An interview with Riz Ahmed, actor and rapper, was published in the Guardian Weekend this Saturday: here. Reading it was...an experience I thought might be of interest in this community. If you feel you can cope with potentially triggery material, click the cut below. Otherwise, skip to the end for the photos.
He has been in several films, of which Four Lions is probably the most high profile to date. I was enjoying the interview - mostly - right up until the point where the interviewer said, "I ask if 9/11 was important in shaping his identity, and he recoils."
The disconnect between interviewer and interviewee is painfully illuminated by the following incident.
There is a woman next to us with a baby, and she leans over. "I thought Shifty was really good," she says. She's right – Shifty, which has absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 and in which Ahmed plays a drug dealer – is great.*
He grins. "That's brilliant, you jumping in there. Listen, if he starts bullying me, you can knock him out."
"You sound like you can handle him on your own – don't worry," she says.
"I'll knock if I need some back-up," he says.
I've seen more than two of your films, I say. I feel as if they're ganging up on me now.
My initial reaction to this? O NOES POOR INTERVIEWER, HE IS FEELING OPPRESSED! OPPRESSED BY THE WOMAN WITH THE BABY AND THE ASIAN MUSLIM DUDE HOW SAAAAAD FOR HIM. In all seriousness, he doesn't seem to see that asking the initial question is not one he would have asked if, say, Riz Ahmed were a white actor playing roles in films that address the origins of terrorism and religious fundamentalism. It is likely that he would have been saying, "Wow, you're so brilliant at getting inside the heads of these characters whose beliefs and choices are so different from your own! How do you do it?" Instead, his question assumes that because Riz Ahmed is an Asian Muslim, he must have at some point considered the possibility of becoming a radical jihadist. Dear Interviewer, would you assume that a moderate Christian had at some point considered becoming a creationist fundamentalist who would bomb an abortion clinic? Or march into a school and shoot bunch of children? Would you? I think it would not occur to you as an automatic train of thought.
I recommend reading the article for Riz Ahmed's responses to the interviewer's clunky defensiveness. I don't recommend reading it if you're not in a mental state to deal with a myriad of microaggressions.
* Oh also, Interviewer, I'm SO GLAD the lady's opinion was judged to be appropriate by you. Because otherwise it would have been worthless to me, the reader.