Saturday, April 19, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Thinking about Iran at the movies

crisp column sig

By
December 10, 2013 | 1 Comment

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

 
Transplant recipients talk about their best gifts

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Solano unemployment inches downward

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

 
 
Spering, Bertani spar over fighting crime

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 18 Comments | Gallery

 
Fairfield council candidates weigh in on crime

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 3 Comments | Gallery

Police release name of woman found dead in Fairfield canal

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Five homes featured on Symphony Home Tour

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Congregation invites public to Easter music, message

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
 
Local woman helps spread Easter joy

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B12 | Gallery

Weather for April 19, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B13

 
.

US / World

California farmers to get more water

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Teen sentenced in Oakland toddler’s killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

More Latino than white students admitted to UC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

 
Mom and son who died in San Francisco fire ID’d

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

3 alleged gang members convicted of murder

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

From Clinton to Obama, many parallels

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

PG&E to be arraigned in fatal pipeline blast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Easter on 4/20, pot holy day; pastors reach out

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

Colorado deaths stoke worries about pot edibles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
NASA’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down as planned

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Atheist national conference aims at Mormon church

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 3 Comments

 
Sudden movement raises alarm in Wyoming slide area

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Some countries get Obama, but want his wife, too

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9, 1 Comment

 
Man who avoided prison is overwhelmed by support

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Teen suspended for asking Miss America to prom

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9, 1 Comment

 
White House updating online privacy policy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

SpaceX making Easter delivery of station supplies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
In Egypt, a corruption watchdog hit by backlash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Military scales down, modifies Guam buildup plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Captain of sunken SKorean ferry arrested

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Avalanche sweeps down Everest, killing at least 12

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Diplomacy doesn’t move insurgents in Ukraine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
57-nation OSCE plays key Ukraine monitoring role

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Ukraine crisis: The turning points

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
.

Opinion

 
Editorial Cartoons for April 19, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
Here we go again in Sacramento

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 9 Comments

Cheers, jeers for the week of April 13-19, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 19, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Seniors, it’s never too late to do something about your health

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B7

 
Horoscopes for April 19, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Prince reaches agreement with music label

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

‘The Boondocks’ back for final ‘offensive’ season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

 
A nutty finale for ‘Scandal,’ TV’s craziest show

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

Stratocaster still a favorite at 60

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

 
.

Sports

Big innings lift Mustangs over Indians

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Ross, Padres beat Cain and Giants 2-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

A’s come out swinging to beat Astros 11-3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Warriors to start O’Neal for Bogut vs. Clippers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Hertl has impressive playoff debut for Sharks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Warriors and Clippers take dislike to playoffs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

TNT’s Sager to miss NBA playoffs due to leukemia

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Nadal ousted by Ferrer in Monte Carlo quarters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

A’s lefty reliever Doolittle gets 5-year deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
’40-and-up club’: Ageless Hopkins after more belts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Jimenez shoots 65 to lead Greater Gwinnett field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Solano scores in ninth for 2-1 BVC baseball win over Yuba

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Choi leads rain-delayed RBC Heritage

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
NBA’s Silver wants age limit change, no rush on others

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NBA playoffs looking more wide-open than expected

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Source: Grizzlies’ G Calathes suspended for 20 games

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Avalanche sweeps down Everest, killing at least 12

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Mets trade 1B Ike Davis to Pirates

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Business

Judge says American can’t end retiree benefits yet

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
Mazda recalls 109,000 older SUVs for rust problem

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

5 features an Amazon phone might offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
.

Home Seller 04/19/14

Summerwood features 8 new homes in Suisun

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2

Average US 30-year mortgage rate falls to 4.27 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3

Real estate transactions for April 19, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR3