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'Tyrant': Are there any positive media portrayals of Arabs? (updated)

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It's rare to see Arab and Muslim characters on TV. They're here and there — stock characters on a "Law & Order" spinoff or villains on "24." 

So when FX announced it would be airing an entire series about a Middle Eastern family called "Tyrant," some Arab-Americans wondered how the network would carry it off, especially given the premise: An L.A. doctor returns home to his war-torn country, where his dad is a dictator.  

The verdict after last night's premiere: not good. 

Khaled Beydoun tweet

HaythemDC tweet

The main character's half-brother, an out-of-control sexual predator, was responsible for most of the heinous acts in the premiere.

Linda Sarsour Tweet

A representative from the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which consulted on the show, said that "future episodes of the series will present more positive representations of Muslims," according to the Daily Beast.

But a few online commenters expressed skepticsm. Arab-Americans and Muslims have had a contentious relationship with Hollywood going back decades.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations in 1994 staged protests in multiple cities against the Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick "True Lies" for its portrayal of anti-American terrorists called the Crimson Jihad.

Earlier this year, a social media campaign started by Arab-Americans on Twitter helped kill the ABC Family sitcom “Alice in Arabia” before the pilot was ever cast. The title and plot summary about a girl "unknowingly kidnapped" by her Saudi Arabian relatives and “surviving life behind the veil” were enough to give rise to derision and charges of stereotyping.

Outside of how it depicts Arabs and Muslims, Hollywood's been roundly criticized for a lack of diversity in casting, and how characters of color are portrayed, most recently by some Latino leaders for the new Fox gang drama, "Gang Related."   

But it's particularly hard to think of positive, or at least nuanced, roles for Arabs and Muslims — for me at least — than for other minorities.

I could only come up with a few right off the bat. There's Sayid Jarrah, the heroic, lovelorn ex-Iraqi soldier from ABC's "Lost" (played by Anglo-Indian actor Naveen Andrews).

And Abed Nadir, the half-Palestinian, half-Polish movie geek on the just-cancelled NBC cult comedy "Community," who pulls off a scary Nicholas Cage impersonation. (Abed was played by American actor Danny Pudi, who is of Indian and Polish descent.)

Readers pitched in with suggestions. While the Star Trek series doesn't focus on characters' ethnicity or nationality,  reader ripleycal was still pleased to see Pakistani-American actor Faran Tahir cast as Captain Robau in 2009's "Star Trek":

Pakistani-American actor Faran Tahir as Captain Robau in 2009's Star Trek

Another reader Tori mentioned the character Arastoo Vaziri, a practicing Muslim, on the Fox crime procedural "Bones." He's played by actor Pej Vahdat, who is of Iranian descent.

Can you think of any positive portrayals of Arabs or Muslims? Who are we missing?  Any women? Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter (@KPCC).

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