'Alice in Arabia' Dropped by ABC Family After Script Leak Draws Ire

Tuesday, 25 Mar 2014 12:05 PM

By Michael Mullins

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ABC Family has axed its upcoming new drama "Alice in Arabia" after parts of the pilot episode's script leaked last week, sparking outrage among Muslim and Arab advocacy organizations.

According to the network, the teen drama centered around a "kidnapped" American girl who is taken in by her extended royal Saudi Arabian family and forced to live with them after her parents are killed in a car crash, according to BuzzFeed.com. It was written by former U.S. Army translator Brooke Eikmeier.

A main point of contention is reportedly the fact that a character in the series is named Abu Hamza — the same name of an Egyptian-born Islamic extremist cleric who is currently facing multiple charges of supporting al-Qaida in the U.S.

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Upon learning of the plotline last week, the Council on American-Islamic Relations asked to meet with ABC Family execs to discuss their "concerns about potential stereotyping in the pilot." By Friday night, the network announced it was pulling the show entirely.

"The current conversation surrounding our pilot was not what we had envisioned and is certainly not conducive to the creative process, so we've decided not to move forward with this project," an ABC Family spokesperson said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

Following ABC Family's knee-jerk reaction, Eikmeier defended her contribution to the cancelled pilot, saying that, despite the media's characterization of the show, the script was actually a balanced and sensitive portrayal of Saudi Arabian culture, the Daily Mail reported.

But many media progressives disagreed. In a Time.com piece titled "'Alice in Arabia' Is Racist," opinion writer Rabia Chaudry stated that the show "reinforces old racist tropes in which an American girl (presumably a white girl) is threatened by scary 'other' people of color."

The Daily Mail also, in its review of the leaked script, referred to the pilot as being "racist."

After the cancellation was announced, ThinkProgress.com columnist Andrew Breiner rejoiced, writing that ABC Family's swift action was a sign that "we're not willing to accept tired, stereotypical stories about Arabs and Muslims wrapped in a veneer of sensitivity."

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