The Middle Geeks Episode 28: Palestine in Pop Culture and ‘Loki’

Palestinian historian and scholar N.A. Mansour joins us to discuss the situation in Palestine, where the situation stands now, how pop culture plays into the dehumanization of Palestinians, and what you can do to help and learn more about Palestinian people and their struggles. We also discuss all of Loki Season 1! What did we like about the series, and what themes resonated with us? Where could it have done better in areas? We also give our recommendations, and much more!

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The Middle Geeks Interview: Amin El Gamal of ‘Breaking Fast’

For Pride Month, we are so excited to have on Amin El Gamal, who plays Sam on the amazing queer Ramadan rom-com Breaking Fast, which is now on Hulu! We dig into what drew Amin to acting, the experience of filming Breaking Fast and working with Mike Mosallam, their thoughts on the current landscape of MENA and queer stories in film and, what he’d love to see more of in the industry, and much more!

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The Middle Geeks Episode 23: ‘I Still Hide to Smoke’ and a Plethora of MENA News

We’re joined by Mae’s sister Sonia to discuss the inaugural film of Algerian director Rayhana Obermeyer, “I Still Hide to Smoke.” How well does this film convey the experiences of living as a woman in Algeria in the mid-1990s? How are the themes explored applicable to women’s issues worldwide? How amazing is Hiam Abbas in the lead role (answer: incredibly amazing as she is in everything.) We also have a lot of MENA news to discuss, including the news that our fave Marwan Kenzari will be starring in the DCEU’s Black Adam! We also discuss Mauritanian-American actor Mamoudou Athie’s new film project, the announced tv adaptation of Hafsah-Faizal’s “We Hunt the Flame,” which takes place in a fantasy Arabia, the upcoming return of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the Writers Guild of America forming a Middle Eastern Writers Committee, and the exciting news about the establishment of Avatar Studios, which is expanding the animated universe of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra on Nickelodeon and Paramount+!

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The Middle Geeks Episode 22: ‘Breaking Fast’ Review

We are joined by our friend Tariq Raouf to discuss the upcoming film Breaking Fast, which features a gay Arab-American Muslim as its protagonist! We discuss what we enjoyed about the film, what director and writer Mike Mosallam was trying to say with this delightful rom-com, how well it does with representation for Arabs, Muslims, and Ramadan, and where it could have been better. Before that, in our MENA news segment, we have some GREAT news to discuss with Ramy’s May Calamawy being base in Marvel’s Moon Knight! And another of our faves, Rami Malek, has been cast in a lead role in David O’Rusell’s upcoming film! Enjoy listening!

Spoilers for Breaking Fast begin around 26:06

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The Middle Geeks Episode 21: ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ and its MENA Issues

We are joined by the wonderful Hanna Flint to discuss Wonder Woman 1984 in this special bonus episode! We discuss the various ups and downs of the film, how well we thought the actors did with the script and story they had, and whether this movie did Diana Prince/Wonder Woman justice. We also discuss the many racist and Orientalist aspects of its depiction of Egypt and Egyptian people, and how detrimental it is for MENA representation. There’s a LOT to discuss, and we go through it all. Enjoy listening!

Spoilers for Wonder Woman 1984 begin around 11:26.

TW for discussion of rape and sexual assault 11:44 -12:57

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The Middle Geeks Episode 4: ‘Capernaum’ and Facing Hard Truths

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.)

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The Middle Geeks Episode 3: ‘Ramy’ and Navigating Identity

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!

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The Middle Geeks Episode 2: ‘Jinn’ and Teenagers Kissing, Oh My!

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!

We are a proud member of the Hard NOC podcast family.

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Welcome to The Middle Geeks!

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.

We are a proud member of the Hard NOC podcast family.

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The Live Action ‘Aladdin’ Doubles Down on Orientalist and Colorist Trends

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.

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Iron Fist Abridged: The Adventures of Iron Goldendoodle & The Bargain Bin Lannisters!

by Andrea Tang

This weekend, between bouts of story-editing, I meandered my way through the first four episodes of Netflix’s Iron Fist, which I’m actually quite enjoying so far, probably for the same reasons I’ve seen Vampire Academy three times. I’m pretty sure the writers pitched this series as, “What would happen if you put a goldendoodle puppy in the body of a WASPy ten-year-old blue blood, then traumatically dropped him off in the Himalayas for Fifteen Whole Gap Yahs? Probably, he would die, but that is boring and untrue to comics canon, so what if we made kung fu magic happen along the way in a manner most likely to bring the wrath of Edward Said’s ghost down on our heads? LET’S FIND OUT.”

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‘Ghost in the Shell’ Trailer is Just as Racist as Everything Else This Week

by Dominic Mah | Originally posted on YOMYOMF

Wow, where to start with this trailer. It OPENS on a person in stylized Japanese esoteric garb to tell us how much we’re in that place Japan where things are weird. Who is this person? Don’t know, don’t care at all.

Then we get a pretty faithful live-action recreation of the original Ghost in the Shell’s elegant opening action sequence, pretty much nailing the point home that the only reason you aren’t aware of this seminal science-fiction already is because it didn’t have Scarlett Johannson in it, and now we fixed that for you.

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So Much for #AAIronFist: Marvel Casts Finn Jones

Despite a months (née years)-long campaign to have Marvel and Netflix consider Asian American actors for the role of Danny Rand in their upcoming Iron Fist show, it was announced that Game of Thrones star(?) Finn Jones had been cast in the role.

Honestly, is anyone actually surprised?

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Black Mask, Yellow Peril: Anti-Asianism in Netflix’s Otherwise Brilliant ‘Daredevil’

by Takeo Rivera

So let’s get one thing out of the way: it’s probably safe to say that Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil is the finest piece of television ever made in the superhero genre. With its stellar cast and consistently tight writing and direction, the show can easily go toe-to-toe with any other major serialized TV drama in this golden age of Mad Mens and Breaking Bads, elevating superherodom to an unequivocal status of high art in much the way Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica elevated the space opera. And, as a cherry on top, Daredevil happens to be one of the most progressive shows of the genre; in particular, Matt Murdock battles not some alien Super-Wario intent on blowing up the planet with an ancient glowing Rubik’s cube, but a scion of urban “redevelopment” — read gentrification — in Wilson Fisk, and spends an unhealthy time fighting white collar crime and community displacement by punching the crap out of it.

But Daredevil also has one massive problem: Asians. That is, Asians are the problem, and Daredevil’s problem is that Asians are a problem.

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In Defense of The Wolverine

At the beginning of this blog’s life, The Wolverine was a very popular topic. Jenn wrote about her issues with the film — primarily how she felt the movie was yet another example of Hollywood’s exotification of Asia and is essentially an Orientalist fantasy in the spirit of Miss Saigon. Later, Claire rebutted Jenn’s claims of Orientalism in the movie but still thought it sucked because of all the plot holes and poorly drawn characters. We even discussed it at length on Hard NOC Life.

Here’s the thing, though. I liked this movie. Like, a lot. It was probably one of my favorite movies of the summer and is definitely my favorite in the X-Men movie canon (which, I guess, isn’t all that difficult since X2 and the Magneto bits in First Class are the only good ones in the franchise).

Now that it’s out on blu-ray and DVD, I thought it was an opportune time to express why I liked it (even though it seems no one else on the blog did).

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Dicks, Smartasses, and The Magician King

While I read often, I rarely read quickly. I am jealous of my friends who can devour books. I am not that way and am awfully indecisive. My reading habit is to start six or seven books hopping between each and hoping one amongst all of them will stick. And even then, sometimes none of them do. But I’m happy to report that Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and The Magician King were books that I devoured.

This is all to say that I enjoyed those books immensely. And yet one minor passage midway through The Magician King gives me pause and illustrates why I am — in the end and inescapably — a Nerd of Color. Like most things, it has to do with penis, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

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