Regardless of your opinion of Michelle Obama, her appearance on Sunday night’s Academy Awards telecast– to announce the winner of the Oscar for Best Picture– had the beneficial effect of driving the authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran into a minor tizzy.
Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” which recounts the successful rescue mission of several American diplomats during the 1979 hostage crisis in Tehran, won best picture Sunday night, and Iranian media was quick to react on Monday.
The elation that followed Iran’s first Oscar victory for the film “A Separation,” which won best foreign film last year, however, has been pushed aside by what many here see as a politically motivated choice for this year’s best picture winner.
That perception was re-enforced by the surprise presenter of the award, Michelle Obama. Fars News, Iran’s main hardline outlet, wasted no time in questioning her role, writing, “In a rare occasion in Oscar history, the First Lady announced the winner for Best Picture for the anti-Iran Film ‘Argo,’ which is produced by the Zionist company Warner Bros.”
Of course Mrs. Obama’s Zionist sympathies were obvious when she smiled and waved at the Israeli ambassador at last December’s White House Hanukkah celebration.
Others criticized the way Affleck referred to Islamic Republic in his acceptance speech when he said, “I want to thank our friends in Iran who live under terrible circumstances.” Mehr News ran this headline: “After distorting history, Ben Affleck continues to show a bleak picture of Iran: Iranians live in terrible circumstances.”
Not only that, Mrs. Obama’s appearance in a sleeveless, low-cut gown forced that Photoshoppers at the Fars News Agency to do a “Lady Ashton” on her.
By the way “Argo” is well done and worth seeing. So, for that matter, is “A Separation,” which doesn’t exactly glorify life in the Islamic Republic.
The Associated Press reports that while “Argo” has not been shown in Iranian theaters, “In downtown Tehran, bootleg DVDs of ‘Argo’ sell for about 30,000 rials, or less than $1.”
Update: Iran’s Mashreghnews.ir website [Persian] has an extensive report on “Argo”’s director and star, Ben Affleck. Even though Affleck was raised in an Episcopalian family and has no obvious Jewish ancestry, the report features Affleck’s name in Hebrew, a Hebrew poster for “Argo,” and a picture of someone other than Affleck wearing a kippah and payot.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, his middle name Geza honors a Holocaust survivor his parents admired.