The Argo Argument
The Argo Argument

Background

Oscar winning movie, Argo, has angered Iranians. Some plan to sue Hollywood, claiming that the film portrays an “anti-Iranian” sentiment and a distorted version of the actual events (Karimi 2013). Argo declared it is “based on true story.” The movie  highlights the story of six embassy members who hid in the home of the Canadian ambassador after escaping from the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover. To get the embassy staffers out of Iran, the CIA launched a fake movie (Argo) in which the staffers posed as “actors”.

Throughout the movie, Iranians are depicted as extremely violent. They publicly hung traitors from giant cranes and roamed the streets with firearms. Some in Iran believe that the Oscar win is a political statement by Americans against the Iranian Revolution.

While Argo has not appeared publicly in Iranian theaters, many have seen the movie through bootleg DVD networks and have been angered by its perceived message. The film was also played twice, privately, at what is called the “Hoax of Hollywood” Conference. Mohammad Lesani, who presented at the Hoax of Hollywood Conference, said the meeting was intended to “unify all cultural communities in Iran against the attacks of the west, particularly Hollywood” (Dehghan 2013).

This news analysis will explore the frustrations of Middle Eastern countries (specifically Iran) with the western world and Westernization in general. It will examine Iran’s potential case against Hollywood and the main critiques against the film.

Iran’s Argument

A group of Iranians are planning to file a lawsuit against Hollywood. Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, the French lawyer covering the case, is in Iran to discuss the law suit. “I’ll be defending Iran against films that have been made by Hollywood to distort the country’s image, such as Argo,” she said, according to quotes from the official Isna news agency (Dehghan 2013). Iran claims that Argo is a lie and plans to stop distribution of the film. It has been dismissed by Iranians as “pro-CIA” propaganda and an “invasion of cultural norms.”

Aside from angering many Iranians, the film has exacerbates a generational divide between those who remember the incident, and those who were not alive at the time and thus do not have a first-hand account.  Those who were not alive at the time (or were too young to remember) are shocked by the way the incident “happened.” Some of those who remember the Iranian Revolution claim that the film is undoubtedly a misrepresentation of events.

“Iranian audiences are seeing a new version of the events for the first time,” said a Hamshahri newspaper commentary. “This has been a weak point for our TV and cinema industry, which has not produced anything about the (US Embassy storming) after more than three decades” (Associated Press 2013). Many Iranians think that Argo stereotypes Iranians in a negative manner, without drawing a distinction between the ordinary citizens and the revolutionaries behind the U.S. hostage crisis (Dehghan 2013).

Westernization

This is not the first film that Iranians have deemed offensive. Other films including 300, The Wrestler, and Not Without My Daughter, have been written off as being offensive to their native cultural, giving a negative image of Iranians (Karimi 2013). Westernization has been a common problem among many Middle East countries that are looking to halt the effects of “Americanization.”

The United States’ portrayal of the Muslim world has always been a source of contention. Many Middle Eastern countries are upset by the U.S.’s seemingly constant efforts to push its culture upon them. The negative picture of Iranians shown in Argo exemplifies yet another strike by Western countries trying to promote themselves. “For many in the Iranian regime, it’s impossible to fathom that Hollywood is not a state-run entity, as it is in Iran,” said Omid Memarian, a New York journalist who has written on several Iranian movies. “Iranian officials therefore seriously perceive any cultural products about Iran, like movies, as a political statement and a part of what they call the west’s cultural invasion against Iran.”

Memerian also noted Michelle Obama’s awarding of the Argo Oscar perhaps “intrigued and magnified their suspicions” about the participation of politicians in making such movies deemed anti-Iranian. Some officials in Tehran say that they will respond to the film by releasing their own film outlining the 1979 hostage crisis to fight against what they recognize as an Iranaphobic film (Dehghan 2013).

Works Cited
The Associated Press. (2013, Feb 25).  Iran dismisses ‘Argo’ Best Picture Oscar. CBS News.. Retrieved from: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-207_162-57571032/iran-dismisses-argo-best-picture-oscar

Dehghan, S. K. (2013, March 12). Iran to sue Hollywood over a series of films, including the Oscar-winning Argo. The Guardian. Retrieved from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/12/iran-sue-hollywood-distorting-image

Karimi, N. (2013, March 12). Iran & Argo: authorities reportedly planning on suing Hollywood. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/12/iran-argo-sue-hollywood_n_2858928.html.

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