Iran vs. Hollywood?

Iran is planning to sue the studio behind Argo for misrepresenting the country in the Oscar-winning film. Earlier complaints from Iran have also centred around 300 and The WrestlerIsabelle Coutant-Peyre, a controversial lawyer engaged to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (a.k.a Carlos the Jackal), is reportedly representing the Iranian government.

The details don’t seem to be completely clear for the time being, but while I doubt Iran really has the standing to mount an international case like this, or that hiring Coutant-Peyre improves that standing, I think everyone can agree Hollywood is largely biased towards middle white America, and misrepresents everyone all the time. Even Lincoln, which was extremely well received, was criticised for its historical inaccuracies.

‘Earlier this month, Joe Courtney, a Democratic congressman from Connecticut, wrote to the director saying that [Lincoln] incorrectly showed two of his state’s House members voting against the amendment for the abolition of slavery.’

— The Hollywood Reporter

This is genuinely a concern, as Spielberg has reportedly offered to give DVDs to any middle school or high school that asks for them. He appears to suggest it would be a valuable teaching aid. It’s certainly valuable to see which students have been paying attention. Inaccuracies such as these shouldn’t really be present, because the audience simply assumes they are true. Yes, we know it’s fiction, but we don’t expect writers to change small details – we expect the entire story to be dramatised. Unfortunately, it’s quite difficult to find a historical fiction film that aims to inform more than it aims to entertain, and everyone lets the details slip.

Is it right for Iran to sue those behind Argo? Karl Quinn seems to think there’s something in it, suggesting that ‘maybe Iran has the right idea’, and outlining the stereotypes and misrepresentations of various cultures and peoples Hollywood has been responsible for. Of course, he isn’t being completely serious, but seems to imply that raising awareness of the issue is probably a good thing.

Hollywood is in the business of fiction, it’s true, and they have artistic licence, but when they mould history or other cultures while lifting themselves on a pedestal, I can’t help but feel it serves their commercial interests more than it serves the interests of the global public – because it does.


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