A little background before I begin...
In 1935 the Shah (King) of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, decided that, in order to distance himself from the failings of the previous Qajar Dynasty, he would change the ancient name of Persia to Iran (a word derived from the word Aryanâ€”or Ariya in Farsi, the official language of Iranians). From that moment on, Persians were no longer called Persians; rather they became the first Iranians. The Persian Empireâ€”at least in nameâ€”was gone, and in its place rose Iran.
Flash forward seventy-two years to 2007 and we find ourselves in the midst of yet another struggle between the artistic and expressive freedom exercised by Hollywood, and the political and cultural realities of the 21st Centuryâ€”we find ourselves in the movie theater watching the movie â€œ300,â€ or you may have accidentally stumbled into â€œThe Number 23,â€ in which case your experience was significantly different, and nothing about this article will make any sense to you.
Since the release of the movie â€œ300â€ by Warner Brothers, Iâ€™ve been inundated by emails from friends and, in some cases, complete strangers, motivating me to action in protest against the film. Some of the emails plead with me to sign Internet petitions that will be forwarded to the studio executives at Warner Brothers, while others are links to, or actually, articles regarding the movie â€œ300.â€
Here are just a few examples (where appropriate names have been removed):
Please forward to your friends who are Persians.
As some of you may have heard, recently Warner Bros. Pictures has made a movie about the famous battle of Thermopylae between Persians and Greeks in 480 B.C. called â€œ300.â€ In this movie the Persians were pictured as some monstrous savages and animals. My friends have created a petition against this unethical action. Please join us to sign it and forward it to all people you know as well. You can find the petition online at:
Iran Outraged by Hollywood War Epic
Iranian Official Lashes Out at Hollywood Movie "300" for Insulting Persian Civilization
Iran Condemns Hollywood War Epic
And the variations go on and on. . .
I want to begin by reiterating something that should, by now, be sinking in, and that is that â€œ300â€ is a movie based on, in a very loose way, a historical event. Furthermore, the movie itself is based on a graphic novel â€œ300â€ by Frank Miller, the guy behind the movie and graphic novel â€œSin Cityâ€ (a fantastic movie by the way) and directed by Zach Snyder. Sure the depiction of Iranians as semi-androgynous barbarians may be construed as offensive, but from my perspective, the people who should truly be offended are Blacks and Arabs. (In the movie, the most, barbarous, ignorant, and arrogant characters are Black and â€œArabâ€ looking, complete with turbans, which incidentally, Persians during the 5th Century did not wear.) But I digress. . .
The movie depicts the battle of Thermopylae, in which, historians tell us, a small contingent of Spartan soldiers, with the help of other Greek allies (Thespians of the non-acting variety, Thebans, and Spartan slaves called Helots), held off an approximately 200,000 man Persian invasion force for two-days.
While the battle of Thermopylae did occur as part of a greater series of conflicts between the Persians and the Greeks, called the Persian Wars, it is unlikely that the battle played out as depicted in the movie â€œ300.â€ But, Zach Snyderâ€™s responsibility as a film makerâ€”at least in making this particular filmâ€”is not to stay true to history and tell a factual story, rather his responsibility is to make a movie thatâ€™s entertaining enough to entice us out of our homes, and into plush theater seats. If, as some have pointed out, the movie has an incidental undertone that can be construed as a metaphor for current U.S.-Iranian relations, so be it, itâ€™s still just a movie, and itâ€™s definitely not the most offensive thing Iranianâ€™s have to endure.
The truth is that since January 16, 1979, when Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fled Iran, quite a bit has happened that should have elicited the outpouring of outrage and mass mobilization conjured up by this movie. For example the following should have made every Iranian, no matter where they reside, or which passport they hold, turn red:
â€¢ The formation of an Islamic Republic in a country comprised of people from many different faiths (religion and government should never be mixed anywhereâ€”period);
â€¢ The taking of 52 American hostages in Tehran, the capital city of Iran (Iâ€™ve heard every justification, and there is none);
â€¢ The burial of the Shah of Iran in a mosque in Egypt rather than in Iran (whatever he did wrong, he did do some good, and that should never be ignored);
â€¢ The Fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his novel the Satanic Verses (again, outrage directed in the wrong directionâ€”who cares what Salman writes, donâ€™t like it, donâ€™t read it, but for God's sake don't draw attention to it);
â€¢ Supporting clandestine operations aimed at civilian targets (some call this terrorism, and it is wrong no matter whoâ€™s doing the bank rolling/training/supplying; this means you too Washington, London, Paris, Moscow, Riyadh, Damascus, Tel Aviv, New Delhi, Islamabad, Tokyo [okay maybe not Tokyo, sumimasen);
â€¢ Electing a leaderâ€”Mr. Ahmadinejadâ€”which has mistaken leadership with incitement;
â€¢ Allowing a faith, a culture, and a people to be defiled and abused for more than 28 years;
â€¢ Not, I repeat, not, cherishing and protecting the lofty and noble ideals of the Empire whose ridicule in a movie based on a graphic novel so offends the Iranian senses.
Iran is not what is depicted on the television in Tehran or in Los Angeles, and the misrepresentation of the truth of what Iran is should be offensive in any formâ€”propaganda is propaganda. If Iranianâ€™s really want the world to respect Iran/Persia it would behoove them (us) all to remember that we stand as evidence for or against the perceptions of the people we want to shelter from a movie. In the end, â€œ300â€ is just a movieâ€”a fictionâ€”but Iran is a reality, and a reality, no matter how hard it may be to manage, always deserves the greater balance of our attention.
For more information about the battle, and those that fought it, check out these links:
WORLD - AN EDGE IN MY VOICE
Copyright © 2010 Reza B
Hollywood's 300 vs. Iran's 69,000,000
Copyright © 2010 Reza B
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