Beirut is situated in a nation and region which has been made exotic and fetishized for centuries. Contemporary portrayals of the region can be traced back to Orientalist accounts of the Middle East’s sexual decadence and barbarism. There are beautiful women there, sure, but it’s a dangerous place, and when that place is represented, it rarely really represents itself.

Most scenes on popular US programming shoot scenes of Beirut in the US or, more controversially, Israel. Showtime’s Homeland received backlash for their reductive and misleading portrayal of Beirut. The same makers of the program went on to film Tyrant, a program about an ambiguous dictatorial regime in the Middle East, in Israel, begging the question, why do Middle East countries and cities rarely represent themselves?

The answers are tied up in discussions of power and politics, but the products of that discussion flash across our screens regularly. Take a look at these portrayals of Lebanon and Beirut to see some of the most typically deployed stereotypes, from sexy women to sexy bombs.



1. The Mentalist – “You know what they have here? Great orange blossom ice cream.”



Not the most successful attempt. The scenes of this episode were actually shot in Los Angeles with extra footage of the city supplemented in between shots. It’s not hard to tell that the scenes shot in “Metropole Hotel” were actually taken on a street in California, especially considering the crosswalks, sidewalks, and disproportionate number of women wearing the hijab. Some of the only women who are uncovered in the film are series regulars and non-Arabs, Theresa and Erica. You would think they were filming in the Gulf by the look of it.


2. Homeland – You know what they have here? Dust and scary men.



Homeland provided one of the more controversial representations of Beirut, portraying Hamra street as a dusty, dirty road lined with local street vendors rather than the modern shopping district that it actually is. Again, a majority of the woman are veiled in these scenes, including the main character, played by Claire Danes, herself. Again, a Lebanese person tuning in mid-scene would never guess that this was a portrayal of their very own Hamra Street.

What is perhaps worse is this video of TMZ covering the controversy, basically reinforcing the idea that Beirut is a dangerous, unwelcoming bomb-zone.



3. Gilmore Girls – “You brought me to Beirut?”



In a scene where Dean brings Rory to a salvage yard to show her a car he has built for her, Rory is a little hesitant upon first walking in:

Rory: You brought me to Beirut?
Dean: It's a salvage yard.
Rory: Ah. And yet it looks so much like Beirut.



4. Friends – “Where are you from, anyway?



Monica: You own an Italian restaurant and you don’t know food? Where are you from, anyway?
Allesandro: Lebanon.

Poor Allesandro. He’s just a silly Lebanese man trying his hand at Italian cuisine, and failing. He can’t even make a basic tomato sauce.



5. How I Met Your Mother – “Lebanese girls are the new half-Asians.”



Barney calls up Ted to let him know that he has a thing for a new kind of girl: Lebanese girls. They’re the new half-Asians, he says.

In a later episode, Barney learns better and offers some insightful commentary on Lebanese girls.



“Lebanese girls always rush to third base and then stay there.”

Sorry, Lebanese girls, but this one’s probably the realest on the list.

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And now in Jason Bourne ... His dad gets killed in Beirut!

Elie Zoghby on Aug 5, 2016 via mobile web