NBC Modifies Anti-Arab Story Line
NBC Modifies “Days of Our Lives” Story Line To Eliminate Anti-Arab Stereotypes
On March 20, 1998, NBC’s popular soap opera, “Days of Our Lives,” broadcast an offensive episode propagating anti-Arab stereotypes. In the episode, the character of Susan, who is mentally ill, is kidnapped by a “sultan” and held hostage in a harem in the desert. The “sultan” threatens to kill Susan if she does not learn how to belly-dance properly. A man with a thick Arabic accent threatens her and an Arabic woman by the name of Maya tries to teach her how to dance while Arabic music plays in the background.
ADC contacted NBC to point out that the episode perpetuated images of Arab men lusting after Western women and Arab women as submissive sex objects. NBC was refreshingly responsive and apologetic about the anti-Arab content of the story line. Rosalyn Weinman, Executive Vice President of Broadcast Standards, said NBC strives to promote programming which does not denigrate any particular ethnic or racial group, adding that the offensive episode “fell through the cracks.” NBC did more than merely apologize. It took prompt action by changing the story line and dropping any reference to Arab culture or themes on the show.
On March 27, 1998, a new episode of “Days of Our Lives” showed Susan with her kidnappers in a setting in the Caribbean, dressed in Caribbean outfits. The kidnapper is now a generic character. When Susan asked him where the “sultan” went, the character motioned that he was eliminated. Nothing in the setting associates it with the Arab world or Arab culture.
NBC was not only apologetic about the offensive episode, but it also did something about it and should be commended for its sensitivity. Other networks should follow NBC’s example, which demonstrated that story lines
can indeed be changed and that programs can be entertaining without hurting any ethnic, racial or religious group.
Please thank NBC for its prompt action and its responsiveness to Arab American concerns.
Dr. Rosalyn Weinman
Executive Vice President,
Broadcast Standards & Content Policy
One Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112