Once again, Hollywood villainises the Arab in 'The Crown' Season 6
The award-winning series has been criticised in the past for its use of sensationalism
(Web Desk) - The final season of “The Crown” debuted to much anticipation, particularly given it was set to depict a pivotal moment in British royal history: the death of Princess Diana (played by actress Elizabeth Debicki).
The award-winning series has been criticized in the past for its use of sensationalism, blending fact and fiction to deliver dramatic renditions of real-life events involving the royal family.
And while every story needs a villain, it is regrettable that Season 6, released in two parts, succumbed to the Hollywood trope of depicting Arab characters as the “bad guys.”
The first four episodes, which were released on Thursday, use fictional elements of the storyline to portray Mohamed Al-Fayed (Salim Daw) as a power-hungry social climber, orchestrating his son’s relationship with Diana in hopes of fulfilling a lifelong desire to ascend the heights of British society and secure citizenship.
The stereotypical depiction of the Egyptian billionaire as a misogynist is troubling, especially in a scene where he claims to have offered Diana to Dodi (Khalid Abdalla) “on a plate” during a holiday on their mega-yacht in St. Tropez.
The narrative also suggests that Al-Fayed tipped off paparazzi about Diana and Dodi’s whereabouts.
Al-Fayed’s character is even shown exploiting the tragedy of Diana and Dodi’s death in an attempt to forge a bond with the royal family.
Meanwhile, Dodi is merely relegated to the role of a passive figure, easily swayed by his father’s ambitions and engaging with Diana to fulfill those aims.
A significant but short-lived plot development unfolds in the fourth episode when Al-Fayed realizes that even in his son’s death, Queen Elizabeth (Imelda Staunton) remained just as repelled by him.
While Al-Fayed is shown receiving an overwhelming amount of support from the Arab region, Dodi’s death is largely overlooked by British tabloids.
In this evocative scene, a distressed Al-Fayed, conversing with the ghost of his late son, questions why the royals hate him. “Is it the fate of the Arabs to always be hated by the West?”
This could have been an opportunity for the script to engage in a more meaningful reflection on post-colonial Western attitudes toward the Arab and Muslim world.
Instead, Dodi’s character offers little insight into his father’s anguish, responding: “You shouldn’t look up to the West. You should never have exalted expectations because they will never be fulfilled.”
The handling of the show’s only significant Arab characters as insufferably unlikable raises questions about the series’ approach to diversity and representation.
This may leave viewers, particularly from our region, less enthusiastic about the upcoming second part of the season, to be released on Dec. 14