Hollywood's penchant for telling only certain kinds of stories gets a ribbing in this not so tall tale.

“You’ve got five minutes to wow me,” Ms. Biedermeyer said, leaning forward with her elbows on the glass table and her fingers steepled in front of her mouth. “Shoot.”

Trying to ignore the sweat prickling across his lower back, Bobby said, “Thank you, Ms. Biedermeyer. I’ve been a big fan of your work since the early 2000’s, and—”

“Time’s a-wasting.” Ms. Biedermeyer tapped the jeweled crystal of her David Yurman classic. “I got a lunch with DuVernay in 10 minutes. Chop chop.”

“Sorry, sorry.” Bobby shuffled his papers, cleared his throat, and said, “The show I have in mind is similar to ‘Roy O’Donohue,’ but it turns the genre conventions on its head, and—”

“Why do we want to have two of the same show on TV?”

“No, no no,” he said. “This is different. You see, we start out with a traditional Muslim family instead of a semi-Catholic one.”

Ms. Biedermeyer returned her French tips to their steeple. “And?”

“Well, you see, there’s the dad. And the mom. And the dad has a brother who was molested as a child by an imam at his mosque, and—”

“Whoa!” she shouted, jumping in her chair. “We can’t have that!”

“Why not?”

Ms. Biedermeyer’s Botoxed face strained to convey horror. “It’s…it’s Islamophobic!”

“Catholic priests are portrayed as child molesters all the time. Isn’t that, um, Catholophobic?”

Folding her arms, she said, “That’s because there were actual cases of priests abusing children, and the church covered it up. It was all over the news.”

“Yes,” Bobby said, nodding. “It was awful. But child molestation is rampant in Islam. So there’s some precedent, don’t you think?”

“That’s whataboutism!”

He lifted an eyebrow. “Sauce for the goose, wouldn’t you say?”

“I’m only taking this meeting because my brother-in-law asked me to,” Ms. Biedermeyer growled. “Are you done?”

Lifting a hand, Bobby said, “Hold on! I haven’t gotten to the best part.”

“Hurry up.”

He smiled. “Great. Okay, so you see, the dad, his name’s Abdul. And while he appears to be a halal butcher by trade, he’s really an arms dealer. And his brother Achmed, he’s been skimming money and armaments from the business to fund a terrorist attack in downtown Chicago—”

“That’s racist!” Ms. Biedermeyer cried.

“No it isn’t. Abdul and Achmed were born in America. So they’re Americans.”

“Arab-Americans.”

Bobby exhaled through his nostrils. “Isn’t everybody hyphenated these days?”

She slapped the tabletop. “That’s not the point. It’s racist to imply that every Muslim, particularly Muslims from the Middle East, are terrorists.”

“But it’s okay to imply all Italians are mobbed up. And the Irish are alcoholics.”

“More whataboutism!”

Cocking his head, he asked, “It’s whataboutism to point out that your standards for religious or ethnic bigotry are unequally applied?”

Ms. Biedermeyer attempted to scowl, but her frozen face could only shift its artificially-plumped lips a quarter of an inch downward. “Those stereotypes you mentioned only exist because it’s what Italians and Irish were known for in the past. They’re archetypes, not—”

“Well,” Bobby said, “currently Muslims from the Middle East are known for Islamic terrorism. So why not—”

“Because it’s dangerous! We could…um…foment more Islamophobia.”

“Can’t we give the viewers the benefit of the doubt that they’ll be able to separate fact from fiction?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “They’re idiots.”

“Finally. Some honesty.”

Checking her watch again, Ms. Biedermeyer sighed. “Look. Change it to a Midwestern evangelical family plotting a terrorist attack for Jesus, and you’ve got something. We’ll portray the white supremacist rot in middle America, the crushing sameness of suburban life, and the utter hypocrisy of the right wing in a nine-episode miniseries.”

“Well…”

Ms. Biedermeyer rolled her eyes. “I’ll throw in a producer credit and you can write three scripts.”

“Four and you’ve got a deal,” Bobby said, smiling.


David Dubrow is the author of the Armageddon trilogy of Biblical horror/fantasy novels and the managing editor of the “Appalling Stories” series. Find him here.

Charles 🇵🇭