Director Lexi Alexander calls out BBC show 'The Bodyguard' for perpetuating 'bad Muslim' stereotypes

The Bodyguard perpetuates Muslim stereotypes
The Bodyguard perpetuates Muslim stereotypes

The BBC premiered its new drama The Bodyguard on Sunday night and it has been criticised for perpetuating ‘bad Muslim’ stereotypes.

German-Palestinian filmmaker Lexi Alexander called out the show, as well as British TV in general, for continually positioning Arab characters as terrorists.

“British TV industry…I have had it with you,” the Punisher: War Zone director tweeted. “Can you do one show without any bad Muslims in it? One??? Just one?!? Collateral, McMafia now Bodyguard…all shows that DID NOT NEED THIS STORYLINE. Wtf is wrong with you???”

The first episode of the BBC series starring Game of Thrones star Richard Madden as a former Afghanistan war veteran-turned-police-officer-turned-politician’s bodyguard, sees him foil a terrorist attack on a train by a Muslim woman who was forced to carry it out by her abusive husband.

“The white saviour not only saved the whole train from exploding, he also saved the crazy Muslim woman from her abusive Muslim husband,” Alexander continued. “Shame on you BBC.”

It’s not the first time TV and film portrayals of Muslim and/or Arab characters have been criticised by industry figures.

Last year, British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed gave a lecture on diversity in Parliament and explained why the perpetuation of Muslim stereotypes in the film and TV industry needs to be curbed.

“In the mind of the Isis recruit, he’s the next James Bond right? Have you seen some of those Isis propaganda videos, they are cut like action movies,” he said during the Channel 4 address. “Where is the counter-narrative?

“Where are we telling these kids they can be heroes in our stories, that they are valued? If we don’t step up and tell a representative story… we are going to start losing British teenagers to the story that the next chapter in their lives is written with Isis in Syria.”

His words inspired The Riz Test, which takes its cues from The Bechdel Test but grading films and TV shows by which they portray identifiably Muslim characters.

If the film or TV show answers yes to any of the below questions, it fails.

Is the Muslim character:

  1. Talking about, the victim of, or the perpetrator or Islamist terrorism?

  2. Presented as irrationally angry?

  3. Presented as superstitious, culturally backwards or anti-modern?

  4. Presented as a thread to a Western way of life?

  5. If the character is male, is he presented as misogynistic? Or if female, is she presented as oppressed by her male counterparts?

Safe to say The Bodyguard fails.

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