October 29, 1999
No Disney, no communication
I am a fan of Dr. Naficy's work, and I have admired his writings and
his observations esp. on Iranian cinema over the years, but his article
boundaries"] made assertions that were too tempting to pass up,
so here is my response:
1. The globalization of American pop culture is the globalization of
consumer culture, and two persons communicating through American pop culture
therefore cannot communicate unless it is by way of a capitalist communicative
medium (a product of some sorts, namely a movie or a doll), and in this
case a Disney animated product. No Disney product, no communication.
This means we are mute and completely subject to a breakdown of any discourse
without a infrastructure set-up by the American/capitalist culture industry.
This is loss of freedom.
2. The transnationals in the article, Setareh and Sheyda (call them
x and y) are transnationals partially because of the globalization of American
reach. One can argue that if American dominance had not influenced Iranian
pre-revolutionary society then x and y did not have to depart their own
space and time, become transnationals and meet in a completely distant
locale unable to communicate except through the American/Capitalist lexicon.
This is similar to thanking one's executioner for choosing the method
3. Localizing any consumer mentality and indigenizing it is synonymous
to alienation and loss of one's own identity. Let us be wary of the fact
that two Iranian girls, perhaps both with ethnic Iranian appearances and
of Iranian parents, must first identify with a semi-Barbie character (The
Little Mermaid) adorned with golden hair, light eyes and cloud-like skin.
And next, they have to utilize the language of the character which has
alienated them from their own selves. The most alarming side of this is
that whatever agreements/closeness the two girls reach through this schizophrenic
mode of communication hinges upon a corporation's drive to increase its
shareholder's values and its own profits.
4. Lastly, let us then - once and for all - both declare and then celebrate
that nationalism and cultural identity as we know it, is dead or will die
with the turn of a generation or two. Patriotism, as it should be, now
belongs among other vulgarities of the history and identity has been reduced
to personal and dependent on the corporations' strategies; it is no longer
cultural or national. And let us keep in mind that interestingly, the
only thing that perhaps can survive this defragmentized and personal world
(besides the hegemonic pop culture) seems to be religion, in all its forms
ranging from Islam to Scientology.
Sheyda, Setareh and other transnationals can also speak in the language
of their religions, which often transcends nationalities. And maybe that
is why they call the Iranian Revolution, a postmodern revolution! An Iranian
may not understand a word uttered by a Palestinian, an Egyptian, a Sudanese,
etc. but a picture of the revolution's leader will do for them what The
Little Mermaid does for Sheyda and Setareh.
What an interesting cacophony we live in.
By the way, for a hilarious and seething critic of Disney click