At NPR today, writer Mia Mask argues that Eat, Pray, Love follows on the heels of Sex and the City as Hollywood's latest return to Orientalism. Coined by the writer Edward Said, the term refers to the tendency in Western literature and film to depict the near East and India through the lens of well-worn stereotypes. In the case of Eat, Pray, Love as Mask argues "the stereotype that the East is someplace timeless, otherworldly, incomprehensible, waiting to be discovered by Westerners in search of self." A similar charge was leveled earlier this summer against Sex and the City 2. (See Salon: An Orientalist's Wet Dream.)
Perhaps the best overview of Hollywood's tendency toward Orientalism is the Media Education Foundation's documentary Reel Bad Arabs. See short excerpt below.
What do readers think? Should we be concerned about the stereotypes portrayed in these popular summer films? Why do these stereotypes persist?