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Assault on the Culture


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Hollywood Argonistes (with apologies to John Milton)

Adam Garfinkle



I saw Argo a few weeks before the Oscars, and I liked about 99 and 44/100 of it. Once the plot action starts, the tone, images, language and emotional pitch of the main characters all seem high-quality replicas of historical reality. Not that I have any expertise in making or evaluating film as an art form. I just know what I like and don’t like, and that mainly depends, in the case of historical fiction, on the fit between the fictive rendering and my own experience embedded in the mysterious workings of human memory.


The problem I had, and now have more than ever with the Oscars being announced, concerns the other 56/100 of one percent of the Argo movie experience.


Before the action begins the viewer is treated to a 2-3 minute potted history of post-World War II Iranian politics and U.S.-Iranian relations. As the narrator talks, vivid period photographs flash before one’s eyes. After the action is resolved, the film ends with a taped remark, running for maybe just a minute or so, from former President Carter. From the cracked voice it sounds like Carter is commenting fairly recently, perhaps after having seen a screener of the film.


These bookends to Argo compose an atrocity committed on the historical record. It’s typical Hollywood anti-establishment, mock-heroic crap. More specifically, it’s totally unreconstructed revisionist pablum that (mis)frames for the viewer what they are about to see or have just seen. Most viewers won’t remember either bookend explicitly or in any detail, so engaging is the actual movie in between. But into their heads it will have gone, and not to no effect.


For those who may not have a good grasp of the logic of anti-U.S. historical revisionism, let me spell it out for you.......(Snip)

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