Farassati also argues that these films tend to be dark in their subject matter and thus provide a bad image of Iran for the West. They reinforce negative beliefs about Iran, which in certain ways can be true. But of course he also knows that many major award-winning films from all over the world have been critical of their own societies and governments. This is what artists do.
In his article “How Roland Barthes Gave Us the TV Recap,” Sam Anderson writes that “a cultural critic is betwixt and between: not a regular consumer of culture and yet someone immersed deeply enough in it to appreciate its inner mechanisms.” I feel strange saying that my recaps of a show like Bachelor in Paradise are a significant piece of cultural criticism or that they make me a cultural critic. (Though, certainly, some gorgeous writing came out of recaps of the final episode of Mad Men that wove together the end of the show for its viewers.) But I believe that the position I occupied, the sort of liminal space that an anthropologist would call a key informant, enabled me to situate Bachelor in Paradise within a context where individuals would actually enjoy it.
As writers we have all toured dream homes we’re too poor to afford. Maybe Katherine Anne Porter’s “Noon Wine,” for me, or Tobias Wolff’s “Desert Breakdown, 1968,” or Danielle Evans’s “Virgins.” Yes, I tour these stories and compile my greedy wish-list: a mysterious stranger, I like that; a road trip gone wrong, of course; a heartbreaking decision both right and wrong at the same time, I wouldn’t want my story to go without one of those. I put down the book and open the computer. There’s my draft, all at once in various states of disrepair. I read back over it and wonder with distaste when and how, like floral wallpaper, these sentences had ever seemed a good idea to anyone. I hold my own story against my dream stories, I hold my vision for my story against its ruinous half-state. I moan: I just can’t see it.
“I’ve written four books about Britain since the ’50s, and pop culture always played a big part in those books. So they were always sort of very broad, panoramic political and cultural histories. And I always thought it was a really interesting topic: how Britain went from being a country that really prided itself on its economic and imperial dominance to one that had reinvented itself as a kind of cultural power. So, the fact that I do television informed the book to some extent, as well as the work I’ve done for the newspapers. I’d say it’s made me very conscious of how historians like me write a lot about politics but the reality is that for most people, politics doesn’t play a very important role in their lives, whereas pop culture does. TV is part of our common currency in a way that politics just isn’t. I thought this would be a good way to explore Britain’s national experience in the last century or so, as well is how Britain has been perceived.”
A month ago, a billboard advertising Lifetime’s latest cautionary tale-style movie, to join the ranks of such films as The Bride He Bought Online and I Killed My BFF, appeared on Hollywood Boulevard. Although some past Lifetime movies have drawn some media attention prior to their release–The Pregnancy Pact, in particular, gaining a serious online following before it even aired in January of 2010–the attention this new film, A Deadly Adoption, received had nothing to do with its uncanny resemblance to real events (though both films claim to be inspired by true stories). Instead, it was the two heads hovering at the billboard, over a pregnant woman standing on a dock, which propelled the Internet into wild speculation. At the helm of this Lifetime movie, both looking a little resolute and a little alarmed in profile on the billboard, were comedians Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig. The tagline: “The birth of a plan gone wrong.”