'Zero Dark Thirty' Movie Review: Will There Be an Islamist Backlash?


Zero Dark Thirty depicts harsh interrogation methods. Because of this, should we be on the lookout Islamist backlash? Is it possible that there will be an Al-Qaeda backlash? Maybe, as this film depicts the hunt for and killing of Al-Qaeda's former leader. Labeling possible backlash to Zero Dark Thirty as potentially Islamist or even just Muslim is equating different things and reinforcing stereotypes and fear.

This fear of backlash comes from the protests surrounding the Innocence of Muslims, Koran burning, and depictions of Prophet Muhammad. These events are significantly different from the content in Zero Dark Thirty. Innocence of Muslims and Koran burnings can be seen as affront to the religion as whole. Zero Dark Thirty does not venture into that territory. There is no evidence that similar events will occur post the release of this film.

The depiction of harsh interrogation methods in films is not new. For example, Rendition, The Kingdom and  even 24 have depicted harsh interrogation techniques, or depending, on your position, torture. The use of these techniques is not unknown to the world. The Abu Ghraib scandal is just one instance of real-life detainee abuse that many around the globe know about. These practices, and media depictions of these practices, are not new. 

Backlash against almost anything is possible, as some people in some place can be offended by it. Is backlash against this movie possible? Yes. However, it is doubtful that any backlash will be caused by the depiction of harsh interrogation techniques is more likely that any backlash will be limited to supporters of Osama Bin Laden. The depiction of harsh interrogation techniques in a movie is less reprehensible than the proof of such real life actions. To label this backlash as Muslim in general, instead of being specific creates an idea that millions of people will be offended and may possibly even support terrorism. The rhetoric surrounding this fear of backlash stereotypes Muslims; history, politics, counter-terrorism strategy, and reality, are far too nuanced for these generalizations.