A lot has been said and written about the TLC channel’s new reality television show, All American Muslim. TLC claims the show’s intent is to “look at life in Dearborn, Michigan–home to the largest mosque in the United States–through the lens of five Muslim American families….offering an intimate look at the customs and celebrations, misconceptions and conflicts these families face outside and within their own community” and in this day and age of Islamophobia and bigotry becoming so acceptable and widespread a phenomenon, such goals are noble, righteous and worth pursuing. Being categorized as aa ‘reality television show’ has already put the show at an extreme disadvantage for such ambitious objectives. A look at the reality shows lists that are are now or have been on television is a rather dismal look at American society….not necessarily because America is bad, but because the track record of reality television certainly is. Reality shows are staged, scripted and heavily edited to offer to the viewing public a sleazy, seedy slice of human life. Staged means producers and those who put such shows together encourage cast members to take on personae meant to either enforce stereotypes or appeal to as wide a segment of the population in order to keep such shows financially profitable. In other words acts of violence, nudity, sex or simulated sex become the mainstay of such shows in order to keep viewers which in turn prompts advertisers to buy advertisement on such programs, no matter how deleterious the effects such programming may have on the public. Already web denizens have been treated to fatuous discussions and pictures about one of the cast members’ change of hair color and other assorted body parts; this is what reality tv brings to the table, in order to quench the insatiable appetite for sex and titillation for which we in America have become accustomed. No one should be happy that a value system, belief, faith, culture, heritage, ethnicity to which they belong has found a home in such a genre considering its track record. Moreover, why do we need television to drive home the point that American Muslims are just like any other group of Americans; that they encompass a wide spectrum of ideals, loyalties and types of people like any other group of people who’ve inhabited our shores.
For the last decade we’ve been besieged with notions of our exceptionalism, which should include among other things our excellence in intelligence and enlightenment, but it seems we are below average in exhibiting these characteristics which are essential in building and maintaining an exceptional society. Rather we are plagued with the Islamophobic notions expressed by politicians and pundits alike which incite Americans to ever lower depths of bigotry and fratricide, racism and depravity that encouraged a fringe group of bigots and extremists, the Florida Family Association to pressure some advertisers, notably Lowes, to withdraw advertising from All American Muslim. FFA is practically irrelevant to 99% of Americans and that fact, along with inherent prejudice compelled it to send letters to advertisers on the program complaining about the lack of negative portrayals of Muslims on a show entitled, All American Muslim. The name itself speaks to positive values and shared interests, something bigots and racists rarely extend to anyone or anything different from themselves, and so it is that some advertisers bought FFA’s argument and stopped advertising on the show. The very notion that All American Muslim must show jihadists and sharia minded Muslims is as ridiculous as asserting any other reality tv show must showcase the errant behavior of members of its group in order to be more life like, especially when that group is a tiny microcosm, but this is what is expected, what must be done when talking about Muslims. ‘When did you stop beating your wife’ is the cornerstone of such an illogical argument that says in order to be socially acceptable you must show us all of your adornment in order to accept your totality, even down to your underwear. This is an age old, biblical concept that extends to the whole body the ignominy of a few. In today’s climate….it is simply too easy for Lowes to reject the argument and cave in. Being headquartered in North Carolina, a state which had for 30 years Jesse Helms as its US senator, who too was anachronistic made it even easier.
FFA’s David Caton, the one who spearheaded this advertising ploy didn’t’ take into consideration the fact that not EVERYONE agrees with his backward values. His track record as an author should have toned down his proclivity for social activism, since his attempts to get people to forgo his own former passions of pornography and masturbation did more harm than good, judging by reviews written about his book, Overcoming the addiction to pornography. However, media, by design is a very powerful aphrodisiac and Caton, just like the cast members of All American Muslim is unable to see the pitfalls of being so vocal AND so wrong when thrust in front of the bright television lights. The backlash to the Lowes announcement to stop advertising has been swift and immediate AND productive. Now, Caton is faced with the proposition that advertising is sold out for the show which insures it will stay on the air espousing the very message he doesn’t want seen. It has also led to a boycott by some citizens of conscience of Lowes at a time of year when retailers make most of their money in sales. Ouch! Whether the Lowes boycott will be successful or not won’t be known, if ever, until after the Christmas season’s sales figures are released, but the effectiveness of boycotts as a means of social protest is highlighted by this boycott and its organizers. Lowes, caught in the middle of two opposites is a loser as long as it stays in this current position while those who are calling for a boycott of Lowes are going to have to prove it has adversely affected the company’s bottom line. The FFA has already lost the ideological fight because the show will air its scheduled 8 episodes and advertising picked up after they inserted themselves into this ideological fight, but the fact they even got this far is a side commentary on where this country is. Two cast members had this to say about what’s happening surrounding their show and addressed their comments to the well known racist Islamophobe Pamela Gellar
Gellar’s response was equally deadly obsequious, pointing out how much she has in common with them. The fact that a predatory persecutor like Geller can find something in common with a despised, taunted, hunted persecuted religious minority is the essence of reality television.