By Beatrice Thomas
Series follows an American teenage girl supposedly kidnapped by her extended family and forced to live in Saudi Arabia
A planned new US drama series about an American teenage girl who is unknowingly kidnapped by her extended family and forced to live in Saudi Arabia has been panned by some Arab Twitter users for its themes.
Despite only just being announced by ABC Family as one of three new pilots, the official plot summary has attracted backlash for its description that Alice is “kidnapped” and that she “must count on her independent spirit and wit to find a way to return home while surviving life behind the veil”.
ABC said the pilot has been written by Brooke Eikmeier, who previously served in the US Army as a Cryptologic Linguist in the Arabic language, trained to support NSA missions in the Middle East. She left service in September 2013 as a rank E-4 Specialist.
One Twitter user called @SamIAm_NoHam said "…while surviving life behind the veil. The veil is not a set of prison bars. Stop. #AliceInArabia.”
Another, @aishacs, said: “My goal w/ HT #AliceInArabia is to help @ABCFamily see how the stated premise of show is offensive & in era of anti-muslim sentiment, scary.”
And @nourzein23 said “I want to be open-minded, @ABCNetwork what do you hope for viewers to gain through #AliceInArabia ? #islamaphobia #knowledge? #whatsyourgoal.”
However, ABC Family has defended the show.
“We hope people will wait to judge this show on its actual merits once it is filmed. The writer is an incredible storyteller and we expect Alice to be a nuanced and character driven show," a spokesperson for ABC Family said in an email to California radio station KPCC.
Adding to the debate, a Twitter account claiming to be from Eikmeier and which has now been suspended addressed some of the criticism.
“I didn't write the logline. I know that getting female lawyers in courtrooms is a WAY bigger deal than veiling and say so. #AliceInArabia,” one tweet from @BrookeEikmeier said.
“Second, "kidnapped" is from her perspective. Her family's POV is they love her and a protecting her. #AliceInArabia. The characters are complex, diverse and not stereotypes. It shows human range and clashes of characters as well as culture. #AliceInArabia.”
Does this sort of thing happen in Saudi? Secondly and inversely, is the portrayal of Americans as colonizing world police cowboys creating an outroar in the U.S.? Do they care? Does it even bother them how they are depicted (regardless of the help and assistance they put forward in equal measure)? I would say, confidently, no.
Why should the Middle East be protected against portrayals and depictions when noone else is? Kazakhstan created a stir against Borat and then it continued forward and they let it go. They have a free media in the U.S., unlike other places and where KSA could normally stop this portrayal from moving forward in KSA, all the Twitter backlashes in the world, can't stop it from being produced in another country. Sorry. The preferential treatment stops at your borders. Toughen up and stop worrying what others think.
@Rick in the ME, specially the GCC, nothing gets published/broadcasted that is not fully approved by the Government. Citizens of these countries therefore assume that if anything is on the telly or on paper it is an official position
The whole idea of Governments do not controlling media 100% is unambiguously unconceivable
Replies claiming that media in the west is not free in 3,2,1...