On Monday, ABC announced its new pilots will include a drama, Alice in Arabia. Behind the ludicrous title is a plotline about an American woman kidnapped by her Middle Eastern relatives. And to complicate things further, the show is not just another ripped-from-the-headlines prime time drama, but a program aimed at kids and teens on the youth- oriented ABC Family channel.
Sahara Desert image, Shutterstock
Here is the description of Alice in Arabia from ABC’s press release:
“Alice in Arabia” is a high-stakes drama series about a rebellious American teenage girl who, after tragedy befalls her parents, is unknowingly kidnapped by her extended family, who are Saudi Arabian. Alice finds herself a stranger in a new world but is intrigued by its offerings and people, whom she finds surprisingly diverse in their views on the world and her situation. Now a virtual prisoner in her grandfather’s royal compound, Alice must count on her independent spirit and wit to find a way to return home while surviving life behind the veil. The pilot was written by Brooke Eikmeier, who previously served in the US Army as a Cryptologic Linguist in the Arabic language, trained to support NSA missions in the Middle East. She left service in September 2013 as a rank E-4 Specialist.
The outrage, especially by Muslim and South Asian American women, sparked the hashtag #AliceinArabia. BlogHer member Aisha Saeed was at the forefront of the Twitter movement, along with well-known Asian American Twitter activists such as Suey Park and Tanzila Ahmed:
In Hollywood, Arab men R terrorists played by white dudes w/ 5 o'clock shadows; Arab women need saving from barbaric culture #AliceInArabia
Grew up in Saudi & never cease to be amazed by inaccurate & nefarious assumptions many ppl make abt Islam & Saudi culture #AliceInArabia
Last year, I was interviewed to join writing staff about show set in "Mid East." All the writers were White, non Muslim men. #AliceInArabia
can we skip over the #aliceinarabia show (i have no context about this, i know nothing on it) and just make a new ms. marvel show instead?
The tweets moved on to other possible ludicrous sitcom titles, such as #SeinfeldinArabia:
Is there going to be a cross over between That's So Raven and #AliceInArabia where Raven appears in zany burka for escape antics?
Some of the tweets were directed at writer Brooke Eikmeier, whose Twitter account is now gone, either deleted or suspended.
.@BrookeEikmeier problem isn't w/script specifics but the entire premise of the show that makes us Muslim women into perpetual victims.
.@BrookeEikmeier Challenging racist tropes isn't done by building on them further. The criticism is to show you how these images affect us.
ABC Family sent a response to Southern California public radio station KPCC about the negative reaction "Alice in Arabia" has received:
"We hope people will wait to judge this show on its actual merits once it is filmed. The writer is an incredible storyteller and we expect Alice to be a nuanced and character driven show."
Want to hear more? Check out Aisha Saeed's post My thoughts on "Alice in Arabia" and the American Muslim narrative.
What do you think about "Alice in Arabia"? Tell me in the comments.
News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs about raising an Asian mixed-race family at HapaMama.
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