Apple’s new streaming platform has stirred up quite the debate over its trailer of the movie Hala, a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story about a Muslim girl living in the West.
The official synopsis reads: “Seventeen-year-old Pakistani American teenager Hala (Geraldine Viswanathan) struggles to balance desire with her familial, cultural and religious obligations. As she comes into her own, she grapples with a secret that threatens to unravel her family.”
The trailer received massive backlash from social media users, who argue that the film is yet another misrepresentation of brown Muslim women, who “only find happiness through the white man’s gaze.”
Here comes yet another film about the poor brown Muslim woman who only finds happiness through the white man’s gaze because God forbid her faith & culture play any role other than giving her parents accents and a life she feels stuck in. FIRE EVERYONE AND BRING ON THE HOT TAKES https://t.co/919XSJABez— Rowaida Abdelaziz (@Rowaida_Abdel) November 5, 2019
Others criticized the film’s depiction of Muslim parents, as it portrays them as strict, conservative and abusive towards their daughters.
WHEN IS THIS DAMN PLOT TROPE GOING TO BE DEAD, WITH THE MUSLIM GIRL SEEKING ❤️& MEANING WITH A WHITE BOY ESCAPING HER GARBAGE ETHNIC PARENTS— Dr. Shabana Mir (@ShabanaMir1) November 6, 2019
Sometimes I just want to beg White folks to please stop representing us. Everything y'all touch turns to 💩 #HalaMovie https://t.co/qeXWehxd5C
Multiple Twitter users called the film unoriginal, noting that they grew up with the same stereotypes that target hijabi women, pleading for this “neo-Orientalist” portrayal of Muslim women in pop culture to stop.
The same story I grew up being told was “my” story as a young hijabi is, a generation later, being marketed as “original” to my teen hijabi daughter.— S. K. Ali (@SajidahWrites) November 6, 2019
Please stop with the neo-Orientalism. 🙄 #HalaMovie https://t.co/Pv7SouBRMX
Can we Stop with this hijabi Muslim sad life , oppressed, dutiful falls in love with white boy cant have him bs. Pretty disappointing that jada pinkett is a producer. Its these movies that make it harder for us to live bc This crap sets the tone of how pple see us. #halamovie https://t.co/d4YAdxz5io— Sabrina (@syedahsabrina) November 6, 2019
Agreed. My life is nothing like this nor do I have oppressive parents or felt compelled to disregard my beliefs. My religion and culture have never stood in the way of me pursuing my life and dreams. @AppleTV this is a disgrace. #HalaMovie #Hala https://t.co/ocMh6VuG6G— Mariam 🐉🍟 (@fearlessbookish) November 6, 2019
On the other hand, some people found the reaction towards the film upsetting, as it highlights the reality of the conservative life Muslim females struggle with in Western societies.
maybe she isn't finding happiness through a white mans gaze but rather in the act of being seen outside of the cultural/religious/socioeconomic boxes she was born into... in any case, I don't think the filmmaker intended any of what you're assuming.— Mohammed طہٰ Syed (@MSyedt) November 5, 2019
Some people argued that the film is not only representative of cultural reality in the West but it may also help viewers who struggle with the same issues.
The only reason everyone in this thread is mad is because they don't want non-Muslims thinking Islam is regressive so they want to paint all the stories with rainbows and sunshine.— Rania Hamzeh (@Raniahamzeh95) November 6, 2019
This story however would've helped a lot of people in my life, had it come out a few years ago.
I feel so sorry for muslim girls who struggle with their identity and culture. I feel like their voices are shunned by other muslims. Like their problems should transcend normal puberty experiences such as liking boys or desiring to be more independent. #HalaMovie— Fatty (@moodbyfatty) November 6, 2019
Also, there were those who questioned whether an alternative story would be any better.
And why would a poor muslim woman find happiness with a brown muslim man? Isn't that a tired narrative too!!— Spectator (@naush_i) November 6, 2019
The film will be in theaters starting November 22nd, and is set to be premiered on Apple TV+ on December 6th. Hala was written and directed by Minhal Baig and executive produced by Jada Pinkett Smith, and it was an official selection of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.
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