entourage’s heels. Thus far, Potter’s depictions of Arabic others are fairly similar to Woolf’s: the sumptuously barbaric counterpoint to Orlando’s frosty veneer of civilization, populated by a faceless horde depicted at turns as dangerous, volatile, laughable, inscrutable and dishonest. This paradigm changes when Orlando meets The Khan (Lothaire Bluteau). Although this character never appeared in Woolf’s novel, he plays a serious role in Potter’s adaptation. Always composed and regal, The Khan stands in contrast to Potter’s ungainly Orlando, who stumbles through Arab Land in implausible brocades and wigs. The Khan is more politically savvy than Orlando, as well. During their first meeting, he wryly observes: “It has been said to me that the English make a habit of collecting … countries.” To which Orlando fumblingly responds: “Oh, we have no designs upon your sovereignty at all […] No, none at all” (1994: 32). Charming, witty and elegant, Potter’s 24 Asking us to “visualize the reel Arab ” of mainstream Hollywood, Shaheen comments on the “black beard, headdress, dark sunglasses” and accoutrements of Arab-ness in blockbuster films, with their background images of “limousine[s], harem maidens, oil wells, camels” (2009: 8). Describing how “the early 1900s served up dancing harem maidens and ugly Arabs [who] ride camels, brandish scimitars, kill one another, and drool over the Western heroine, ignoring their own women,” Shaheen detects few changes between earlier depictions of Muslims and the “contemporary ‘Arab-land’” of mainstream Western film, which is “populated with cafes and clubs like the ‘Shish-Ka-Bob Café’ and ‘The Pink Camel Club,’ located in made-up places with names like ‘Lugash,’ ‘Othar’ [and] ‘Hagreeb’” (14). According to Shaheen, this new improved Arab-Land still revolves around a “desert locale” replete with “an oasis, oil wells, palm trees, tents [and] fantastically ornate palaces” (14). It is difficult to view Potter’s depiction of a sixteenth- century Khiva as anything else (14).
Khan is a far cry from DeMille’s hordes of Arabic others. Potter’s depictions of Khiva still resemble Shaheen’s Arab Land, with its braying camels, shimmering sand dunes, and mesmerizing mosques – but she depicts The Khan as the only noble character in a film conspicuously populated by despotic British nobles. Up until the Khan’s appearance, we are led to believe that all aristocrats are greedy, self-obsessed overlords who do not merit their considerable social privileges (this alone refutes the critics who accuse Potter of watering down Woolf’s attacks on the British caste system). While Potter admittedly offers an altered version of Woolf’s racial politics, her film is still politically progressive , and to some extent even exceeds Woolf’s modernist attacks against patriarchal British aristocracy by depicting an Eastern Other with more integrity than his Western counterparts. In addition, The Khan possesses considerably more political power than any
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