(Following article is in response to an NBC TV film that was televised on February 18, 2001.)
Let’s turn the tables for a minute: how romantic would it be if an under-age daughter from the Kennedy family would elope with the first Libyan soldier she met on her Spring Break, the son of a fishmonger, and escape to his country and denounce her own in the process? We would probably be inundated by live specials on CNN detailing her psychological reports and describing her lover as a psychopathic terrorist with 10 wives and evil-looking eyebrows, certainly not a worthy Romeo for our American princess.
Well, we don’t need to worry about such a depiction because what we’re looking at in this NBC TV Movie (‘The Princess and The Marine’) is primetime soap-opera mush aspiring to romance of Romeo and Juliet proportions. Romeo is a vapid US Marine from Nevada who admits that the only girlfriend he’s had in his life was in the 2nd grade. Juliet is a Royal mall-rat who lives a bubblegum existence of girly dreams and reads the How To Get That New Hot Guy To Notice You column in Seventeen magazine. Just one of the contradictory features of the film’s premise is that it claims that Bahraini royalty in this day and age are forced to make rushed decisions about their marriage partners, barely knowing them before they are married to them. It blissfully overlooks the fact that our Bahraini Juliet agrees to marry the first crush of her life as quickly as she can write I Love ‘Nsync on the back of her hand. Meriam is, in other words, just a teenager going through the tumultuous process of Leave-Me-Alone and You-Don’t-Understand Teen Angst, and thanks to her scandalous elopement, has the burden of the international media keeping its eye on her.
As a result, we are expected to feel sorry for the poor little rich girl because Mommy didn’t let her date the Marine dude who’s always hanging out at the Mall. In one scene, when Juliet is imprisoned in the US following her illegal immigration, she compares the vertical prison bars of her cell to her life of palatial luxury in the Gulf. Little does she realize that she will escape only to another kind of prison, that of living under the confines of the US Marine Corp. and then, perhaps, to the corporate rat-race which makes up the metropolitan lives of the rest of the ‘free world.’
I am just one among many Muslim females who are continually asked by interested inquirers with pity in their eyes whether I am going to be forced into an arranged marriage, and why I hold certain moral and ethical elements to such significance in my lifestyle. Please, do not pity those of us with the luxury of education, travel and opportunity.
Consider, instead, the tremendous intellectual and sociological freedom of being able to view the world through a multitude of perspectives, instead of balancing itself on the pendulum of Nielsen Ratings.
If you really do want to express humanitarian compassion towards a Muslim woman, then please save it for someone who is more worthy of your empathy: a widow of war from Palestine living a destitute existence under an ongoing torrent of bullets; an Iraqi mother forced to watch her children die of malnutrition in stringent economic sanctions; an Afghani medical student sitting at home with text books, yet unable to use her expertise on saving lives; a Kashmiri mother with the lifeless portraits of her sons replacing their youthful voices; a Bosnian girl struggling to raise the children of her rapist. These stories are as real and occur with far greater frequency than ‘The Princess and the Marine,’ and are undeniably far more tragic.
…But then again, all this doesn’t have the makings of a glamorous TV movie with a bubbly soundtrack from the Spice Girls and Britney Spears now, does it?