And Palladino, Tail Slate, October 9, 2012
Argo has been praised at multiple festivals and is receiving rave reviews from critics. The subject is a true story about how during the Iran hostage crisis, a CIA agent got the ball rolling on a fake film production that saved the lives of several people trapped in that country. The movie is directed by and stars Ben Affleck.
But there is a huge problem, one that should not be happening in this day and age: Affleck is white. The real life man he is playing, Tony Mendez, is not.
When I see the true Mendez, I see someone that looks more like Esai Morales or Edward James Olmos than Affleck. There are plenty of talented Latino actors in Hollywood that could easily have played the role. Yet, once again, Hollywood chose to whitewash the part and add yet another example to its long history of racial discrimination (a UCLA study found that of all leading roles, only 1.2% go to Latino actors).
Yet, not a single review out there has mentioned this. None of them. Not even Roger Ebert, who has brought up such issues for other films. It boggles my mind that any fellow critic with a brain, heart, spine, or conscience would outright ignore this fact.
I’m reminded of U-571, which presented the Americans as the ones who cracked the Enigma code during World War II. This is a complete lie; the code was actually cracked by the British.Argo apparently does something similar, as it portrays the involvement of the Canadian government in the operation with having less of a role than they really did. A role that was perhaps even more important than the CIA. So credit for an incredible heroic feat by a Latino man and the Canadians is now given to white Americans.
So how should a critic judge this film? Do these factual distortions taint everything else about the movie?
If I were to review Argo, it would receive an automatic 1. Racism like this is not tolerable whatsoever, and those who perpetrate it need to be reviled.
Think of it this way: do we judge books by the grammar or the actual words? Does it matter to us if something like Mein Kampf is well-constructed grammatically and features an extensive vocabulary? That The Turner Diaries has a well-crafted plot?
The bad these works do far outweigh any redeeming qualities. In fact, it makes those qualities impossible to value. Who’s really going to enjoy the descriptive language in a passage that promotes racial genocide?
So now let’s transfer this over to film. The heyday of obvious propaganda may be behind us, but films that serve as propaganda still get made, and that is precisely what Argo has become. By striping away the true identities of those involved, the movie only serves to foster racist attitudes, undermine Canadian valor, and could go so far as goad Americans into supporting yet another war with a Middle Eastern country.