on March 17, 2004
An incredibly good book. McAlister dissects and analyzes the representations of the Middle East in various media -- movies, news, plays, books, etc. -- and their relationships to the projection of US global power and the shaping of US cultural identity since the end of World War II. As she puts it, her goal is to address the absence of culture from discussions of the history of US imperialism, the absence of empire from discussions of US culture, and the absence of the US from discussions of postcolonial imperialism.
Among her subjects, all of which she treats deftly and with attentive detail, are: Amiri Baraka's "A Black Mass," the Israeli military raid on Entebbe, the 1977 John Frankenheimer movie "Black Friday," the tour of King Tutankhamen's artifacts through the United States during 1977-1978, Hal Lindsey's "The Late Great Planet Earth," the rise of the Moral Majority, the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-1980 and its obsessive coverage in the US media, the prevalence of military revenge movies in the 1980s like "Navy Seals" and "Delta Force," Betty Mahmoody's book "Not without My Daughter," and the Gulf War.
I found particularly compelling her discussion of 1950s biblical epics, such as "Ben-Hur" and "The Ten Commandments." The recent controversy over "The Passion of the Christ" is put into definite context when you see how "The Ten Commandments" was received (and what purposes it served) when it was released in 1956.