The writer behind a cable drama project that was spiked before it made it to air is firing back after being portrayed, in her words, as a "tone-deaf racist hack."
Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, Brooke Eikmeier, the writer of the canceled ABC Family project “Alice in Arabia,” says the drama was killed by a “mob.”
Eikmeier, an Arabic-speaking U.S. Army veteran, also takes issue with the network’s synopsis of the project, which she writes didn’t accurately reflect the nuances of the actual plot. The summary said that the main character is “unknowingly kidnapped” by her extended Saudi Arabian family and must survive “life behind the veil.”
“I cringed at ‘kidnapped,’ as it implied some violent action that was never taken (her grandfather simply refuses to let her return to America for a very specific family reason revealed in the last scene of the pilot),” Eikmeier writes, adding, “‘surviving life behind the veil’ was the exact opposite of the cultural tone I was trying to achieve.”
“This clumsy description employed key inflammatory words highlighting Alice’s emotional starting point without any hint at where I was intending to go with her or the show and was written by someone who did not have cultural training or an appreciation of the greater ambition I was aiming for,” she adds.
Eikmeier writes that people made assumptions about the show based on the description, and “a mob formed, made up its mind, then rushed to destroy a valuable opportunity for furthering the cause of women worldwide.”
She adds: "A week ago, I was prepping to cast a mixed-race Arab girl to be the star of a cable series that would focus on a loving, but conflicted, Muslim family. I anticipated controversy surrounding the topics and characters, but hoped the way the series progressed, the predominantly Arab cast, and the conversation it would spark would be a step forward in exposing and discussing female issues in a complex and diverse world.
"Today, if you Google my name, I am accused of being a tone-deaf racist hack intent on furthering an anti-Muslim agenda, callously exposing children to being bullied and beaten on playgrounds."
Eikmeier notes that the show had already cleared a number of hurdles in its journey to air, and says it "could have been a step in the right direction for all cultures and all women, sparking greater tolerance, understanding and empathy. … Success was easily within reach to achieve a goal many in the Muslim community want: a series that showed them fairly and with admiration and complexity, that would give opportunities to Arab writers and Arab actors."
She concludes: “Blinded by the stereotype the mob had of the typical Hollywood writer, however, those imminent jobs have now disappeared. That is no victory, in any form, for anyone.”