Iran demands an apology from Hollywood

With a delegation of American movie industry officials, including actresses Annette Benning and Alfre Woodard, visiting Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “art and cinema advisor” Javad Shamaqdari has decided that it would be a good time to demand an apology for Hollywood’s “insulting” treatment of Iran. Particularly offensive are the films 300 and the The Wrestler: The ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
588119_090302_theayaollah_resized2.jpg
588119_090302_theayaollah_resized2.jpg

With a delegation of American movie industry officials, including actresses Annette Benning and Alfre Woodard, visiting Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "art and cinema advisor" Javad Shamaqdari has decided that it would be a good time to demand an apology for Hollywood's "insulting" treatment of Iran. Particularly offensive are the films 300 and the The Wrestler:

The film "300," portrays the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., in which a force of 300 Spartans held off a massive Persian army at a mountain pass in Greece for three days. It angered many Iranians for the way Persians are depicted as decadent, sexually flamboyant and evil in contrast to the noble Greeks.

Iranians also criticised "The Wrestler" starring Mickey Rourke as a rundown professional wrestler who is preparing for a rematch with his old nemesis 'The Ayatollah'.

With a delegation of American movie industry officials, including actresses Annette Benning and Alfre Woodard, visiting Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “art and cinema advisor” Javad Shamaqdari has decided that it would be a good time to demand an apology for Hollywood’s “insulting” treatment of Iran. Particularly offensive are the films 300 and the The Wrestler:

The film “300,” portrays the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., in which a force of 300 Spartans held off a massive Persian army at a mountain pass in Greece for three days. It angered many Iranians for the way Persians are depicted as decadent, sexually flamboyant and evil in contrast to the noble Greeks.

Iranians also criticised “The Wrestler” starring Mickey Rourke as a rundown professional wrestler who is preparing for a rematch with his old nemesis ‘The Ayatollah’.

During a fight scene, “The Ayatollah” tries to choke Rourke with an Iranian flag before Rourke pulls the flagpole away, breaks it and throws it into the cheering crowd.

Shamaqdari’s case is pretty weak here. It’s telling that neither of these movies has anything to do with contemporary Iran (The symbolism of 300 is debateable but that movie should only be offensive to people who aren’t legally brain dead.) and I’m having a hard time thinking of another recent film that was in any way insulting to the country.

As The Atlantic‘s Ross Douthat has pointed out, Hollywood has generally shied away from Middle Eastern villains in the post-9/11 era compared with the 1980s and ’90s. 

Then again, this is the same country that accused Harry Potter of being a Zionist stooge so I’m not really sure if logic is the best response.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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