In the latest installment of The Middle Geeks, we review Nadine Labaki’s 2018 heartbreaking masterpiece, Capernaum. Mae and Swara reflect on the state of conflict in the region, how institutions fail children, immigrants, and the most vulnerable, and how generational trauma affects us as Middle Eastern-Americans. It’s a hard but necessary set of discussions to have. On much lighter topics, we discuss the slew of news from D23, and express our dismay at a change in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow‘s upcoming season.
(We start our Capernaum discussion at the 32:51 mark.)
In the third episode of The Middle Geeks, we review Hulu’s Ramy, an incisive and groundbreaking new series on the Middle Eastern-American experience. Listen to Swara and Mae as we talk about what we loved about the series, how it made us feel about our own identities, and how we think it could have done better. We also break down all the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DCTV news from San Diego Comic-Con and talk about how we’re excited about what’s coming forward!
In the second-ever episode of The Middle Geeks, we cover Netflix’s new original series Jinn, their first ever Arabic language series! Did we enjoy it? Did it present an authentic Middle Eastern experience? Should we be outraged by teenagers kissing as many in Jordan apparently are? Additionally, we talk about how we’ve been enjoying DCTV this season on the CW, what we think it could do better, and what we’re looking forward to. Enjoy!
Welcome to The Middle Geeks! In our very first episode, Mae and Swara introduce the podcast and discuss our feelings on Middle East and North African (MENA) representation in popular media. We also review the live action remakes of Aladdin, discussing what we think it did well, how it could have done better, and how the unfortunate Orientalism of the film conveys how Disney and the rest of Hollywood need to do better on Middle Eastern inclusion.
Disney’s Aladdin will be the first live-action Disney film that showcases people of color in starring roles. The cast and creatives of the film know this and appreciate the effort. Starring Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud as the title character, British Indian Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, and Will Smith as the Genie, Disney wanted to be sure the characters in the beloved story represented the Aladdin origin story (which also included East and South Asian origins) as well as the animated film.
“I think it is critically important to be able to pull stories and colors and textures and tastes from around the world,” said Smith during the Aladdin press conference. “I think that in this particular time in the world, that kind of inclusion and diversity will be a critical part of turning our connectivity, because we have more connectivity than ever, but transitioning that connectivity into harmony is going to be really critical. And, I think these kinds of interactions in these types of movies are a powerful global service. It was critical and important to me. I spent a lot of time in the Middle East also. So this one particularly was critically important in that way.”
Aladdin is one of my favorite films of all time. It gave me, as a brown Middle Eastern kid, heroic representation that’s always stayed with me. I’ve already written at length for about my overall very complicated feelings on the live action remake. While the new trailer is solid, it’s also given more insight into the problematic trends this live action movie seems to perpetuate. Overall, I have little to no confidence that this film will improve upon the problematic aspects of the original (besides the welcome addition of having people of color play the main roles), and in fact will double down on more troubling aspects.
If you told anyone that the movie that was going to shake up the superhero genre in the best way would be the film adaptation of Power Rangers, they would be shocked and probably, in some strange, elitist, I’m-too-old-for-Power Rangers way, appalled. But Power Rangers has come out of the blue as the film when it comes to portraying a diverse group of people in a way that is both organic and makes sense for today’s world and today’s multicultural and diverse audience.