Inspired perhaps by President Obama's "unclenched hand" approach to reaching out to "countries that don't like us very much," as his former opponent John McCain tepidly used to put it, an unofficial delegation from Hollywood's Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (including current and former AMPAS presidents and Annette Bening, among others), has set out to visit Iran
as part of a "cultural exchange."
Bening, Iranian actress Fatemeh Motamed Aria and Alfre Woodard in Iran
Exactly what is being exchanged is unclear. Maybe Ms. Bening et al are lecturing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs about "the shame they will see in their grandchildren's eyes" over their denial of equal rights to gays in Iran. Ahmadinejad memorably told a howling audience at Columbia University in late 2007 that, "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country." That's because they are hanged there, which certainly marks the Mormon Church as lightweights when it comes to intolerance of gays. But for their part, Iranian cultural advisor Javad Shamaghdari laid out for the Hollywood representatives exactly what Iran wants in return: "We will believe Obama's policy of change when we see change in Hollywood too."
The change Shamaghdari wants is for Hollywood to stop insulting Iran and its Persian heritage in movies such as the rousing sword-and-sandal epic 300, the historical retelling of the famous last stand of a small but fearless Spartan force against waves of Persians, who are depicted as decadent, arrogant, and imperialistic - the same charges Islamists level haughtily at the U.S. today (apparently Iran isn't happy with The Wrestler either, in which Mickey Rourke tears up an Iranian flag - one more reason Mickey should have won the Best Actor Oscar). Two years ago this same cultural minister Shamaghdari complained that, with 300, the U.S. had tried to "humiliate" Iran and "provoke war." "If Hollywood wants to correct its behavior towards Iranian people and Islamic culture then they have to officially apologize," Shamaghdari stated this week, with more admirable bluntness than most of our own politicians are capable of today.
Since Hollywood today is well-known for its kneejerk anti-American, anti-war, pro-guilt output, I'm not sure how much more apologizing it can do for America, but in any case, I don't recall that Iran ever apologized for storming the U.S. embassy in 1979 and holding Americans hostage for 444 days; for backing HAMAS; for providing insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan with weapons to kill Americans and our allies; for forming, training, and supporting Hezbollah, which has killed more Americans than al Qaeda apart from 9/11; for threatening America and Israel with annihilation; for thumbing its nose at the UN and the international community in its blatant pursuit of nuclear weapons. But then, this is how the left's highly touted "dialogue" with Islamists always seems to work - in one direction. The Islamists accuse and threaten, we apologize.
For an honor culture such as Shamaghdari's, a mutually respectful discussion is out of the question; rather, it's important that we be humiliated, that we grovel. There are no doubt many in Hollywood (perhaps even in the ill-advised AMPAS delegation) who would happily denounce America's imperialistic aggression throughout the world and our grossly unfair insults toward Iran - just like the craven Columbia professors who scurried to Iran to apologize personally to Ahmadinejad after his appearance there. Of course, Iran would view such groveling as a sign of contemptible weakness, and rightly so.
We will believe Obama's policy of change when we see change in Hollywood too
. If anyone is unclear just how significant a role Hollywood plays not only in the world's cultural landscape, but in the perception of what Americans stand for, this statement clarifies things. The world, including our Islamist enemies, looks to Hollywood as the barometer, or now the Obamarometer if I may, of America's moral and political character and direction, and those of us who work here should maintain an awareness of that responsibility.
With that in mind, and in the newfound spirit of cultural exchange, I have a couple of suggestions. One, that we in Hollywood make more movies that are spirited, unapologetic defenses of honor and country like 300
, whether or not it pleases such arrogant bullies overseas as Shamaghdari and his bosses. Two, that we send to Iran a new Hollywood delegation consisting of filmmakers that "don't like America very much," to paraphrase Senator McCain, for cultural re-education. That could include such luminaries as Ridley Scott, director of the exercises in moral equivalency Body of Lies
and Kingdom of Heaven
, and Brian De Palma, whose disgusting Redacted
should earn him a grand reception in Teheran. I recommend that the delegation enjoy Iran's hospitality for 444 days.
One more suggestion. In 300
, a Persian envoy comes to King Leonidas with a demand for submission. "Submission?" Leonidas ponders. "Well that's a bit of a problem." I recommend, for an appropriate American response to Iran's demand for an apology, that we give the same answer as Leonidas: a good, swift kick right in the abyss.