Sensationalism and Stereotypes

One of the unfortunate results of conflict zones hitting the headlines is the subsequent flurry of Hollywood movies based on regional anecdotes.

Often the filmmakers imagine they are doing the subjects a favour – if it is a human rights issue the gore and brutal emotion can be justified as ‘enhancing awareness’.

Mostly, they just go to town with bombastic stereotypes and a few crumbs of knowledge about the region, possibly gleaned from a fistful of hospital coffee table ‘real life’ magazines.stoning-of-soraya-m

As a result, more damage is done as the reality is skewed, negative stereotypes reinforced and any semblance of empathy for the people of the region is crushed.

Which is why the latest effort, The Stoning of Soraya M. is causing outcry.

Ostensibly, the filmmakers are trying to raise awareness concerning a case that is alleged to have taken place in a rural Iranian village, circa 1985.

The main protagonist, Soraya, suffers the brutality of her aggressive husband who is yearning for a teenage bride.

To achieve his objective, he accuses Soraya of adultery and as the title suggests, a violent and tragic ending ensues.

What is more tragic is the depiction of the Iranian inhabitants as wanton savages itching for a good, old-fashioned stoning.

Such caricatures are best left to the Monty Python sketches – at least they softened the barbarity with irony.

The point of the movie is to highlight the plight of Soraya; in the process the Iranian people are portrayed in such a negative light that any understanding (or desire to understand further) is obliterated.

In light of the recent troubles this is merely rubbing salt in an open wound.

Iran has produced – and continues to produce – a number of the world’s most talented writers, musicians, poets, scientists, doctors, and academics.

To broad-brushstroke in such a manner only reinforces negative preconceptions.

That’s not to say the subject should not have been covered; it should.

Just perhaps with a little more sensitivity and the acknowledgement that for the majority of Iranians, such practices are equally intolerable.

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One thought on “Sensationalism and Stereotypes

  1. Good post – we should also note that this film didn’t just arrive from nowhere: it was written & directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, the writer of the infamous “Road to 9/11″ TV movie, a self-styled conservative; and produced by the producer of The Passion of the Christ and Mel Gibson’s long-time producer, whose MPower Pictures previously released the wretched conservative “satire” An American Carol. Considering the patently religious and conservative perspective of the film’s producer, it’s no surprise that to find that the film is grand guignol, and manichean. This formula was remarkably successful for the producer, in the case of The Passion…

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