In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil’s might,
Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!!!
– Green Lantern Oath
The typical Hollywood movie with Arab or Muslim characters usually portrays them as the “bad guys.” In Iron Man (2008), the bad Arab/Muslim men were hiding in caves and forcing their hostage Tony Stark to manufacture a new weapon. Terrorists ran amok in FOX’s 24 where American super Counter Terroirst agent Jack Bauer, played heroically by Kiefer Sutherland, hunted them down and foiled their evil plots. The list goes on- True Lies, Under Siege, Executive Decision, Taken, Vantage Point, The Kingdom, HBO’s Homeland, and even comedies like Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan – are all guilty of depicting Arabs and Muslims as violent, misogynistic, uncivilized, and hateful of the West.
Recycled negative stereotypes like these get old real fast. The heroes in these films and television shows are usually always white, heroic government agents or renegade ex-cops who sacrifice their lives for their country. The bad guys are generally always ignorant men from Muslim countries who shout incomprehensible threats and profanities in a foreign language, while shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great), and killing people. This is what sells, and why Hollywood continues to promote movies about fearing the “other.” After all, it’s easier for producers recycle stereotypes than to create multi-dimensional characters that challenge the status quo of Arab and Muslim characters.
This September, we have something new and different that breaks from the tired pattern of negative Arab and Muslim stereotypes. DC Comics debuted the first Arab Green Lantern with Issue #0 in September 2012 as part of the New 52 featuring origin stories in #0 issues.
Right from the beginning, DC doesn’t hold back. On the cover, we’re immediately confronted with the image of a masked man pointing a gun at the reader, his dark skinned arm prominently displaying a green glowing tattoo in Arabic (“courage’), along with the Green Lantern ring. One has to wonder immediately whether writer Geoff Johns and artist Doug Mahnke, will cater to stereotypes of Arabs as terrorists, or rise above to create a real Arab and Muslim-American hero who fights for justice, peace and tolerance.
Within the first few frames, we see a familiar image of the September 11th attacks, but instead of showing reactions from the general public, we’re shown the shocked and horrified reaction of a Muslim family in Dearborn, Michigan, watching the tragedy on TV. Five years later, we’re introduced to Simon Baz as he’s defending his sister against a group of young men who are ripping off her hijab, and later see Simon being “routinely” checked by airport security. Representing a feeling often held by minorities, Simon is being treated as the “other” by everyone else, even though he too is American.
The real action begins when Simon is mistaken as a terrorist, after he steals a van. Without spoiling the story, it should be no surprise that Simon is caught by government agents, aka the “Feds” and undergoes an intense interrogation. What happens during the interrogation is key to how he is chosen as the next Green Lantern for our sector. Having a major superhero from a leading comic book, as being Arab and Muslim is ground breaking. It shows to all the countless kids and readers who devour comic books and comic book movies that an Arab-Muslim man can also be hero, and an Arab-Muslim man can also represent justice and fight against evil.
It will be exciting to see how the story develops with a suspected terrorist as the new Green Lantern. I hope DC will finally give us what has been a long time coming- a real Arab American hero. What are you waiting for? Get your issue now at your local comic book store!