In a thought-provoking review of “Zero Dark Thirty” on The Feminist Wire, blogger and academic Sophia Azeb describes attending the Oscar-nominated film with students from her class on Islam and the West. As she listened to her students analyze the film, Azeb says that one question remained large in her mind:
Why is everyone in Pakistan speaking standard Arabic?
I understand, in a way. Pakistan is full of brown people and Muslims. Or, brown people are all Muslims. Terrorists are all Muslims. Muslims are Arabs and brown. Terrorists, and therefore Muslims (and therefore brown people), speak Arabic. I’m not entirely sure how to chart this, but Brown People, Muslims, Terrorists, and Pakistan exist in an ever-shifting constellation. At least, they do in Zero Dark Thirty.
In general, the existence of Urdu isn’t something that seems to be on the radar of the creators of American pop culture. Comedian Kumail Nanjiani has a famous bit on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in which he describes the moment when he discovered all of the signs on the Karachi multiplayer map were in Arabic. (The clip is also worth watching for the description of what it’s like playing a game about the destruction of your hometown.)
One would think that with all of Hollywood’s resources, studios would invest in some good researchers to at least ensure films are linguistically accurate, but alas this tweet from artist Mehreen Kasana earlier this month said it best: