How do you say, "Go take a flying leap," in Farsi? I ask because I think that ought to be Hollywood's official response to the Islamic Republic of Iran, which announced last week that it intended to sue Hollywood over films it deems detrimental to its international reputation. (I actually think Hollywood ought to use more colorful language than that, but since kids might read this, we'll stick with something PG-rated.)
The latest film that Iranians are supposedly outraged about is "Argo," which is based on the true story of six Americans who escaped from Iran in the aftermath of the 1979 hostage crisis. You might have heard of the film, as it won the Oscar for Best Picture last month and garnered a Best Director award for Ben Affleck.
Part of the problem, at least as far as Iran is concerned, is that the Best Picture award was presented by Michelle Obama. In Iran, the film industry is a state-run enterprise, so paranoid Iranians might be assuming that the Obama administration secretly produced the movie to make Iran look bad. That's actually a fairly lucid thought for the powers that be in Iran, even if it is wrong.
But here's the thing, Iran: Back in '79, a bunch of your students and militants took 52 innocent U.S. Embassy employees hostage, threatened their lives and held them for 444 days. You might have noticed that since then, we have had no diplomatic ties with you, and furthermore, we hate everything about you. There is no movie that anyone could make that could possibly lower our opinion of you because our opinion of you can't get any worse.
In fact, I saw "Argo," and believe it or not, it actually improved my opinion of your country. I was under the impression that women in Iran were covered head to toe in burqas at all times and that everyone in Iran save the ruling class was dirt-poor and living in their own filth. Having seen the movie, I now understand that neither of those things is true. You might not agree, but Affleck kind of made you look good.
Nevertheless, Iran is moving forward with its lawsuit and has hired a French lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, to represent it in an international court. Coutant-Peyre, by the way, is the wife of Carlos the Jackal, who is perhaps the most infamous terrorist and assassin in history after Osama bin Laden. She converted to Islam and married Carlos in 2001 in the jail where he is serving a life sentence for killing two French police officers in 1975. Sounds like a classy lady, doesn't she?
I suppose I should be well past the point of being surprised at the gall of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime. After all, Ahmadinejad and his ministers can't seem to go a week without saying something offensive and moronic. But this latest affront really takes the cake.
Do they somehow think we've forgotten about the hostage crisis or their pledge to wipe Israel off the map? Does Ahmadinejad (who, incidentally, was reportedly one of the militants who stormed the U.S. embassy and kept the hostages captive) think we're as stupid as he seems to be? I can assure him that most Americans are not, and even those who are remember the hostages every time they hear "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree."
So to Iran and Coutant-Peyre, let me be among the first to extend to you my middle finger, and to whichever international court hears this inane lawsuit, let me urge you to dismiss it immediately. To even consider such a case would establish a dangerous precedent and strike a serious blow against freedom of expression.
I mean, think about the implications if somehow Iran prevails in this matter. Everyone whose story makes it to the silver screen will start suing filmmakers right and left. I can already envision a few examples.
The descendants of John Wilkes Booth will be able to sue Steven Spielberg for demeaning their ancestor in "Lincoln." Philadelphia Eagles fans will go ahead and sue David O. Russell for portraying them as classless louts in "Silver Linings Playbook," and al-Qaida will file suit against Kathryn Bigelow for making bin Laden look bad in "Zero Dark Thirty."
I hate to tell you this, Booth descendants, Eagles fans, al-Qaida and especially Iran, but if the shoe fits, wear it. If Hollywood makes it look like you suck, maybe it's because you do.
Todd Hartley is Tony Orlando's personal moustache stylist. To read more or leave a comment, please visit www.zerobudget.net.