From Slaves in lgiers to Tintin in Morocco
This essay is a comparative study between two genres, two ‘texts’, two discourses that are really just the same. Although they are separated in time, space and form, both ‘texts’1 end up disseminating the same derogatory discourse; that some would call colonial about the Maghreb in particular and the orient in general. Slaves in Algiers; Or a Struggle for Freedom (1794), is a play written by Susanna Haswell Rowson, where the setting takes place in “Barbary” - the Mediterranean coast of North Africa - and more precisely in Algiers. The play centers on the lives of several American ‘slaves’ who plot their escape in an unflappable look for freedom. Whereas Tintin, you would have guessed is the famous Comic hero created by Belgian ‘artist’ Hergé. The movie that this essay analyzes is entitled “The Adventures of Tintin” (2011) and is directed by yet another ‘artist’ considered to be one of the all-time best directors in American Cinema; Steven Spielberg. At first sight, the 3D movie seems not to have much in common with a play written in the 18th century, yet this essay claims otherwise.
A stormy rainy weather in the middle of the Sahara; not a usual seen one might say, is what welcomes our two heroes Tintin and Haddock in Morocco. Their plane ends up crashing in the same desert because of the weather conditions. Just a few seconds later, both characters are walking in a very hot and dry Sahara this time. Haddock keeps hallucinating about seeing water; usual. The following night, while some ‘oriental’ music is playing both characters are found by grumpy
‘Arabs’ with long noses that look weirdly happy to have found them. One of them even says “Good Dog!” because it was due to the animal’s barking that they found our two characters. Immediately and without transition the viewer gets images of what seems to be military barracks in the middle of the Sahara where they were taken. The French flag floats while military personnel are doing their routine. The audience understands that this story takes place during France’s colonial exploitation of Morocco. One can only notice a Camel in the middle of the Barracks, just sitting there; probably because it’s the Sahara. A few minutes later, both characters decide to go to “Bagghar” a factitious Moroccan Port. The first image the viewer gets is that of a veiled woman, with the veil hiding half her face letting only her eyes appear, working very hard on a machine in what seems to be a traditional pit to get some water to the men, yet you read right the veiled woman is doing physical work for the men who are speaking Arabic and complaining about waiting too much; welcome to ‘Barbary’. After while Tintin and Haddock are going around looking for clues for their own mission while they are approached first by an old bearded guys trying to sell, or smuggle products that seems to be just random and totally unnecessary, then more and more people trying to smuggle random things try to approach them. A few scenes later, we learn about an event that is about to happen; an opera show! And immediately after, there comes the Sultan.
Now, for the sake of suspense, let us talk a little about Slaves in Algiers. Algiers, being under Turkish/Ottoman control, the person of the Dey was the highest authority in Algiers and seems to be the character that is the most comparable to that of the Sultan in a Moroccan context. The Dey is portrayed as a very rich person, but one without any ethics or moral values. He even buys women, like it was the case of Fetnah who says to him: “you bought my person of my parents, who loved gold better than they did their child; but my affections you could not buy” (Rowson 15). In addition to his lack of moral attributes, the Dey is portrayed as being a fat, ugly person. Ironically enough, this is exactly the same way a 3D sultan is depicted in Spielberg’s movie. Twelve minutes after the first hour of the movie, the spectators are presented this very ugly, fat character; the Sultan. Who speaks English with a very Arab accent of course, and who cannot even walk properly, he is helped by what seems to be his counselor who of course looks just evil. The sultan comes to welcome the Opera Diva, when she says that she is very excited because it is her “first visit to the third world”. The concert is taking place in a Taj Mahal like castle, in the middle of the desert. Coincidently enough, all non-Moroccan/Arab characters are beautiful and guests, at the exception of the Moroccans who are always ugly and always there as security guards or workers. Also, all Arab women are veiled letting only their eyes show. Few minutes later, after a lot of damage has been done to the city of Bagghar… a Hotel building, named “Hotel Bagghar” falls from upper- town to a place near to the water, a very funny scene happens when a Moroccan man comes out of the hotel after it has stopped moving, looks at the new scenery and decided to add a new star to his hotel. It has an ocean view now, so it went from being a 2 starts to a 3 stars Hotel. After a lot of unnecessary harm, the characters leave Morocco for London.
After watching this movie, and especially the scenes that takes place in Morocco, one could easily draw links between it, and other genres. It is indeed a fact that and despite of their remoteness in time and genre and even technology. It is still the same representations of the Arabs, the North Africans, the Muslims, and the Moroccans that are propagated over and over. Jack Shaheen argues in the same direction in his book Reel Bad Arabs when he says that “Hollywood has used repetition as a teaching tool. Tutoring movie audiences by repeating over and over, in film after film, insidious images of the Arab people” (1). Arabs are portrayed merely as ‘subhumans’ to use the Nietzschean term. The importance, and danger of this is that Hollywood has been known, and indeed still is, for its capacity to shape people’s opinions and perceptions.
1 I use the word text in its large conceptual meaning that includes all forms of discourses, written, oral, cinematic, etc.
- Quote paper
- Student-Researcher Amine Zidouh (Author), 2013, From Slaves in Algiers to Tintin in Morocco, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/212045