About AJ

Mechanical engineering major at Portland State University


As I look back on my experience with popular culture, I can safely say that it has been an immersive eye opening ride. In the beginning I was a little confused on what we are learning. I thought it was a class about movies, TV shows and famous people but it turned out to be a much more than that.

My initial learning goals where to be a better overall writer, but I also wanted a course that is interesting and fun. I had a slow and awkward start since I was forced to sign late for the class, but the teacher and classmates helped me settle in very quickly with their friendly attitude and willingness to offer help. In the beginning weeks of the term, I made more specific goals. I had set goals to be better at sourcing my writing, a better researcher and manage my time properly. The mentor workshop gave me the guide to begin with some group exercises were I showed my strengths and weakness. It was really helpful to engage in conversations with other team members where we exchanged notes of our writing experiences. I thought that communicating would be a challenge since this was an online class but the way the course was set up made it easy for me to post assignments and respond to others assignments. My biggest challenge was time. I could not manage as I thought I would. Since this term is my last as a mechanical engineering student, I made my major specific classes a priority. I could not compromise my time for those classes to work on this one. It was really hard since this class was a writing extensive class and there is heavy reading involved.

I can confidently say that I have gotten better not only in the categories I mentioned but also in other ones. I became A better communicator and learned how to share my thoughts in a safe and productive environment. It really helped that this was a multicultural class. Each classmate brought a deferent approach to writing. It was a real treat to see such diverse writers in one place. Each exercise we had brought significant improvement to my writing. They were very diverse, but on the other hand, plenty of resources were given which really helped. For example, I become much more confident in my interpretation of advertisements in the media. I would say that the most interesting assignment was on week three of the course blog. It really helped me realize how to deconstruct messages in ads. I wrote two prompts, the first was to find an affective ad and deconstruct it and the second was to analyze a cigaret ad while following an analysis technique found on external resources presented to us. Here they are 1:”Since I grew up in the nineties, I saw a lot of Michael Jordan. For those who don’t know him, his is considered on of the greatest basketball players of all time. He was everywhere. TVs, newspapers, magazines, billboards, buses and even on cereal boxes. Here is an ad that he did for Gatorade in the nineties. This ad is one that I think defines how companies utilize celebrity fame to sell their products. It shows Jordan holding a Gatorade and smiling with a large bold text that reads “Be like mike .. drink Gatorade”. In this ad, to sell their product, Gatorade was relating between their drink and Jordan’s fame that comes from his ability. Since it is a sports drink, the audience being targeted here were obviously sporty people. The ad gives the idea that if the best basketball player is drinking Gatorade, then it is got to help regular people up their game. Also, the power of using such a popular figure in an ad is that there are people who would buy it just because the figure that they love is using it. For me effective merchandise ad is one that sells the product, and Gatorade was booming at that time.” 2:“A celebrity, smiling while using an unusual looking cigarette. The people being depicted in this ad are white, middle aged, happy and stylish men. The man’s hand is highlighted using light to direct the attention on the cigarette. The ad uses stylish blue colors matching the stylish clothes of the man. The phrase “Rise from the Ashes” is large to catch the reader’s attention and to direct them to read the smaller info about their product. The smaller text is where the ad closes the deal, it describes how tobacco is bad because of the guilt, the smell the ash and the unnecessary moments where the smoker is forced to leave a place because it forbids smoking. So, the ad is selling happiness, ease of use and relief. The message being used works because those who are new to electronic cigarettes will see the obvious advantages of them in contrast to tobacco.”

It has been an immense learning experience for me. Weather it was writing, working with other people or utilizing resources available. Most importantly I think that my research skills are improved. For an engineering student it is an important skill to have, since our work involves many detailed based research. I really expanded my skills of crafting and honing my writing by utilizing external resources. Writing is a creative skill, but more importantly is having a good argument backed up with a proof of some kind. In the end I am more confident with my writing, communication and researching skills which has prepared me to be more successful in the future.


Arab Muslims in popular culture

Nine eleven 2001 is a day remembered as a tragedy that will never be forgotten. It is also the day that changed the remaining good views that some people had of Arab Muslims and how they are portrayed in popular culture. The popular culture perception forced law-abiding Arab Muslims to deal with hate crimes, racial profiling, discrimination, and bullying; Arab Muslims are mostly commonly portrayed as violent, untrustworthy, and as terrorists. Stereotypes are not always bad, generalizations help us know what to expect when we someone or go somewhere new, but when exaggerated negative images of people override the positive images, it can be damaging.

In this piece, I will discuss how my Arab Muslim identity is being misrepresented in popular culture.

Stereotypes are not always bad, generalizations help us know what to expect when we someone or go somewhere new, but when exaggerated negative images of people override the positive images, it can be damaging. According to study by professor Jack Shaheen of Southern Illinois University, out of a 1000 films from 1896 to 2007 that contained Middle Eastern Arab references, 12 were positive, 52 were neutral, and over 900 were negative. This study shows that stereotypes began even before nine eleven and the event only made it worse.

There are many examples of Arab Muslims being misrepresented in popular culture. In the show South Park which aires on Comedy Central, there is no boundary when it comes to negative stereotypes. In one of the episodes titled “Snuke” a new muslim kid is introduced to the class when suddenly, Erik Cartman, one of leading character of the show, realizes that the kid is a muslim and says: “dude, not cool” then leaves his desk in fear and asks the teacher if he has been checked for bombs. After the teacher denies the fact that not all muslims are terrorists Cartman says:”no, but most of them are…” Even thought at the end of the episode it turns out that the muslim is innocent, the reaction Cartman made is just the kind of stereotype that damages the Muslim identity.

Holy Terror is another popular culture artifact to damage the image of Muslims. In this graphic novel by Frank Miller where heroes join forces to battle Muslim terrorists. In every description I read about the novel, it is always mentioned that the bad guys are Muslims. Not to mention the fact that in some cases of the novel the racism is clear as sun light. For example in a scene where Fixer, a hero in the novel, says to a captured terrorist: “So Mohammed, pardon me for guessing your name, but you’ve got to admit the odds are pretty good it’s Mohammad…” The Fixer then tortures and cripples the man before detonating his explosive belt. Can it be more offensive than this?

 A very popular show called Homeland got a lot of controversy when it came for some of the content that was presented about Arab Muslims. Nicholas Brody is one of the main characters of the show. A US marine who was captured and tortured in a middle eastern country. When he was rescued he returns home as a Muslim. When people found out that Brody became a Muslim, he became the enemy. He was pictured as a traitor leaking information to US enemies just because he became a Muslim. He was kept under surveillance because the government didn’t trust him and thought he became a terrorist. Not only did his country which he served lost trust in him but also his wife. In one of the scenes, his wife yells at him and throws the Quran on the ground when she knew about his conversion to Islam. Personally, I was offended and disgusted by those scenes.

brody praysNicholas Brody praying in Homeland

 In Melissa Biogon’s Ted Talk, she pointed out that 1.72 million people watched season 2 premier of Homeland and this shows how such negative representations can reach large numbers of people and influence them. This kind of shows sends bad that can destroy people’s ability to view Islam as a religion of peace. Homeland sends messages  that show how Muslims are not to be trusted because they are the enemy and are a threat to this country. Judging people should be based on there actions not the actions of others and not by their religion.

 One of the most influencing popular culture artifacts are video games. Arab Muslims are mostly portrayed as terrorists in video games. They are either the evil henchmen or the main threat in the game. One of the games that shows this repetitive stereotype of Muslims is called Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. In this games Arab Muslims are always dark skinned with beards. They are always portrayed as suicide bombers and angry mobsters. The game sold more than seven million copies world wide, which shows the incredible amount of people that have seen the stereotypes in the game. Also, my friends used to play this game online and could not believe that amount of racial abuse that other players would say just because my friends had arabic name tags.

Call_of_Duty_4___The_Bad_Guys_by_MrAhn The Muslim enemy in Call of Duty

 When misconceptions are shown in the entertainment industry some people might not take it serious, but when it comes out of a respected public figure than it becomes much more believable. One example that stood out to me was what Brigitte Gabriel, the founder and president of ACT for America, said about muslims. When asked by Larry Elder in a radio interview if there are moderate muslims who condemn the radicals, she said: ”I call it a practicing Muslim and a non-practicing Muslim. I think it is a better description than moderate and radical. A practicing Muslim goes to mosque, prays five times a day, doesn’t drink, believes God gave him women to be his property to beat, to stone to death. He believes Christians and Jews are apes and pigs because they are cursed by Allah. He believes it is his duty to declare war on the infidels because they are Allah’s enemies. That is a practicing Muslim.” Shock was an understatement to what I felt after reading her statement. I am a practicing muslim and what she said is wrong. How come I am not a violent man who wants to kill innocent people? Because I understand right and wrong and that Islam is a religion of peace.

To me and a lot of other Arab Muslim in the world, we take offense on how our people are constantly misrepresented in popular culture. Being seen as a violent people that are associated to terrorism is a misrepresentation and a generalization. People might say that there are many terrorists that come from Arab Muslim countries, that might be true but in fact there are more than 1.2 billion Muslims around the world and to associate the minority with the majority is ignorant and wrong. Even thought my identity is being misrepresented in popular culture I have to be optimistic that the world is changing and that people are realizing the truth. I wish that we all stand against all types of stereotypes whenever we can, as it has brought suffering, discrimination and misjudgment upon those portrayed negatively.


Hernandez, Michael. “Holy Terror comic is Islamophobic, says critics.” The national, 25 October 2011. Web. 1 June 2015.

“Cartman meets a Muslim.” Youtube, 9 Spet. 2013. Web. 1 June 20115

Homeland TV show: Homeland.  Showtime . 2011. Television.

Melissa Boigon’s Ted Talk: “Islamophobia: Melissa Boigon at TEDxGallatin 2013.” YouTube. YouTube, 22 September 2013. Web. 1 June 2015.