Orientalism in the Media

Orientalism, a theory devised by Edward Said in the 1900’s focuses on the Eurocentric views towards the Orient- mainly the middle east, in a uncomplimentary way. Said argues states “Orientalism is a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between ‘the Orient’ and (most of the time) ‘the Occident.’” (Said, 1978 cited in Sim, 2012, p246). Furthermore Orientalism has been founded off the basis of western discoveries as a result of expeditions to the Orient. Thus social, cultural and political conventions and norms in the Orient were compared and scrutinised due to the lack of global cultural awareness. Said believes the Occident-Orient divide has been manifested in the projection of western imagination of the Orient ‘On the one hand there are Westerners, and on the other there are Arab Orientals; the former are (in no particular order) rational, peaceful, liberal, logical, capable of holding real values, without natural suspicion; the latter are none of these things’ (Said, 1978 Sim, 2012, p.241). Moreover these objective views towards a varying culture, led to the dismissive opinions regarding the Orient on behalf of the framework of western society and values. Said has understood this oppressive viewpoint of the Orient as a discourse which has been translated in post-modern media and how It has in fact reinforced and normalised Orientalist notions. Most commonly seen in the news, Orientalist discourse is still prevalent within modern day media, due to the framing of the middle east in a light which Friedmann argues builds barriers between nations and cultures, thus ‘it determines how people perceive, interpret, and live their lives’ (Sim, 2012, 246). Traditionally, living in a western society, I am aware of how some media outlets such as newspapers and televised news broadcast reports regarding the orient in a way which outweighs the positive stories with the negatives. I feel like it is rare when I am exposed to a story which reports on positive stories within the Orient, making it very easy for western citizens to comprehend that region of the world as uncivilised.

Generally, Said theory draws on the misunderstanding or misinterpretation between the two societies, which is something I aim to incorporate within my film. By breaking down and distancing the misconceptions which lead many to identify Orientalist views with race. By providing the audience with a unique and detailed insight into a middle eastern families life, opposes the conventional discourse of Orientalism within television/ or media. As Freidmann argued that Orientalist thought promoted the divide between nations my documentary will act a visual paradox to this, and instead aim to de-rail these boundaries in order for the audience to acknowledge the subjects not as the ‘others’ but as people.


Said, E (1978) cited in Sim, G. (2012) ‘Said’s Marxism: Orientalism relationship to film studies and race’, Discourse, 34(2-3), p. 240-259

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