Wednesday, January 28, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Thinking about Iran at the movies

crisp column sig

By
December 10, 2013 |

Our nation’s potential rapprochement with Iran brings to mind an insight embedded in the 2007 film “300,” an unsubtle, comic-book fantasy about the historic clash between East and West.

A vast army of Persians attacks Greece at Thermopylae in 480 BC. Only King Leonidas and 300 Spartans stand in its way. The Spartans are massacred, but they buy enough time for Greece to regroup and defeat the Persians a year later at the Battle of Plataea.

“300” is a competent extension of the tradition of famous-last-stand movies like “The Alamo,” “Beau Geste,” and “Zulu.” Movies like these depend on oversimplification, and their stories are told from one side only-ours. In “300,” the Spartans are depicted as handsome noblemen with spectacular abs. Their nonchalant bravado befits their devotion to freedom, justice, and their preference for death over submission to the Persians.

The Persians, on the other hand, are slaves, driven into battle by the hideous Xerxes, an unnatural, androgynous freak. The few Persians with speaking parts are patently slimy and treacherous, and no normal Westerner would be remotely tempted by Xerxes’ creepy traveling harem. The Persian army is reduced to hordes of one-dimensional cyphers bent on pillage.

Real life is more complicated. The ancient Spartans worshipped a variety of primitive gods, consulted and obeyed the oracles, held slaves, and practiced infanticide. At the time of Xerxes, on the other hand, the Persians had developed a reasonably advanced society that included the civilized, monotheistic principles of Zoroastrianism.

Of course, “300” is just a movie, but it implies a context that bears on the possibilities for the success of an agreement with Iran that would prevent its acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Before 1935, Iran was still called Persia, and modern Iranians look back with considerable pride to the heyday of the vast Persian Empire under kings like Cyrus, Darius, and Xerxes. Further, many Iranians know their modern history, a mystery to most Americans. It includes the revolution of 1905, which diminished monarchical power, established a parliament, and began a democratic tradition that echoes today, despite Iran’s current government.

Iranians haven’t forgotten the British-sponsored coup of 1921 that re-established a dictatorial shah, Reza Khan, who suppressed democracy and fathered Mohammad Reza, a weak leader with the personality of a playboy.

Nor have they forgotten the coup of 1953, sponsored and financed by the C.I.A., which terminated the democratic and nationalistic leadership of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and re-established the shah’s dictatorial reign, which he maintained with secret police and terror until his overthrow by the Islamic revolution of 1979.

In the current negotiation, the challenge for Iranians is to temper their pride in their 2,000-year history and to discount their grievances against the West of the past century long enough to reach a place that will allow them to back down from their assertion of their “right” to nuclear enrichment.

The challenge for us is to look at Persia (Iran) from the other side of Thermopylae. The regime of the last 30 years hasn’t made this easy, especially as it’s expressed itself in the anti-Semitic blusterings of former President Ahmadinejad.

But members of Congress who are resistant to the modest easing of sanctions or who advocate enhanced sanctions are oversimplifying modern Iran almost as badly as the movie “300” oversimplifies the Persians. Despite the repressive government that’s been empowered at least partly by Iran’s contact with the West, journalists and scholars like Vali Nasr, Sandra Mackey, and Elaine Sciolino have portrayed a young Iranian population with pro-Western, modernist, secular inclinations.

Our movies both reflect and mold what we think about the world. As negotiations proceed, let’s be cautious, but let’s resist the “us” versus the “other” stereotypes that are essential to movies like “300.” Both sides have a lot to gain.

Unfortunately, our understanding of modern Iran is about as accurate as, in the film “300,” the anachronistic smallpox vaccination scar on the left arm of the Queen of Sparta.

John M. Crisp teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. John M. Crisp teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. Email him at jcrisp@delmar.edu.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • The MisterDecember 10, 2013 - 8:41 am

    If Iran had buggered us for the past century as the "west" has buggered them, we would be so ready to fight and kill for all that has been taken from us. That Iran hasn't furthered more backlash against the west is a true testament to their character. To set the record straight; Iran doesn't express itself with "anti-Semitic blusterings"... Iran denounces the nationalistic, imperialistic actions of the Zionist machine that controls Israel and many aspects of the "west". It is not wrong to decry these imperialistic actions of the Zionists that has created apartheid and an on-going holocaust in Israel. We should all stand against such brutality. Iran has the guts to... why don't we?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
Youngster battles brain cancer a 2nd time

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
2 Solano road projects get green light

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A1

 
Rush Ranch seeks docents

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A2

Health officials report 1st Solano flu death

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3, 5 Comments | Gallery

 
Kroc Health Fair offers free screenings

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Fairfield police to offer parenting class

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A4

Frazier schedules coffee in Suisun City

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
Vacaville police to offer law enforcement academy

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A4

Vanden to host science fair

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A4

 
Woman with Solano ties caught up in tax fraud case

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A4

Coalition members review tobacco control report card

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A5

 
 
 
 
American Legion Post schedules head-shaving fundraiser

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A6

Vacaville Toastmasters welcome guests

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6

 
Chipotle fundraiser to benefit Armijo newspaper

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6, 3 Comments

 
Dramas, thrillers lead week’s box office openings

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B8

 
Fairfield police log: Jan. 25, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: Jan. 24, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Jan. 26, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Jan. 25, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Jan. 24, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: Jan. 26, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Gold nuggets stolen in smash and grab

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
CSU chancellor looks to increase graduation rates

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Officials lose track of billions in funding

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

 
Bill would treat e-cigs the same as regular cigarettes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
Secret talks in Jordan try to win release of hostages

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

‘Wicked storm': Blizzard drops 2 feet of snow on New England

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
NTSB: Systemic flaws in safety oversight of gas pipelines

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Catholic church in San Francisco to phase out altar girls

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Military has wide discretion on Bergdahl charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14, 1 Comment

 
Gunmen storm Libya hotel, killing American, 9 others

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Famed civil rights protesters to have arrest records erased

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
.

Opinion

 
 
.

Living

Today in History: Jan. 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Jan. 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscope Jan. 28, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B6

 
We live close to my nephew but he chooses to remain distant

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B6

 
10 Things: 10 fresh takes on Super Bowl guacamole

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
.

Entertainment

Christina Aguilera to perform ahead of NBA All-Star Game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Common, John Legend to perform ‘Glory’ at Academy Awards

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Katie Holmes to guest on ‘Ray Donovan’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Sports

 
 
Falcon boys drop 69-61 SCAC loss to Bethel

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Local Report: Armijo boys roll past Napa 69-41

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1, 1 Comment

 
Nadal loses; Sharapova to play all-Russian semi in Australia

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Belichick and The Beast talk but don’t say much at Media Day

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Deflated topic: air pressure in footballs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1, 1 Comment

Rose’s shot lifts Bulls over Warriors 113-111 in overtime

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Jury convicts 2 ex-Vanderbilt players of raping woman

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Rio official says there’s ‘no plan B’ for Olympic sailing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Golfer Allenby stands by story, says truth will come out

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Tony Stewart returns with a swagger not seen in 2 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Shooters find not every basketball is same in college game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Patrick heads into 2015 in final season with team, sponsor

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Manfred hopeful of A’s getting new ballpark in Oakland

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Christina Aguilera to perform ahead of NBA All-Star Game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Super Bowl, Tiger make Phoenix center of sports universe

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Long after Twitter feud, Revis, Sherman pledge respect

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

The distinctive international flavor of Super Bowl Media Day

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Serena Williams advances, Venus out of Australian Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Getting fired from New England led to Carroll’s reinvention

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sharks in ‘dogfight’ to secure playoff berth

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for Jan. 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Business

US home price gains slow in November on weaker sales

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
FTC clears Albertsons’ purchase of Safeway

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

.

Obituaries

Clarence E. Morgan

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Julia P. Tan

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Don Johnson

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 11 Comments

 
Woodrow Allen Oakley

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Donald Wesley Johnson

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6