I look forward to seeing The Dictator, Sacha Baron Cohen's latest attempt at lampooning other cultures, which is released today. I will watch with interest not because I'm convinced it will be much of a film but because, as an Arab Muslim, I'm curious about how we are portrayed in modern cinema.
Judging by the trailer and early reviews, Cohen delivers your garden-variety Arab dictator, all beard and attractive female guards. Arab-American comedian Dean Obeidallah has, somewhat controversially, already called it a modern-day ''blackface'' - he's not opposed to mockery of Arabs in general, but he takes aim at the mean-spiritedness of poking fun at a race when there is no participation from the people themselves. I take his point.
I'm all for political and social satire, but in a world where Arabs and Muslims are consistently relegated to the role of cab driver, convenience-store owner, terrorist or tyrant, the yawn factor has well and truly set in. Where there is humour, it seems primarily to be at our expense.
I nearly fell off my chair when, a few years ago, Adam Sandler attempted to tackle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with toilet humour in You Don't Mess with the Zohan. I approached with caution but because I loved Billy Madison I was willing to reserve judgment. Rob Schneider as a member of Hezbollah could have been funny. Unfortunately it was not. Arabs were, once again, the underdogs - primarily a subject of disdain or pity in all of Sandler's cartoonish buffoonery, and terrorists, too.
Conversely, I nearly burst with excitement when I came across an independent film called Amreeka a couple of years ago. Written and directed by Palestinian-American Cherien Dabis, it told the tale of a Palestinian Christian woman moving to the US from the West Bank. It didn't spew political drama or point fingers; it told humorously a sweet and empathetic story about facing life's challenges with courage and heart.
I sat in a near empty cinema in tears, amazed that I was finally seeing something of my own life on screen.
Yet the typical one-dimensional approach to the stereotypical Arab is not confined to cinema.
I was an avid reader of chick lit in my 20s, a decade during which I spent more than a few occasions meeting guys in my parents' living room. It felt like a unique process, even though many other Muslim girls went through it. I had no cultural point of reference. Chick lit was my "romantic" escape, but it never truly resonated with me because I didn't recognise my own thread in the narratives. Amusing and heart-warming they were - relatable they were not.
I dubbed my own recently published book ''Muslim chick lit'', a categorisation that identifies a point of difference. But it's a universal story - coming of age and finding love.
Central to all of the reasons I chose to write it is that chick lit, even in its fluffy, cosy world, is accessible and universal. Accessible in that it's a guilty pleasure many women will confess to, and universal because at the heart of every story we are all the same; quietly desperate, striving for that elusive element we brand ''happiness''.
Arabs are increasingly and successfully expressing themselves through creative works. These are not attempts to "dispel the myths" and "humanise" Arabs and Muslims. We are already human - living, breathing, yearning like everyone else but using, at times, a slightly different rule book. We are simply telling our stories.
And while characters who happen to be Arab or Muslim are few and far between, it is they who will make a difference to how we're perceived.
Liz Lemon mistakenly thinking her Arab neighbours are terrorists on 30 Rock, when they're really preparing an audition tape for The Amazing Race, is funny and well-intentioned, but it's still all about shattering misconceptions.
We have some way to go.
Hollywood, take note - the Arabs are coming. We're happy to poke fun at ourselves; can you let us in on the joke?
Amal Awad is a Sydney editor and author of Courting Samira.