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Everyone has an agenda. It’s part of the human plight, having something that guides your actions. Admittedly, American capitalists have larger, more questionable agendas than most, and big budget Hollywood reflects this at almost every turn. But to go into the myriad of ways viewers' minds are pushed and pulled, debating the subversive consequences, it would be almost impossible to arrive at an agreed upon answer and solution. So we should just take it for granted that we’re being pandered to a lot of the time, and just accept it with our wallets open, right? That’s not what the Iranians want.
The NY Times reports Iran’s capital Tehran hosted a group of 130 foreign “professors, researchers and critic,” who are, according to the Iranian hosts introducing them to the news media, “unsung heroes seeking truths.” The meeting revolved around the damaging ideology that Hollywood is responsible for creating in American audiences, an ideology that often portrays Iranians as vindictive zealots.
Charging this argument is the monumental success of Ben Affleck’s Argo, which they see as part of a larger plan to re-inject the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis back into American’s minds, particularly to younger viewers not already aware of it. A “specialist” in anti-Iranian media, Mehdi Tondro disapproves of the film, saying, “We Iranians look stupid, backward and simple-minded in this movie,” while Iranian-American filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh calls the crisis in general “the only example of aggression [Americans] have against Iran…This movie is no coincidence. Timing matters.” Other films such as Zero Dark Thirty and Unthinkable were vilified for their portrayal of Iranians as terrorists. Talebzadeh, who co-organized the event, calls on Ben Affleck to visit Iran and judge the county for himself.
There is certainly merit to their thoughts, since many Americans probably hold some kind of mental grudge against other countries due to some form of pop culture they grew up with, without ever making the connection. Once films become less about a director’s artistic vision and more about bringing in the dollars, stereotypes blanket plots and characters, and the cheapest promotional tool, American pride, whitewashes everything. So many big films, not necessarily critically acclaimed ones, just focus on a threat promoting an “Us vs. Them” mindset. That isn’t necessarily the case with Argo, which personally had no negative effect on how I currently feel about Iran, but there is a national cottage industry building upon the ideals that guide those films.
The event’s proceedings did get rather murky, sometimes focusing less on anti-Iranian views and personal opinions over what shouldn’t be seen in American cinema. American author and editor of conservative Christian magazine Culture Wars praises Iranian cinema for its desexualized content. Hassan Abbasi, the guy who called Tom and Jerry a couple of Zionists, also says Hollywood sex pollutes our fantasies and causes sexual problems. A teenage schoolgirl choir, donning black chadors, performed an English song praising God, but their voices were dubbed over by a recording of a man’s voice, since female voices can be too arousing.
While no formal solutions were actually reached, American pro-Palestinian lawyer Franklin Lamb says lawsuits are the way to go, since Hollywood is built upon money. That may have been a viable option in cinema’s youth, but it’s far too late to think that any amount of lawsuits will sap any remarkable amount from the industry. And Lamb admits he hasn’t watched a movie in years. So maybe the solution lies in everyone just being more educated with facts instead of pre-biased opinions. I wonder if anyone at this group realizes just how badly Hollywood also treats American politicians, Southerners, the urban community, and nearly every other race and creed.