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The Wrestler Vs. The Ayatollah



Iranian media is angry at a new Hollywood film, "The Wrestler," for its alleged anti-Iranian bias. (Watch the trailer above.) From "The Guardian":

Newspapers and websites have alerted readers to the "anti-Iranian film" by highlighting a scene in which Rourke's character, Randy "the Ram" Robinson, violently breaks a pole bearing an Iranian flag across his knee, after his opponent tries to use it to put him in a stranglehold.

Perhaps to avoid offending Iran's clerical rulers, no mention has been made of the screen name of Rourke's antagonist, the Ayatollah, played by Ernest Miller.

But the Miller character's wrestling attire, a skimpy leotard in the pattern of an Iranian flag with the alef character - representing the first letter of the word Allah - emblazoned front and back on his loins, has been condemned by Borna News, a state-run website.

The pole-breaking scene occurs against the explicitly nationalistic backdrop of an animated crowd chanting, "USA, USA". It is intended to represent the final triumph for Rourke's character, who comes out of retirement following a heart attack for one last confrontation with the Ayatollah, a rival from his wrestling heyday.


Iranians have been a little over sensitive in the past with their outrage over depictions of their people in "300" and "Alexander." In the case of the former, they even complained to the UN.

But I do sympathize a bit with them on this one: it does seem a bit offensive if you ask me.

And all a little bit reminiscent of Rocky Balboa coming out to fight Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. I wonder if the love interest in "The Wrestler" works in a pet store.

-- Luke Allnutt

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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