In class, we watched Chris Morris’s controversial terrorist comedy Four Lions. We were then tasked to describe and explain the portrayal of young British Muslims in the movie. Here is a trailer of the movie.
Four Lions is a travesty based loosely on the 7/7 London Bombings. A group of hapless and undecided extremists plot to bomb a city marathon race.
The comedic value of the travesty exudes from the characters and their relationships with one another. Their abhorrent actions, however, cast shock and pity into the comedy; this provides controversy. Obviously the movie’s reflection on recent real events touch a raw nerve in any viewer with a sense of morality. The media has presented Islamic extremists as nefarious, socially aloof psychotics whom reside in dubious dark corners of cities, here, however, they are presented as ‘hiding in plain sight’. They are family men, they have ordinary jobs, they are characterised with warmth and familiarity to everyone – Omar, the protagonist, tells his son stories from Lion King, he engages in a water-pistol fight with his wife and brother, and so forth. This is not intended to justify or condone any action they may undertake; the reason Morris has presented the terrorists like this is interpretable.
For instance, one might argue that he has presented the young Muslims as family men living in a somewhat alien world to them and conditioned through religion to terrorise. A stab at the idiocy of extremism.
One might argue that the film is not a stab, but an insight into modern day martyrdom. Ordinary people can commit ineffable horrors and feel perfectly justified with themselves for various reasons.
One might argue that the film is not a stab at the idiocy of extreme religion but a stab at the idiocy of pent up young men in lands where they may feel invisibly persecuted due to what members of their religion have done to the natives. They are constantly presented through actions and dialogue as foolhardy and perhaps slow; Morris could be criticising the thought processes of the people, not their motives. They loath westernisation – in one scene they talk of their despising McDonald’s and many other symbols related with the Western world, yet they obviously conform to this notion through their use of conventional groceries such as mobile phones and so on. So they are not only portrayed as dumb, but hypocrites as well (hypocrisy being a strong point for Muslims rebutting the extremists; they are a peaceloving faith and the extremists have not adhered to this fundament (with forever painfully tangible repercussions)).
One might argue from a very liberal perspective that Morris has portrayed the terrorists so innocently to eliminate xenophobia from our preconceptions of Islamic extremists and portray them just like every other Briton, but just dying for what they believe in. They are not inhumane, they are not amoral, they are just dying for what they believe in.
Media has been used to represent young British Muslim terrorists in a light that has not been previously expressed. I have learnt from this that my work can be effective to the point of altering the media-consumer’s preconceptions of what ever I may be expressing in my media. I am now also aware at how other media I consume can affect my preconceptions. Four Lions shows an alternative portrayal of terrorists, and it exposes preconceptions the media has embedded into us. Taking this concept of influence through media, I must now understand in analytical work that media can shape our opinions on almost anything rather than in their raw, nonsubjective, unmediated form.