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  • Backlash    March 24 
ABC Family cancels Alice in Arabia for its racist premise

Sharp criticism from media and civil rights groups over an explicitly racist plot has led ABC Family to drop its new teen drama, Alice in Arabia, before it has a chance to air.

Here's how the network billed the show:

Alice in Arabia is a high-stakes drama series about a rebellious American teenage girl who, after tragedy befalls her parents, is unknowingly kidnapped by her extended family, who are Saudi Arabian. Alice finds herself a stranger in a new world but is intrigued by its offerings and people, whom she finds surprisingly diverse in their views on the world and her situation. Now a virtual prisoner in her grandfather's royal compound, Alice must count on her independent spirit and wit to find a way to return home while surviving life behind the veil. [Deadline]

As Katie McDonough at Salon notes, this description alone promotes "tired racist tropes about Arab and Muslim cultures and its 'white savior'-driven plot." Rather than casting women of color in a primetime drama, ABC created a heroine in a white woman who struggles to "survive" life in another culture.

After the script for Alice in Arabia's pilot leaked online, the Council on American-Islamic Relations expressed disapproval with the series, and Twitter users employed the hashtag #AliceinArabia to further urge ABC to pull the show. ABC Family responded in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, confirming the network would "not move forward with this project."

Canceling Alice in Arabia was unquestionably a good movie for ABC's image. And really, how many Alice in Wonderland-inspired shows does ABC need?

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