On the Road in America
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this reality series -- which follows four young Muslim Arabs as they drive across the United States in hopes of learning more about America and allowing Americans to learn more about Arabs -- includes frequent discussions about terrorism, stereotypes, and America's perception of the Middle East. The cast often shares very strong feelings about America and Americans. Expect some salty language (the occasional "s--t" goes unbleeped) and a bit of drinking. Overall, the show's goal is to foster tolerance and understanding and is a thought-provoking choice for teens and up.
What's the story?
ON THE ROAD IN AMERICA follows four Arab Muslims from various Middle Eastern countries as they drive across the United States to learn more about Americans -- while also trying to change the perception that Americans have of Arabs. The group consists of Egyptian student Ali Amir; Sanad Al Kabaissi, a young Saudi studying in Dubai; and Mohamed Abou-Ghazal, a young doctor from Jordan. The fourth member is director's assistant Lara Abou Saifan, an outspoken Palestinian woman living in exile in Lebanon. In each city they visit, the group tackles a specific theme -- ranging from patriotism to fundamentalism -- and participates in a variety of activities designed to help them understand these issues. From helping a mayoral candidate canvas neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., to trying to create the ultimate Chicago South Side hot dog, the four learn both about themselves and about how Americans see them.
Is it any good?
Because the series was filmed during the 2006 conflict between Israel and Lebanon, the cast is shown trying to understand the United States and its citizens while also coping with the events taking place in their region of the world. These moments lead to some profound and often frustrated conversations about the American media, Israelis, and communities that the members of the group believe are contributing to the escalating violence. While some of these discussions cast the United States in a rather negative light, they also provide an opportunity for viewers to hear some honest opinions about Americans and American policy in the Middle East from people who live there. Even more important is that the Muslim cast humanizes a religious group that has been frequently vilified by the American media, particularly after 9/11.
Unlike most reality series, the producers of On the Road in America appear on camera and are completely open about what they're trying to accomplish in each episode. Not surprisingly, some of the footage features the production staff struggling with the cast members -- some of whom appear uncomfortable on camera and/or find the whole process tiresome. And because both cast and crew are shown attending VIP functions and socializing with high-profile American leaders, you have to wonder just how much they're learning about the true day-to-day lives and attitudes of the American people. Despite these issues, On the Road in America offers a chance to watch as people from two communities who are seen by the world as being at odds with each begin to realize that, at the end of the day, they actually have a lot in common.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how the media typically portrays the Middle East. Do you think media coverage of events in the Middle East since 9/11 has helped or hurt Americans' perceptions of people from that part of the world? Do you think the American media portrays the region differently than other countries do? If so, why? Families can also discuss reality television. Does showing how the production staff goes about casting and producing the series make it seem more real? Would you be willing to star in a reality show in another country? Why or why not?