'Dune' Under Fire For Lacking MENA Representation

We're in need of a blockbuster flick for 2020 like a desert needs water. It's not the sharpest of metaphors, but it works well enough because Dune is slated for release this December, and after the trailer was released yesterday, every sci-fi/action nerd is now quivering with thirst.

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If you watch the trailer above, you'll notice a couple of key takeaways. 1) It looks Blockbuster-y enough. Maybe you could even say it looks awesome depending on your level of fandom for the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert of which this movie is based or your level of forgiveness for the critically panned 1984 film of which this movie is trying to reboot. But you might also notice that 2) the cast is without any MENA or Islamic influence.

Now you might say, "What's the big deal? Tons of American made movies feature a cast without any MENA or Islamic influence," which, fair enough, but Dune is a little bit different. See, unlike The Breakfast Club, which I linked above, Dune's mythos isn't derived from John Hughes's time hanging out in highschool. Instead, Dune borrows heavily from MENA culture. And I don't mean borrowed like "Here are a few religious motifs. Superman is Jesus?!" borrowed. I mean, as pointed out in this SYFY article, just everything about Dune, from its characters to its language, to its social theory, to its religious imagery, is taken from those people.

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While you can't wholly call it an example of Hollywood whitewashing considering that the cast is fairly diverse; it is definitely a case of erasure. You might say, "Dune takes place in a fictional world in space, not in the Middle East." That's true, however, if you subscribe to the fact that Dune is as much a story about the Middle Eastern experience as say Aladdin, then you might see why that representation matters. After all, Agrabah is also a fictional place, but it would still feel weird if this movie featured all white people, right?

That said, put Will Smith in anything, and we'll still watch it.

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Top Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

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