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Iran vs. 'Argo': What other lawsuits could be in the wings?

March 12, 2013|By John Horn
  • Ben Affleck in "Argo," which depicted the rescue of six American hostages in Iran in 1980.
Ben Affleck in "Argo," which depicted the rescue of six American… (Keith Bernstein/Warner…)

People in Iran believe that “Argo,” which chronicled the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and the later rescue of six Americans who escaped and hid with the Canadian ambassador, is "a propaganda attack against our nation and entire humanity" and a "violation of international cultural norms."

The comments, following a screening of the best picture-winning drama on Monday in Tehran attended by Iranian cultural officials and film critics, sparked news reports that the nation is considering suing Hollywood over how the country was depicted in Ben Affleck’s film.

While the technicalities of such a rumored lawsuit are at first glance unworkable — who would the parties be, what could be a plausible cause of action and where’s the venue? — it started us thinking about setting the stage for other legal actions: What other countries might believe their homeland was similarly slurred by a Hollywood production?

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While the statute of limitations may have expired on some of these productions, here are some likely candidates for similar lawsuits.

Kazakhstan vs. “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” Claim: Besides Sacha Baron Cohen’s debasement of the mankini, the film cartoonishly depicts Kazakhs as anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynist mud-hut dwellers. Beyond proving that the country’s women don’t all have mustaches, Kazakhstan also would like you to know it has never endorsed naked ballroom wrestling.

Thailand vs. “The Hangover Part II.”  Claim: The film wrongly suggests the land of a thousand smiles is filled with seedy flop houses, seedier bars and the seediest of all tattoo parlors. Moreover, Thailand’s adult escorts are not typically transsexuals, and the majority of the nation’s monkeys are not usually involved in drug trafficking.

Japan vs. “Lost in Translation.” Claim: The movie unfairly depicts Tokyo as a soulless metropolis where people naturally have an existential crisis. Plus, Japanese hotel elliptical trainers  are inspected daily and do not randomly malfunction.

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North Korea vs. “Red Dawn” and “Team America: World Police.” Claim: Never mind that we threatened Washington with nuclear annihilation last week, the two films erroneously paint the peaceful democracy as a ruthless dictatorship bent on world domination. In the latter film, the late Kim Jong Il’s singing skills also are disparaged in “I'm So Ronery.”

Canada vs. “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.” Claim: The song “Blame Canada” unreasonably belittles the nation and its film production. Canadians take particular exception to the song lyric: “When Canada is dead and gone, there'll be no more Celine Dion!”

The United States of America vs. Oliver Stone and Michael Moore. Claim: Where to start? We are suing the directors for every movie they’ve made, except Stone’s “World Trade Center,” if that’s really his film.

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