending of an Iraqi man. Early on in the story, the Iraqis wife is killed, and his young, innocent daughter is left devastated. This man is part of the Iraqi resistance. He helps the US army find the gold, all the while the US soldiers assist in his and other captives return to their homeland. Throughout the story, he stands strong and firm to the American agenda. In essence, this man risks his own life in order to save that of the captives, an honorable cause. Through their experience with this “good” Iraqi, the US soldiers become more honorable people themselves, and in the end of the story, refuse to surrender the gold they have captured until the refugees are permitted to cross the lines to safety.

For a future of non-violent suppression of Orientalist sentiment, it is most vital for a people to comprehend others as they comprehend themselves, as human beings. The challenge remains to be one where a co-existence in which differences are respected is sustained. The movie Three Kings is a prime example of how further integration into a foreign society causes people to really see things for what reality is worth and loose much of the Orientalistic mentality that was once their sole outlet for comprehension.

Works Cited

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perf. Harrison
Ford and Karen Allen. Paramount Pictures, 1981.

Three Kings. Dir. David Russell. Perf. George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. Warner
Brothers, 1999.

Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York : Pantheon Books, 1978.
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