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Stereotypes in The Thousand and One Nights

In The Arabian Nights, commonly held assumptions about Arab women are everywhere. The book and its related film suggest that men can have more than one lover, for example, depicting Arab men as being surrounded by a harem of Arab women dancing in skimpy, see-through clothing. Women are seen mainly as sex objects whose opinions do not count and who are expected to be submissive toward men, but behind this disguise, they are as cunning and deadly as the men. This stereotype fits the scene in "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," in which Ali Baba comes in to find his wife counting gold and says, "O silly woman, how long wilt thou continue turning over the coin? Now let me dig a hole wherein to hide this treasure, that none may know its secret" (Burton). His calling her "silly" suggests that she is less intelligent than he and has no common sense. When he and his wife and Kasim and his wife become caught up in an argument over the gold, one of Kasim's slave girls, Morgiana, who uses her wits to foil the thieves trying to steal his gold. A clever girl, Morgiana finds that the thieves have chalked Ali Baba's house to rob it, so she chalks the other houses in the neighborhood to confuse them. After several such incidents, with her help Ali Baba defeats the thieves and marries Morgiana to his nephew. Although Morgiana is bright, she is still treated as a possession that Ali Baba can do with as he chooses.

As the narrator in Reel Bad Arabs points out, however, this image of women as submissive sex objects with hidden intelligence has changed in the recent generation of Hollywood films. Now women are either portrayed as the "black bundles" dressed in the traditional Arab garb for women or as terrorists that are even more heartless and bloodthirsty than the males. The Reel Bad Arabs Worksheet addresses both sides of gender issue, listing characteristics of Hollywood's portrayal of Middle Eastern men as well as those of M<...

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Stereotypes in The Thousand and One Nights. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:24, August 09, 2020, from