Aside from a pro-Jimmy Carter coda and a few asides that show America’s support of the repressive Iranian monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Ben Affleck’s “Argo” is essentially and overwhelmingly right-wing, pro-American propaganda, demonizing Iran as backward, barbaric, and fanatical–which is particularly problematic considering the United States’ rising tensions with Iran.
Sure, Affleck is depicting a moment of national crisis in Iran, when the country was gripped with an extremist Islamic fervor, but I suspect Iranian historians would have told Affleck’s production team that not every single Iranian was a screaming, violent, fundamentalist–as they seem to be depicted in just about every scene of the film. We get angry Iranian mobs on the streets, in bazaars. in the airports. Is this really any better than that Chuck Norris’ Iranian hostage exploitation film “Delta Force” from the 1980s?
The one token “good” Iranian character is so insignificant she barely shows up in the film. I’m sorry, but one 5-second shot showing the sympathetic Iranian’s sad plight as a refugee into Iraq doesn’t discount the dozens of images of crazy-ass, fist-throwing Persians, each one looking as ominous and dangerous as the next, whether the chador-wearing women or the mean-looking bearded men.
At one point, an American man at the U.S. embassy says he’s going to “reason” with the Iranian crowd outside. But, of course, Iranians–the film suggests–aren’t capable of reason, and he’s practically strung up on the spot.
I don’t intend to be an apologist for the 1979 hostage-takers, or the barbarous actions of the current Iranian President, but to depict the Iranian people as a scary mob is an injustice of media representation.
Affeck’s excuse is that he was just trying to make a movie “that is absolutely just factual,” he has said. “That’s another reason why I tried to be as true to the story as possible — because I didn’t want it to be used by either side. I didn’t want it to be politicized internationally or domestically in a partisan way. I just wanted to tell a story that was about the facts as I understood them.”
But this statement is naïve, at best, and directly misleading, at its worse. When you have a movie that ends with a heroic patriotic resolution–carried out by a C.I.A. Operative–and the reintegration of the American family unit, complete with a waving American flag in the background, you don’t have a movie that’s “just factual.” You have a movie that is deeply and fundamentally conservative American propaganda.