Western Movies and Arab Youth

Policymakers and scholars acknowledge that the media plays a fundamental role in the life of young people. The media shapes the dynamics of the cultures embraced by the youth. Youth everywhere, the Arab world not an exception, are frequent users of technology and watching movies being one of the main uses (Kraidy, 2008). The occurrence is even predominant in the Arab world due to the high percentages of young people in the Arab countries. In general, an Arab youth spends more time watching television or movies than they spend at school or with their families. The United Nations Population Fund sources reveal that about a third of the population in the Arab world is below fifteen years, with the mean age in the countries being 22 years (Hachten & Scotton, 2011). The situation means that the youths have an influence on the socio-cultural, economic, educational and political scenes in the Arab world due to their large population.

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The Western movies tend to reflect a lifestyle that is luxurious in nature and full of freedom, different from the contemporary lifestyle in the Arab world. When the Arab youth watch the American lifestyle from these movies, the shows are bound to affect their attitudes and values. The movies may make such individuals question what they have always believed in for a long time. Hence, many youths are influenced by these lifestyles since most of them want to live and carry out themselves in ways similar to those depicted in the movies (Hachten & Scotton, 2011).

In a country like Iran, the government regulates the media to make sure that the contents of the television programmes are in line with Islamic principles. In fact, several homes have satellite dishes from which the youth are able to access programmes from the Western countries. The government usually dismantles the satellite dishes to bar the citizens from watching the Western content, but the curious youth still get means to acquire the content. In most cases, the youths are coming up with several means of accessing movies from the west through buying and downloading them from the internet even in cases where the government has put restrictions (Mahdi, 2003)

There is a fear that Western movies are affecting Arab Youth. Parents believe that these movies are the source of the queer behaviours among the youths. Even though most youths are passive audiences, there is the fear that they tend to pick the wrong ideas and practices (Kraidy, 2008). Arab youths are most likely to be affected, given that they are very flexible, both culturally and socially. The flexibility allows them to shift easily from one culture to the next. Arabian youths are the main targets due to the high rate of unemployment in the Arab world (Mahdi, 2003). The youths have a lot of time at their disposal, and most of them spend it watching American movies. In fact, Western movies are easily accessible. Some of such movies are shown on television that most youths watch through satellite, buy or rent from the internet.

Access to Western movies and advanced technology has made several Arab youths to embrace new identities based on their own individual preferences. Many young people from the Arab world take personal decisions not influenced by the restrictions of the traditions, societal norms and cultures of the Arab world (Mahdi, 2003). Not all of the Western cultures that the Arab youth have embraced can be viewed as negative. Some of the positive aspects include seeking employment and independence, which include not fully relying on parents. Besides, studies show that several positive dreams of the Arab youth are instilled through the Western movies that they watch.

According to Khalil and Kraidy (2007), controversy has arisen due to several programmes aired on television that try to suggest changes to the existing roles among different genders or the role that religion plays in the public life. Some of the programmes are also viewed as having a negative influence on Arab youth. Some of the most controversial ones are talk shows, religious and music programmes. The music videos have brought about questions on women’s status and sexual behaviour in the Arab world as well as social and gender values, which the Arab youth should not get exposed to in the end. The religious programmes are also being criticized for being carried in a way that appeals to various groups, not as it was originally intended. The social talks openly discuss very sensitive issues. For instance, certain values are promoted in the movies that are not in line with the Islamic culture practised in the Arab world (Khalil & Kraidy, 2007).

With the ease of access, the question of whether Western movies affect their attitude and beliefs rise up. The level at which exposure to Western movies is influencing the Arabian youths’ identities has increased (Kraidy, 2008). Arab youths have adopted Western culture and have stuck to their native cultural practices and Islamic religion. The relationships between sexes have increased. Initially, in the Arab world, young people of opposite sexes were not supposed to be associating.

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However, embracing the cultures, they have learnt through movies makes some of them have intimate relationships secretly. Some of the families belonging to the middle and upper classes at times hold parties at their homes, which give the youth a chance to get the phone numbers and email addresses of those of the opposite sex and interact with them later. Arab youths do so since they are not allowed to interact publicly (Khalil & Kraidy, 2007). Most of the young people from upper and middle classes have embraced dressing and entertainment styles of the west. The Arabian girls’ modes of dressing have changed to be revealing and daring. The conservative nature of Islamic is slowly being eroded out.

Arabian youths prefer Western movies to their local movies. The occurrence is not derived from the fact that they want to learn the new culture, but since the Arabian movies are often of poor quality. Western movies have used advanced technology and quality graphics (Khalil & Kraidy, 2009). Most of the Arabian movies are politically based despite being under constant supervision of the government. Thus, to get various topics about a movie, their youths turn to Western movies. The movies also address issues that affect the youths, namely marriage, employment or education that are often not discussed at home or in the Arabian movies (Khalil & Kraidy, 2009).

Not all Arab youths are affected negatively by Western movies. In fact, most of them only filter the contents of the movies and pick what works for them and in line with their cultural practices. The Arabian youths hardly do what every movie displays, but only those that please them (Mahdi, 2003).

The youths watch Western movies founded on the fact that they have no other alternative unless the content of the local movies is changed. They also do not watch the movies as a replacement of television programming and local movies in their countries but due to the advancement in the use of technology and graphics in Western movies. The youths are also able to find diversity, freedom and pleasure from the Western movies that it is impossible to get from the local Arab content. The Arabian youths view the local content as more focused on the adults and not enjoyable to them (Mahdi, 2003). The youth get to consume the Western content just to fill up the areas in which their local content has failed.

The faith of the Arab youth ensures that they stick to their beliefs and are not negatively affected in any way by the Western movies. In most cases, religion guides them on what is wrong and right. From a study by Khalil and Kraidy (2007), the Arabian families are strict and opposed to Western culture. Thus, these families would not easily allow their children to slip founded on the content they get from Western movies.

In conclusion, it is a fact that the local identities of the Arab youth are being modified due to the impact of access to media from the Western world, with movies being a leading avenue (Khalil & Kraidy, 2009). The identities of the youth are adapting to global trends, but that does not mean that they are completely being eroded or overtaken by a single global culture. What the youths consume from the movies is overridden by the previously instilled religious and social values. Some of the youths also watch such movies for pleasure. The youths hardly intend to copy the lifestyle of the Western world.


Hachten, W. & Scotton, J. (2011). The world news prism: Challenges of digital communication. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Web.

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Khalil, J. & Kraidy, M. (2007). The Middle East: Transnational Arab television. The Media Globe, Trend in International Mass Media. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. Web.

Khalil, J. & Kraidy, M. (2009). Arab television industries. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Web.

Kraidy, M. (2008). Youth, media and culture in the Arab world. International Handbook of Children, Media and Culture. London, UK: Sage. Web.

Mahdi, A. (2003). Teen life in the Middle East. Portsmouth, NH: Greenwood Publishing Group. Web.

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